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Sand, sun, heat … and more sand: Day 1 of the Marathon des Sables in words and pictures

They call it the toughest footrace on earth and, based on today’s first stage of the 36th edition of the Marathon des Sables (MDS), it’s easy to understand why. Just covering the event was enough of a challenge – our jeep got stuck in the sand twice and we pulled another one out just before today’s second check point, too.

But the almost 1,000 runners taking part in this year’s race are arguably much tougher than the jeeps carrying journalists trying to cover them, and much of the field appeared to cruise through the first 30.3 km stage without too much issue, working their way through the varied terrain that included everything from rocks to full-fledged sand dunes.

The day began at 28 degrees celsius an hour before race start and, by the time the athletes hit the sand dunes after their 9 AM start, it was well into the high 30s.

You can read more about the Marathon des Sables here.

Related: Madness in Morocco – Canadians get ready for the Marathon des Sables.

Here’s a recap of the day’s action in words and pictures – you can find results from today’s race here.

Richard Lavictoire from Terrebonne, Quebec looks relaxed before the start of today’s first stage. He would go on to finish the day in 4:25:31.
Gators are the name of the game here, especially for today’s sandy stage …
They’re off. The first stage of the 36th Marathon Des Sables begins.
Spiderman is in the house! Chris Gale is raising money for Angelman Syndrome through this year’s race – he got some early video and photo time by running with the leaders at the start.
The opening stage featured some rocky sections to start …

But got sandy in a hurry.
Then there were times when it was rocky and sandy …


Eight-time MDS Rachid El Morabity flew through the first stage in 2:04:16, 21 seconds ahead of fellow Moroccan Azid Yachou (2:04:37). Rachid’s younger brother, Mohammed, who has finished second here the last four editions behind his brother, took third in 2:10:16.
This was the view the rest of the women got of Anna Comet after the second check point …
As the Spaniard ran to the win in the first stage in 2:52:20.
France’s Sylvaine Cussot (pictured) took second in 2:56:25, while Morocco’s Aziza Raji, the women’s defending champion, took third in 2:59:41.