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Last minute


The leg from yesterday and today: Whilst the front runners were lucky enough to complete the 81.5km long leg in the early evening, a lot of people explored the magic of a Saharan night to finish the race, even if it took over 30 hours at times.

Head of the race: Winner of the leg, Jordanian Al Aqra has closed to within ten minutes of the Moroccan El Morabity. In the women’s category, American Nikki Kimball, victorious in the long leg, now boasts an hour’s lead in the overall ranking over Laurence Klein.

Echoes from the bivouac: The volunteers are one of the many riches of the MARATHON DES SABLES. Some of them have been meeting each other in the desert for over 20 years. Among the Doc Trotters, there are also a number of loyal members. Christophe Lacarrière, a dentist, is making the most of his time, to the benefit of the Moroccan contingent who work for the race. We also focus on the highlights of bivouac life and how a simple fizzy drink can become the most prized assets of the races.

Portrait: From the big screen to the desert trail, Bertie Portal is a British actor who has starred in a number of Oscar-winning films. Hungry for adventure after rowing the atlantic, he completed the legendary long leg of the Marathon des Sables shortly before 5am this morning after nearly 20 hours on the track.

Thursday 10 April, at 1200 GMT: Temperature: 35°C - Hygrometry: 9%


And the Devil broke into tears. On the finish line of the long leg of the 29th SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES, Edward Jackson, vest 666, cracks. Hand in hand with a compatriot he had met over the past kilometres, and still clad in his devil outfit complete with pronged fork, the Briton has finally made it to the finish after covering the 81.5km between Ba Haffou and Rich Merzoug.

On the same finish line, there have been compelling, moving and sometimes even upsetting scenes. Couples gripped in long hugs, runners sprinting to mark their victory in this personal battle, which at times has taken over thirty hours, only cries of rage and shouts of release to break the silence of a Saharan night. In front of the webcam, they make a sign to family and friends, who have doubtless been gripped to their screens to watch the passage times and avoid missing the latest updates. The faces are marked and worn, the look in the eyes is often haggard but always filled with pride. And then there’s the universal kiss to the camera, which is sent somewhere in the world to be received instantaneously with relieve and doubtless a few tears.

Though the front runners made the finish yesterday evening, a vast number had to spend the night in the desert. Difficult for the body, but a privilege for the spirit and the soul. The desert sky is unique. Its silence too with solely the noise of the runners plodding through the sand to disturb it. This sound is always gentle though, in contrast with the violence of the effort. A unique moment, which often lends itself to reflection and introspection. In 29 editions, how many big personal decisions have been made in this long leg with stars the only witnesses? In this long snake of lights created by the ballet of head torches, some preferred to stop for a few hours at a checkpoint transformed into an emergency bivouac – a place to recover yourself and get some rest. A few hours later you hit the road again, step by step, as far as the finish and the day’s holy grail.

On Friday, they’ll hit the road again for the fifth stage. Another marathon on the programme, culminating with a concert at the heart of the bivouac comprising a singer and musicians from the Paris Opera. A supernatural moment, a magical moment, the likes of which only the SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES can offer.