By Alice Morrison
And they are off!
It is the 32nd edition of the infamous Marathon des Sables (MDS) and the runners have had their first day of enduring the burning sun and the soft sand of the dunes. The race is 250km long and takes place over six stages in six days. The first stage was 30km.
MDS is self-supported with runners carrying all their own food and kit for the week. Tents, salt tablets, water and the all-important poo bags are provided by the organisers.
The middle stage is a double and most athletes will find themselves running well into the night, some will be running through it and into the next day.
The reigning champion, Rachid El Morabity is the favourite to win again this year, but he will be facing tough competition from his friends and fellow Moroccans. Brotherhood and rivalry – it is an exciting mix!
There are dreams to be made and tales to be told in the next few days. As well as some of our well-established favourites, Rachid, Samir Al Akhdar, Elisabet Barnes and Rory Coleman, there are some new players. One of these is Team X-Bionic which was a dream of Team Captain, Jenny Davis. It is an international team of elite women with a mix of British and Moroccan runners.
Another one to watch is double amputee, Duncan Slater, who is heroically trying for the second time to become the first double amputee to complete. Last year he didn’t quite make it, this year he has come back stronger and with lessons learnt.
MDS veteran and UK organizer, Steve Diederich, had this advice to give the runners before they set off:
“You will be in one of the most amazing places on earth, its beauty defies meaningful description. It is a real privilege to be there as survival without support is not easy. It is also one of the most stunning place on the planet and one that you may never visit again, but be able to tell your grandchildren about your experience. So my advice is – that unless you are seriously going for a position on the podium and every second matters, stop occasionally and just marvel at where you are, what has got you there, the distance between you and your “other life”. “
Stage 1 results
Mohamed El Morabity (Mor) 2h 10m 36s
Rachid El Morabity (Mor) 2h 10m 54s
Abdelkader El Mouaziz (Mor) 2h 11m 17s
Elisabet Barnes (Swe) 2h 38m 13s
Nathalie Mouclair (Fra) 2h 44m 57s
Aziza Raji (Mor) 2h 54m 36s
The live tracker is available here.
The live camera at the finish line is available here.