Race report day 5, last day
We did it!
The sun is setting in Sahara as I write this last report from MDS.Yes, the race has been cut also in the end, due to logistics problems after the heavy rains prior the race. There will soon be a dinner, with Much avaited cold beer and a slide show with the best pictures from the race, before a concert with 31 musicians from the Paris Opera, who are rehearsing on the stage while runners continue crossing the finish line, celebrated by a cheering jubilant crowd.
The last stage over 42,2 Km was mostly flat with just a few smaller climbs. With three water stations there were no risk of dehydration, as long as you ate your salt tablets. There were many emotional scenes at the finish by runners, in some cases a long long hug with family members, like the one Martin Dokkedal from Denmark got from his wife Petra, who had traveled 19 hours to surprise him. « I have to say I wasn’t prepared for that « said a smiling Martin, who was content finishing his first MDS.”Compared to really long ultra races that I have done before I must admit that I like the stage race concept. Here you get to enjoy the running since you can recover some after each stage. It’s just a pity two stages were cut out, I liked the atmosphere with the other runners, chatting around the stove. »
The hardest part for Martin was the long stage, which he finished in 20 hours, walking a big part with blisters under his feet. « It’s tough when you get sand inside the open blisters but it’s part of the race and I really enjoyed the marathon stage today, it was hotter than the other days, more what I expected running in the desert would be like.»
Fastest in the last stage was moroccan Aziz El Akad, who did the 42,2 km in 2,52. Mohammed Ahansal were second today but is the overall winner (his 3^rd MDS victory). As for myself I had a bad start with stomach problems, but I got better after I got some pills from the medics at CP 1. My finishing time was 4,18 (59^th ) which gave me a 27^th place in the general ranking.
A large part of the MDS runners are involved in a charity project. One of these is the french fire fighters team Pompiers Raid Aventures from Paris, who have been carrying children who are unable to run in a wagon with wheels. This year they brought four kids from Hospital National de Saint-Maurice who took turns riding with the team. Mathilde Chevignard who works at the hospital explains: « I know that the result is very positive. These kids all have some kind of brain deficiance which prevents them from living a normal life, but after participating in this race, having experienced a real adventure far away from their normal protected life and parents, they start living more like a normal child when they come back, with ideas for new adventures. For these kids this will be a life changing experience, I know this because I have met parents of children that have made this trip before. »
The special atmosphere at MDS is one of the things that keep runners coming back year after year. One of the most frequent is french Karim Mosta who’s doing his 21st MDS (he is also record holder with most (237) multiday races under his belt. When asked which is the hardest race he says: « When you have problems in a race, like with feet or stomach, those are the hardest races.
An example of the spirit of MDS is when last runners in the long stage, Adnan Osnan from Malaysia (66 years) and Dietrich Kohler (68 years), got a warm reception from a huge crowd that had gathered to salute them, including dancing and singing berbers, TV teams and photographers.
In total 37 runners have abandoned the race, but not Jorge Aubeso, as I wrote. The super strong Spaniard didn’t pull out even though a leg injury stopped him from racing for the top postions.
Finally I want to tank the race organisation (400 persons) for doing their best and making the 24^th edition of MDS very memorable.
I also wish to thank my sponsors who helped me.
Last I want to say hi to my new friends from Marathon des Sables 2009.