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Today’s leg: It’s the moment of truth, the longest leg of the 29th SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES spanning some 81.5km. Ten hours or so of exertion for the front runners and over thirty or so for the end of the caravan.
Echoes from the bivouac: A morning in the bivouac offers up some surprising spectacles: a Japanese runner dancing to Michael Jackson, a recital by an opera singer and of course the song “Happy” by Farrell Williams to enable the runners to loosen up. We also focus on the 200 Moroccans employed by the organisation and without whom none of this would be possible.
Portrait: From Belgium, Caroline Wehrens, is constantly smiling and good-humoured. The reason for this is that she’s running so that sick children can make their dreams come true.

At 3pm (gmt).- Temperature : 38,5°C - Hygrometry : 9,3%

It’s time to get up in the bivouac and the faces are a little tenser than usual. For the 938 competitors at the start of the 4th leg of the 29th SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES, it’s the day of truth, that of the 81.5km leg between Ba Hallou and Rich Merzoug. Since the start, a hundred or so runners have already had to retire, to an extent that has rarely been seen before. The heat and the difficulty of the first legs has made its presence felt on the bodies. The minds too, which were anxious as they tackled this revealing stage. A paradox of emotions, a shock to the senses, mixed between an impatience to get going with the leg that has made the MARATHON DES SABLES legend and a fear of the unknown, fright at what might happen in such an adventure, which for many is something totally unique.

Just a few kilometres into the desert and already the spectacular ascent of the El Otfal djebel looms with its tongue of sand draped over a 30% slope. The rewards will be high once they get to the top with a unique panorama across the valley. A little further on and the caravan will be swallowed up by tight gorge before opening out onto a dried-up lake several kilometres later. After around a marathon distance, they’ll have only got about halfway through the leg. There’s another djebel to climb to benefit from a passage along a ridge with unforgettable views across a field of dunettes, which the runners will have to negotiate before making the bivouac.

Though the frontrunners, including the two leaders, Moroccan Rachid El Morabity and the French runner Laurence Klein, set out three hours after the others with the 50 top men and the top 5 women, they will take less than 10 hours, the majority of the runners will continue on their way through the night, illuminated by their head torches and the stars, and guided by their hopes and their belief. They’ll also have the sensation they may not be quite the same again after this experience.