Race Report Day 4, rest day
Never stop running
The day after the ultra stage over 90,1 km (the longest in the race’s history) there are not many who aren’t limping with blistered feet and sore legs. Many runners are actually still out on the course having slept a few hours in one of the Checkpoint tents.
A car arrives with runners who have abandoned the race, among them 10 time winner and MDS’s biggest star Lahcen Ahansal who stopped at CP 4:
« I didn’t have the strenght in my legs and I lacked motivation to continue ». This was the 17:th MDS for 38 year old Ahansal, but not the last. « I will return next year, you can count on that. » he says explaining that he´s hardly done any racing for two years prior to this. As a young boy he watched the race passing his village and was allowed to run a stage. He points at a nomad tent: « I was a nomad you know. » Today he lives part time in Germany and part time in Morocco.
Another strong runner, spaniard Jorge Aubeso, 5th last year, suffered a leg injury and had to walk most part of the stage including sleeping at a CP. According to medical
staff this year feet aren’t the big problem, since it isn’t by far as hot as in some previous editions, which makes the feet swell. Instead stomach problems are numerous. This far into the race 33 have abandoned it.
Ahansal’s brother Muhammad is currently in top of the general ranking after winning the ultra stage in impressive 8H08. I’m currently in 24:th position after finishing the long stage in 11H35 (26:th). The field started at 9 am leaving the top 55 runners to start three hours later under a blue sky but with strong winds and the occasional mini
tornado, covering our faces with buffs and sunglasses. After a few hours I teamed up with Christian Vachon from Montreal which proved to be a very good call. After having failed two times on the long stage in Jungle Marathon I needed to pace myself to be able to run the whole stage. Resting at the CP’s was very tempting but in Christian’s
strategy sitting is not included, or even walking. After several hours trotting in the darkness with our tiny headlamps lit to avoid rocks and holes he explained: « I have a son of 1,5 years, and he said: if you are going to do this race there is only one thing I ask from you: ‘Never stop running!’ Thats’s what keeps me going, that’s why I always run and never walk. »
For long stretches we just run next to eachother without a word. When the sand is soft and heavy I try to find harder surface. The ground is covered with sharp stones which makes sure footing crucial to avoid painful encounters. Christian tells about a 120 km charity race he organises in his hometown to support economically disadvantaged kids to be able to do sport. « When I was young there were many who helped me, and when I come back I will talk about this race and show pictures in a school, telling them that everything is possible and that you can have big dreams. »
The last checkpoint (79 km) is easily spotted from far, marked with a blue light beam, like a never ending Star Wars laser sword. We stop for a few minutes and share some of my superfood since Christian is out of food and I have a lot. Finishing together after a long stage like this is emotional and we thank eachother.
About the snake in the camp:
« It was a baby Viper with small horns, very dangerous, you can die if it bites you » says Paolo Venturini from Padua, Italy, nomally a police in track & field forces and also an amateur reptile expert. « I took it by the hand behind the head, as you do with snakes, and dropped it in the sand dunes »
Unfortunately Paolo had to abandon the ultra stage after 60 km as an effect of illnes caght before the race.