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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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MARATHON DES SABLES – DAY 1 RESULTS

Day 1 Results & Headlines

Stage 1 – 34km

  • Defending champion Rachid El Morabity leads by only a few seconds after stage 1 from fellow Moroccans Moudouji & El Mouaziz.  
  • Russia’s Natalia Sedyhk takes an early lead after stage 1 and 34km to lead the women’s race from MDS newcomer Nathalie Mauclair. Defending Champion Elisabet Barnes is in third place 40 minutes off the lead. 
  • Top Brits – David Helland is top Brit in 20th place overall followed by Alastair King in 22nd place.  Top female Brit is Maree Jesson in 78th place overall 04:51:31.

Men’s Race

1  Rachid El Morabity 03:10:29
2  Hammou Ou Mohammed Moudouji  03:10:45
3  Abdelkader El Mouaziz 03:11:04
4  Jose Manuel Martinez 03:20:30
5  Erik Clavery 03:25:52

 Sondre Amdahl – 9th, Jason Schlarb 15th, Marco Olmo 19th.

Women’s Race

1 Natalia Sedyhk  03:40:20
2 Nathalie Mauclair  03:57:30
3 Elisabet Barnes  04:10:57
4 Elisabeth Howard  04:17:50
5 Fernanda Maciel  04:22:49

 

Top Brit’s 

1  David Hellard (20th overall)  03:50:43
2  Alastair King (22nd overall)  03:53:19
3  Peter Cromie (27th overall)  03:56:16
4  Kristian Morgan (29th overall) 04:00:29
5  Michael Smith (35th overall) 04:12:53

 

MARATHON DES SABLES – RACE PREVIEW

Marathon Des Sables in Morocco from April 10th to 15th.  This will be the 31st edition of this challenging multi-stage event covering over 250km.  A whole host of quality North African athletes, including several past winners will be taking it out from the front. These include Rachid El Morabity, Abdelkader El Mouaziz, Aziz El Akad and Samir Akhdar. Those were the top four in 2015 in that order with an overall time difference of 1:20 between first and fourth place. Surely its these four fighting for the three podium slots again?

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Marathon Des Sables 2015           Credit : Kirsten Kortebein 

In the women’s race we have an exciting challenge. Can Elisabet Barnes retain her crown? Can another American win MDS (Meghan Arbogast and Lisa Howard)? Can newcomers Fernanda Maciel or Nathalie Mauclair upset the specialist stage racers? Will Laurence Klein reclaim her form and her crown? Or will Natalia Sedykhs improve on her 2015 performance to rise up the rankings?

What’s for sure is that whilst the men’s race might be about the Moroccans and possibly who can break the Moroccan stranglehold on the podium, the women’s race is potentially a wide open affair with a number of contenders challenging for the top spot. And that makes for exciting racing!

Men’s Race

Rachid El MorabityThe winner of MDS in 2015, 2014 and 2011. So, must surely be the man to beat!

Adbelkader El MouazizSecond place at MDS in 2015 and seventh in 2014. Podium spot.

Aziz El AkadThird place at MDS in 2015 and fifth in 2013. Podium spot

Samir AkhdarFourth place at MDS in 2015 and eighth in 2013. Podium spot.

Top International Men

The question is can any of the four Moroccans above be beaten – here are the main International contenders.

Erik ClaveryThis will be a new experience for Clavery. He has grit and form over a number of distances. Can he sustain multiple days of fast racing over sand, rocks, dunes and the blisteringly heat? Second place at Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2015, seventh at UTMB in 2015 and sixth at Transvulcania in 2012.

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Erik Clavery – UTMB

Jason SchlarbTop American contender and out for an adventure. Schlarb thrives on difficult conditions so he has come to the right place. Sixth place at Tarawera in 2016, second at Eiger Ultra in 2015, tenth at Diagonal des Fous and fourth at UTMB in 2014.

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Jason Schlarb – UTMB

Sondre AmdahlAmdahl has been a revelation over the last two years. Seemingly out of nowhere he has become a permanent fixture at UTWT events and usually placing top ten. 2015 – fourth at TransGrancanaria, fourth UTMF and second at Vibram 100k. 2014 – sixth Transgrancanaria and seventh UTMB.

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Sondre Amdahl – Transgrancanaria

Carlos SaSeventh and fourth places at MDS in 2013 and 2012 respectively. Recent form at Costa Rica Challenge (third place) must be great preparation for the heat. A good bet for top ten.

Marco Olmo – Not really top ten but this 68 year-old Italian will be fighting it out for another great MDS finish.

Women’s Race

Elisabet Barnes – Winner of MDS in 2015. Winner of Oman stage race in 2015. Second place at this years Costa Rica challenge. Fast becoming a specialist in stage races and the one to beat at this years MDS.

Meghan ArbogastHas Western States pedigree and therefore speed – can she replicate it among the sand dunes and rocks of the Saharan desert.  – Recent Western States form – eighth in 2014, fourth in 2013 and tenth in 2012. Fifth place at Tarawera in 2014.

Nathalie MauclairNo stranger to tough races. Winner of Diagonal des Fous in 2014 and fourth place in 2015. Winner of UTMB in 2015 and third in 2014. Western States third place in 2014.

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Nathalie Mauclair – UTMB

Fernanda MacielSecond at UTMF and third place at Lavaredo last year. Followed by an extended period in South America set a FKT on Aconcagua. Previous years racing has seen her tough it out on mountainous courses such as UTMB (fourth place in 2014) and Transgrancanaria (third place in 2014). 

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Fernanda Maciel – Lavaredo

Lisa Howard – Sixteenth place in her first MDS last year. Back for some more action and will have learnt much from last year’s experience. She has speed on her side

Laurence KleinPast winner of MDS but recent years form has suffered due to heat issues. Second at MDS in 2014 and tenth in 2015. Can she pull it out of the bag this year?  

Pui-Yan Chow – Has some recent race performances that stand out – Winner of Vibram HK and tenth place at TNF 100 in 2015. Second place at Vibram HK in 2014. The question is can she translate this running with a pack over five key stages.

Natalia Sedykhs – Third place at MDS last year including a time penalty. Surely she will be back to rectify that?

All images copyright – Ian Campbell Photography

 

ULTRARUNNING NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE

In this month’s column we bring you news from the third round of the Ultra Trail World Tour, the latest UTWT standings as well as a selection of news from the blogs.

Transgrancanaria

Norway’s Didrik Hermansen and France’s Caroline Chaverot improved on their 2015 second places to win the 2016 edition of this race and in the process both smashing the course records by a considerable margin.

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Didrik Hermansen climbing towards Garanon aid station

Two different race tactics were employed, Hermansen running with the lead group, biding his time and then charging at just over the halfway mark, whilst Chaverot, showing supreme confidence in her ability, charged from the front and just kept increasing that lead as the miles went by.

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Caroline Chaverot coming into Ayaguares 

Gediminas Grinius had a solid race beating his time from last year by thirty eight minutes and adding to his tally of UTWT points and ranking. In joint third was Catalan Pau Capell, running with Switzerlands Diego Pazos for much of the second half of the race.

In the women’s race Chaverot’s lead was nearly a whole two hours ahead of Switzerland’s Andrea Huser followed shortly by Spain’s Uxue Fraile Azpeitia.

Transgrancanaria – 125km

Men Time
1 Didrik Hermansen 13:41:48
2 Gediminas Grinius 13:45:08
3 – tied Pau Capell 14:11:02
3 – tied Diego Pazos 14:11:02

 

Women Time
1 Caroline Chaverot 15:23:40
2 Andrea Huser 17:21:43
3 Uxue Fraile-Azpeitia 17:28:05

 

News from the blogs

Nuria Picas

Nuria Picas dropped from Transgrancanaria in Artenara (33km) citing a psoas muscle injury to her left leg. It looks like Nuria will be in Soller, Mallorca in the middle of March helping Tofol Castanyer with his training camp over three intense days.  One thing is for sure the trails are fantastic in Mallorca and Soller is a really beautiful place to be based.

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Nuria giving fellow Buff athlete Yeray Duran encouragement for the last 25km of TGC 

http://nuriapicas.com/home/

Caroline Chaverot

Obviously excited from her success at Transgrancanaria Caroline was very prompt in her race report, written the same day as she finished. In French, its worth translating and reading – After Teror, I find that I’m way ahead of last year, since I will make all the next climb, which is beautiful at sunrise, at night.’

http://carochav.blogspot.co.uk/

Emelie Forsberg

Emelie Forsberg had a well-publicized ski accident in early February where she tore her cruciate ligament meaning that she will be out of trail running action this season. Her rehab continues with measured amounts of isometric exercises and cycling on a turbo trainer. We wish her a speedy recovery.

http://www.emelieforsberg.com/category/blog-english/

Anna Frost

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Anna loves those La Palma trails – She will be back there this May

Look out for Anna Frost in the Lake District, UK when the rest of the Salomon team meet for the Salomon Advanced Week in April. Anna also has Transvulcania and Hardrock 100 on her schedule as well a trip to Bhutan in October among other things.

https://frostysfootsteps.wordpress.com/

Didrik Hermansen

Didrik’s Facebook account confirmed that he took it easy as he worked his way up the field at Transgrancanaria before taking first place on the downhill towards Ayaguares with around twenty five kilometres to go. What was not apparent was the back and forth that he and Gediminas Grinius had had leading up to this point. View www.irunfar.com postrace interview for a more in depth analysis.

Hermansen also held a contest to guess his TGC finish time. Fredrik Olmqvist guessed to within eight minutes. Given that Hermansen blew away the old course record by forty two minutes, it was a well-informed guess!

Gediminas Grinius

A thoughtful piece from Gediminas about potentially overtraining leading into Diagonal des Fous in 2015 – ‘was a disaster, which I never would like to repeat’ at Diagonal des Fous and refocusing for 2016. Grinius tells us about his race plans for 2016 starting with Vibram HK – ‘A’ race and third place, Transgrancanaria – ‘B’ race not bad as he came second,  3R (rock and roll and recreation), Lavaredo in June ‘B’ race, UTMB – obviously an ‘A’ race and Diagonal des Fous – ‘A+’ race again ‘Put all in – revenge!’  We can’t wait to see how his seasons pans out.  What’s clear is that Grinius wants to re-balance his running commitments with the rest of his life.

https://d2g2.wordpress.com/

Tim Tollefson

Tim Tollefson had a character building race at Transgrancanaria. Finishing in 101st place in a time of 19:37:14 it was surely not the plan from the outset. Tollefson’s Facebook post shortly after the race says it all ‘It was absolutely stunningly gorgeous. Objectively if I could’ve appreciated that I would’ve been happy but since I was in so much agony I’d look up and see the view and say “oh that’s cool” and then go back to realizing how horrible this is’ and the reason ‘My quads were shot and blister ridden feet felt like hamburger meat’. Thanks for the insight Tim and massive congratulations on gutting it out for the finish.

 

UTWT standings after three races

Men Points
1 Gediminas Grinius 402
2 Pau Capell-Gil 381
3 Jonas Budd 377

 

Women Points
1 Silvia Trigueros-Garrote 333
2 Dong Li 319
3 Caroline Chaverot 235

 

The next event in the UTWT calendar is Marathon Des Sables in Morocco from April 10th to 15th.  This will be the 31st edition of this challenging multi-stage event covering 250km.  A whole host of quality North African athletes, including several past winners will be taking it out from the front. The notable International athletes competing are: Elisabet Barnes, Erik Clavery, Laurence Klein, Meghan Arbogast, Jason Schlarb, Marco Olmo and Sondre Amdahl.