For almost a week we’ve been reporting on the 36th Marathon des Sables, a 250 km “race” through the Sahara Desert. After just under 900 athletes started the event, 800 have finished the famed “long” stage – an 85.8 km effort through the desert that included more dunes, rocky outcrops, mountain climbs and stony plains, all while dealing with harsh winds that have been blowing sand at the competitors for days on end.
Adding to the challenge for the fourth stage were heavy showers, which turned the sand into muddy quagmires at some points.
Close men’s race
After four stages of racing just 37 seconds separate the top two men – four-time runner up Mohammed El Morabity and his eight-time champion older brother Rachid – as they head into the final racing stage of the Marathon des Sables (MDS). The 42.2 km fifth stage is the final official stage of the race, with a mandatory 7.7 km charity stage done on Saturday to round out the seven days of the event.
Morocco’s Mohammed El Morabity has finished second behind his big brother at the last four MDS races and appeared to be on track to finally get the top spot on the podium heading into the 85.8 km fourth stage. But Rachid found another gear and won the stage in 7:27:04, almost four-minutes ahead of Mohammed and almost 13-minutes ahead of previous race leader Aziz Yachou (another Moroccan), who remains in third but is just over four-minutes behind overall race leader Mohammed.
The men’s race will come down to tomorrow’s marathon, with the likely winner being one of the three Moroccans. France’s Merile Robert sits in fourth overall, but is over two hours behind the Moroccans, while American Jordan Tropf sits in fifth, another eight-minutes behind the Frenchman.
Comet continues to dominate
As she has pretty much from the start of the race, Spain’s Anna Comet dominated the long stage, finishing in 9:43:19, with Sylvaine Cussot (FRA) taking second (as she has in all the stages so far) in 10:10:53. Morocco’s Aziza Elamrany took third in the stage in 10:23:20, moving ahead of her countrywoman and defending women’s champion Aziza Raji in the overall standings. Raji took fourth in the stage in 11:17:12.
Barring a total meltdown, Comet appears on track to take this year’s MDS, her first. While she has competed in other 30 to 50 km trail races before, this would be her first “major” ultra victory.
Stage 4 Results
1. D1 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MAR) – 7:27:04
2. D2 – Mohamed EL MORABITY (MAR) – 7:30:46
3. D15 – Aziz YACHOU (MAR) – 7:39:48
4. D59 – Mérile ROBERT (FRA) – 8:36:58
5. D819 – Jordan TROPF (USA) – 8:40:16
1. D906 – Anna COMET (ESP) – 9:43:19
2. D129 – Sylvaine CUSSOT (FRA) – 10:10:53
3. D6 – Aziza ELAMRANY (MAR) – 10:23:20
4. D5 – Aziza RAJI (MAR) – 11:17:12
5. D728 – Bethany RAINBOW (GBR) – 11:34:19
1. D2 – Mohamed EL MORABITY (MAR) – CUMUL : 15:25:26
2. D1 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MAR) – CUMUL : 15:26:03
3. D15 – Aziz YACHOU (MAR) – CUMUL : 15:30:00
4. D59 – Mérile ROBERT (FRA) – CUMUL : 17:40:37
5. D819 – Jordan TROPF (USA) – CUMUL : 17:48:41
1. D906 – Anna COMET (ESP) – CUMUL : 20:08:45
2. D129 – Sylvaine CUSSOT (FRA) – CUMUL : 21:01:55
3. D6 – Aziza ELAMRANY (MAR) – CUMUL : 22:15:29
4. D5 – Aziza RAJI (MAR) – CUMUL : 23:01:49
5. D8 – Hassna HAMDOUCH (MAR) – CUMUL : 24:56:45