Sweat and tears
Erg Znaigui – Merzouga : 21.1 km.
For the second time, there were two kick off times for the day’s stage: the bulk of competitors set off at 9.00 but the last 50 runners (who would probably take the longest time to complete the stage) got an early start, one hour before.
The limping troop of the first wave
It is a limping troop of competitors, some on crutches, who first got into position to listen the Patrick Bauer’s instructions under a fairly hazy sky, after a nippy night.
The rest of the runners set off about one hour later, their eyes set on Erg Znaigui, the first obstacle of the day: 3.5 km of pretty dunes, leading to plateaux studded with black stones – a striking contrast with the orange sand, still faily firm at this hour.
Leaving jebel Debouaâ on their right hand-side, after a slight slope covered with the finest dark red dust, they reach M’Fis, a hamlet built around a deserted mine. It looks like a film set, especially when you go through the ruins.
Dunes and ruins
At this point, at km 9.7, Mohamad Ahansal (1 – MOR) is leading, closely followed by Salameh Al Aqra (391 -JOR) and Abdelaziz Aît Abdelouahed (9 –MOR) . They go through the ruins of M’fis at the same time at the first runners amongst those who left an hour early.
At CP 1, set at km 14,competitors are still looking forward to the most emblematic part of this Sultan Marathon des Sables : the 7.7km East to West crossing of Erg Merzouga, the highest dunes in Morocco.
Runners are euphoric, whatever their ranking: their pace might differ, but it is with the same joy they tread across immense waves of sand – and sand that has got far less firm, despite the weather remaining cloudy.
Mohammed Ahansal, winner of every single stage
Mohamad Ahansal springs from the dunes as if lifted by hundreds of people cheering him. The applause reaches its peak when he literally jumps above the last sand wall, before crossing the finish line, beaming, two minutes before his Jordanian challenger.
From then on, it is an uninterrupted line of finishers whom Patrick Bauer takes in his arms after giving them their well deserved and much dreamed about medal.
There are many tears, many screams of joy and relief to have been tolerated by the merciless Sahara desert. Competitors endlessly hug and congratulate each other, and thank Patrick Bauer for the race.
It is extremely moving to watch all the marathon-men and women finish such a stunning and physically hugely demanding edition.
A flood of emotion on the finish line
The 25th anniversary of the Sultan Marathon des Sables was up to the mark, in all respects. It is a simple recipe: a little bit of water to be able to run, litres of sweat to measure the effort, rivers of tears on the finish line.
Water makes the desert more human and nourishes it and makes it tremble with love under the heat mists that feed mirages.
Once more, the Sahara welcomed the competitors with a rather brutal form of affection and will stay with them forever.
All can feel this communion and few are those who can resist looking at it one last time before setting off to Ouarzazate in the coaches, as if to say: “See you soon, Inc’h Allah…”
Provisional stage ranking:
1) Mohamad Ahansal (1 - MOR): 01h 13’ 20’’
2) Salameh Al Aqra (391 -JOR): 01h 15’ 26’’
3) Abdelaziz Aît Abdelouahed (9 –MOR): 01h 16’ 33’’
Provisional general ranking:
1) Mohamad Ahansal (1 - MOR): 19h 35’ 08’’
2) Salameh Al Aqra (391 -JOR): 20h 26’ 30’’
3) Michael Wardian (698-USA): 23h 51’ 03’’
Women provisional stage ranking:
1) Laurence Archambault (80 – FRA): 02h 55’ 20’’
2) Allessia Bertolino (1032- ITA): 02h 55’ 24’’
3) Luisa Balsamo (604-ITA): 02h 56’ 32’’
Women provisional general ranking:
1) Monica Viladomiu Aguilera (1020-SP): 29h 34’ 11’’
2) Jolanda Linshooten (90-NDL): 30h 10’ 09’’
3) Jennifer Salter (936 – UK) : 30h 18’ 36’’
Treat yourself to satellite views of the Sultan Marathon des Sables:
Retrace the route of the 6th stage thanks to GPS points: all you have to do is copy and paste on such sites as Google Maps or Google Earth
Bivouac 6 : N30 58.073 W3 54.662
CP 1 : N31 04.384 W3 56.825
Finish line : N31 05.401 W4 00.310