After a day in the dunes, runners take on the third stage of the desert race hitting the 100-kilometer mark of the 250-kilometer ultra-marathon.
Rabat – The end of the 34th Marathon des Sables’ (MDS) third stage marks the halfway point for the world’s longest desert race hosted in Morocco.
Nearly 800 competitors have spent the last three days racing through the dunes to established bivouacs, where they spend the night preparing for the next day. So far, runners have covered over 100 kilometers and have faced sand dunes, stony plains, rocky valleys, and the unbearably hot desert sun.
Of the 783 competitors that began the race on Sunday, April 7, only 773 have made it this far. The third stage was 37.1 kilometers long, and runners survived the hottest temperatures yet—with the heat hitting as high as 30.8 degrees celsius.
With nearly 150 kilometers of the ultra-marathon still to go, runners were able to rest at the third bivouac, located roughly 15 kilometers west of the village of Taouz.
The men’s race
The results of the third stage have been nearly unchanged from the last two, with a consistent display of prowess from Rachid and Mohamed El Morabity, who have ranked first and second respectively. After dominating the third stage, the brothers are safely sitting on first and second place overall.
“I’m delighted to have made a difference. I increased the gap and have enough experience to manage tomorrow’s Long Stage,” Rachid El Morabity said.
This stage also saw the return of a completely Moroccan men’s top five, an identical finish to the first stage.
Stage Three: Men’s Top Five
|1||Rachid El Morabity||Morocco||2:58:45|
|2||Mohamed El Morabity||Morocco||3:00:01|
|4||Abdelkader El Mouaziz||Morocco||3:04:09|
The women’s race
Like the El Morabity brothers, Dutch runner Ragna Debats has been the unchallenged victor of the contest, finishing first for her third time in a row. However, even as she dominated the third stage, Debats made it clear after crossing the finishing line that the day hadn’t been the easiest.
“My stomach was feeling bad, but more importantly, I had to run with a crooked backpack—it’s been extremely hard,” Debats said.
Despite the difficulties, Debats dominated the desert heat by finishing nearly an hour and a half ahead of Moroccan runner Aziz Raji, who placed second.
The third stage’s top five finishers were the same as the second stage’s, with just Raji and British runner Gemma Game overtaking American runner Meghan Hicks.
|Stage Three: Women’s Top Five|
|1||Ragna Debats||The Netherlands||3:35:54|
|3||Gemma Game||Great Britain||4:11:56|
|4||Meghan Hicks||The United States of America||4:21:10|
|5||Lauren Woodwiss||Great Britain||4:41:15|
The overall lead
The end of the third stage brings the halfway point of the marathon. The time it has taken runners to finish each stage is added up and the total time is what affects a competitors overall ranking.
Marathon des Sables: Overall Top Five
|#||Name||Country||Total Time||Name||Country||Total Time|
|1||Rachid El Morabity||Morocco||8:10:21||Ragna Debats||The Netherlands||9:32:40|
|2||Mohamed El Morabity||Morocco||8:12:59||Aziza Raji||Morocco||11:17:07|
|3||Abdelkader El Mouaziz||Morocco||8:27:16||Meghan Hicks||The United States of America||11:41:39|
|4||Abdelaziz Baghazza||Morocco||8:45:10||Gemma Game||Great Britain||11:49:19|
|5||Antonio Alongi||Italy||8:46:55||Lauren Woodwiss||Great Britain||12:18:20|
The next stage
Other than its nickname the “Long Stage,” complete details about the fourth stage have not yet been released.
The race is expected to have an eventful staggered start, with the top 50 men and top five women starting later in the day. The main pack of runners is expected to begin the stage at around 8 a.m., Thursday, April 11.
Morocco World News will continue to provide updates on the marathon throughout the week.