The remaining 781 participants of the ultra-marathon spent nearly a third of the stage tackling Erg Chebbi’s 100-meter high sand dunes.
Rabat – The dunes of Erg Chebbi defined the second stage of the Marathon des Sables (MDS) as runners spent nearly a third of the stage’s 32.5 kilometers racing through Morocco’s largest dune field.
Competitors left the starting line at 8:30 a.m. and by noon temperatures had reached 29.5 degrees celsius—3 degrees hotter than the first stage.
The dunes and heat caused half a dozen competitors to drop out of the MDS by 2 p.m. Only two competitors dropped following the mixed terrain of the first stage, bringing the total number of runners from 781.
In general, 11 hours is the maximum time expected to complete the stage. The race’s top finishers for both the men’s and the women’s race made it it in less than five hours.
The men’s race
The El Morabity brothers firmly held on to first and second place, with Mohamed El Morabity finishing just six seconds ahead of his brother, Rachid, who won the first stage of the marathon on Sunday, April 7.
Abdelkader El Mouaziz remained in the top five by coming in less than four minutes after the El Morabity brothers. The three runners, all members of the Maroc TGCC Team, worked together to stay orientated in the dunes.
“I did a great job for our team,” Mouaziz said. “I was in charge of the compass in the dunes.”
The end of the second stage also brought the MDS’ first international top five men’s finishers.
Fourth and fifth place were taken by Antonio Alongi, from Italy and Merile Robert from France—a stark contrast from the Moroccan dominated stage one.
Stage Two: Men’s Top Five
|1||Rachid El Morabity||Morocco||2:52:30|
|2||Mohamed El Morabity||Morocco||2:52:36|
|3||Abdelkader El Mouaziz||Morocco||2:56:14|
The women’s race
Dutch runner Ragna Debats continued to dominate the women’s race, finishing the second stage nearly 45 minutes ahead of the next runner.
“Thirteen kilometers of dunes, that was a first for me. I loved it,” Debats said.
Behind Debats was American runner Meghan Hicks, who won the MDS in 2013. Hicks climbed to second place after finishing fifth in the first stage—overtaking Moroccan runner Aziz Raji and finishing more than six minutes ahead of her.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to train on this type of terrain,” Raji said. “Still, I was able to make it to the Top 3. I hope to perform even better in the next stages.”
Stage Two: Women’s Top Five
|1||Ragna Debats||The Netherlands||3:14:22|
|2||Meghan Hicks||The United States of America||3:59:00|
|4||Gemma Game||Great Britain||4:10:09|
|5||Lauren Woodwiss||Great Britain||4:17:03|
The next stage
Details about the third stage have not yet been released, but it is expected to start at 10 a.m., Tuesday, April 9.
Morocco World News will continue to provide updates on the marathon throughout the week.