Marathon des Sables

Event preview

Marathon Des Sables – Kirsten Kortebein

The 32nd edition of the fabled Marathon Des Sables is due to start in several days. The circus will be back in the desert corralling over thirteen hundred participants to cover roughly 250km over six days. MDS is a foot race where participants have to be totally self-sufficient carrying all food and mandatory equipment. But the whole event would be nothing without the support staff, one for every two participants, the 2 helicopters and 1 light aircraft, 25 buses, 4 camels and 57 medical staff, the list goes on…….  It’s a logistics exercise comparable with an army brigade making sure that there is ample water, tents and manned check-points etc.

Race preview

We are in line for some very exciting multi day desert racing at this year’s Marathon des Sables. The men’s race could be summarised as potentially a repeat performance of previous year’s but El Morabity’s gap last year was reduced to only a few minutes so it could lead to a shake up on the podium. The women’s race has all the ingredients for some very exciting racing.  There are probably five or six fighting it out for the top spot which could make every day a challenge and any slip up absolutely crucial.

The Men’s race

Top Moroccans

2016

2015 2014 2013

2012

Rachid El Morabity

1st

1st

1st

Abdelkader El Mouaziz

2nd

2nd

7th

Aziz El Akad

3rd

3rd

5th

3rd

Samir Akdar

6th

4th

8th

Salemeh Al Aqra

5th

2nd

2nd

1st

Mohamed Ahansal

11th

3rd

1st

2nd

The table above shows the top Moroccans performances over the last five years. The podium has been dominated by these guys and it would come as a huge surprise if it wasn’t the same this year.

The following guys are confirmed for this year.

Rachid El Morabity – El Morabity has got to be the one to beat having won the last three editions of the race.  Morabity’s winning gap last year was only four minutes compared to fourteen minutes the previous year, both times to El Mouaziz.  He also came second at OCC in 2016 and is entered for CCC this year.

Abdelkader El Mouaziz – El Mouaziz has a deep marathon pedigree with a 2:06 PB and having raced some of the most competitive road marathons over a decade or more, mainly London & Chicago.  He has translated that marathon speed to the rough terrain of the desert and multi day racing.  The last two years placing second to El Morabity but having a healthy gap to a third placed El Akad.

Aziz El Akad – El Akad has placed third in the last two years but will he have enough to challenge the likes of El Morabity and El Mouaziz?  The one hour gap to second at this level is substantial amount to bridge.

Samir Akhdar – A solid top five finisher but Akdar will be looking to make the podium for the first time.

Andy Symonds – Symonds has got to be the top non Moroccan at this year’s event. He has lots of talent, fast and excels on mountain courses. How will he fare in the desert against some of the best multi day racers in the world?  It certainly will be interesting to track his progress.

Tsuyoshi Kaburaki – Kaburaki has tons of mountain racing pedigree earned at UTMB, Hardrock, & Western States, although a few years ago. He placed second last year at Ultra Fiord Patagonia.  A top ten finish would be a good result.

Marco Olmo – Olmo has raced MDS many times and has won the various age categories from M55, M60 and now M65 for the last three years.  Who else can beat the Italian Olmo?

 

Women’s Race

Nathalie Mauclair – Second at last year’s MDS, Mauclair will undoubtedly be seeking the top spot this year, especially as last year’s winner Sedykh is not competing. Her closest rivals are likely to be 2015 winner Elisabet Barnes and Brazilian Fernanda Maciel. Mauclair has won Diagonal des Fous twice and UTMB during 2013 to 2015, by comparison 2016 was a much quieter racing year for her.

Elisabet Barnes – Winner of MDS in 2015, last year’s race did not go to plan and she missed out on the podium. Since then she has placed second at the Grand to Grand ultra and a fourth place at this year’s The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica.  Barnes will be looking to regain that top spot for sure!

Fernanda Maciel – A tough competitor who regularly places top five or podium at some of the world’s toughest mountain races.  Last year placed third at MDS.  Maciel will surely be looking to move further up the podium this year.

Emilie Lecomte – In 2016 Lecomte raced the Grand to Grand ultra a similar multi stage race in the US and won. She also placed third at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail.  Lecomte seems to excel on the tough gnarly courses like Diagonal des Fous and UTMB. How will she perform on the fabled dunes at MDS?

Melanie Rousset – A recent third place at Transgrancanaria will surely boost Rousset’s confidence coming into MDS.  She has placed sixth, fifth and fourth at Diagonal des Fous in recent year’s.  It will be interesting how she tackles multi day desert racing.

Ester Alves – Alves has recent experience of multi day racing at The Coastal Challenge placing third. She won the Madeira Island Ultra Trail in 2015

Federica Boifava – Italian Boifava has won a lot of races many of them in the marathon to 80km range. It will be exciting to see how she performs in multi day desert racing. Likely to place highly if she doesn’t go off to fast in the early stages.

Moroccans

Aziza Raji – Top Moroccan in 2016 placing fifth.

Meryem Mahfoud – Second at Nomads Run 60km 2017.

Houda Taoufiq Mabileau – Third at Nomads Run 60km 2017.

Touda Didi – Tenth at MDS in 2011.

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