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A new reign seems to have begun for Moroccan Rachid El Morabity. After two years where it was impossible to compete after being forced to retire due to injury, the youngest of the Ahansal brothers, multiple winners of the event, has secured victory once again in this 29th SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES. Leading the way from the opening leg, the fine strategist handled his race to perfection with the passing days, whilst managing to contain the attacks from his main rival, Jordanian Salameh Al Aqra, winner of the 2012 event. “All the editions are difficult, but this one has been particularly tactical”, Mohamad Ahansal acknowledges, making it onto his 15th podium by securing 3rd place in this edition. The battle for the title proved to be close-fought, but it was even fiercer among the top 10, where there’s a significant number of Europeans. Among these, Danny Kendall (5th) secured the best performance ever achieved by a Briton in this event, just six minutes shy of Portuguese runner Carlos Sa (4th), and three French runners (Gras, Braun and Le Saux) sealed the 8th, 9th and 10th spot in quick succession. After a 10th place in last year’s competition, we knew Danny was strong but the real surprise came from French youngster Michaël Gras, 22, who’d never run further than a half marathon before this event and finished top Frenchman after an audacious strategy that saw him outpace a host of seasoned runners. In the women’s category, the battle was less fierce but equally surprising. American Nikki Kimball took first place on her first attempt with over an hour’s lead over 3-time winner, French runner Laurence Klein, who was just back from injury. Behind her two more French women, Amandine Roux and Aline Pierron secured 3rd and 4th place. Another notable performance was that of Irish runner Claire Morrissey who took 2nd place in the women’s category of the long leg and won the 5th marathon leg. It all augurs extremely well for the 30th edition of the Marathon des Sables…