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36th MDS: THE DESERT AWAITS THEM

TIMGALINE, 26 March 2022

At the MARATHON DES SABLES, Saturday is traditionally dedicated to technical and medical checks, a compulsory step before the 1,000 or so participants of this 36th edition may embark on the ultimate desert adventure.

The first night of the 36th MARATHON DES SABLES—spent in TIMGALINE, in the South Moroccan Sahara—as a cold and windy one for the thousand participants. Conditions that this British woman did not really expect: "I was very cold last night, I had to put my clothes on in my sleeping bag. So I don't know how I'm going to cope over the next few days. The temperature dropped to around 5°C at the coldest point of the night, which is not unusual for the season but can be surprising.

TECHNICAL CHECKS

Safety is the number one concern on the MARATHON DES SABLES: the 1,000 participants of this 36th edition all come to flirt with the limits of their body and mind, and the challenge of the organisation is to enable them to do so in optimal safety conditions. This explains why the day preceding the first stage of the race is dedicated to checks: participants must show their equipment, which shall include safety items such as a compass, an emergency blancket, a signalling mirror, and a venom extractor. They must also present their food—seeds, freeze-dried meals, energy powders, etc.—as the event is run on a food self-sufficiency basis. At the end of the technical check, the backpack is weighed (without water) and must be between 6.5 and 15 kg. Below the lower limit, the organisation considers that the participant will not be safe enough; above the upper limit, that the risk of injury is too high. Christine LEDUC (D77-FRA) still had questions two hours before the check: "The MDS backpack is really good—it's comfortable and doesn't cause any rubbing—but I'm afraid of the weight of mine. It's really heavy—around 10 kg without water—and I don't know how my body will react."

MEDICAL CHECK

Regarding medical aspects, the Doctrotters check the health condition of each participant through pre-established examinations (medical certificate, electrocardiogram). In addition to the basic medical checks that apply to all competitors, a health and doping prevention protocol is used for some twenty participants. Urine and blood samples will be taken to complete an initial sampling already carried out 30 days ago. The Top 3 men and women will also be tested on the day of the Marathon stage (stage 5). The aim of these tests is above all preventive: certain anomalies could endanger these athletes who are going to play for the win and compete to the maximum of their body's possibilities, in very harsh conditions, with great risks of dehydration. The organisation thus has the possibility of "stopping" them from taking part in the race, which would certainly be bad news for them but could potentially avoid serious consequences.

SECURITY

After these checks, all participants (from the elite runners to the slowest walkers) receive their race equipment: bibs, check card, ChronoTag, and SPOT beacon. The SPOT beacon is one of the key safety devices on the MARATHON DES SABLES: it enables to track each participant remotely from the Race HQ and to identify any abnormality, such as a person straying away from the course or at a standstill... Furthermore, participants are able to request assistance via their beacon. This will immediately trigger the launching of rescue means, by land or air (according to the competitor's location)—a reactivity that can saves lives. Finally, these SPOT beacons enable the MDS organisers to offer a live tracking of the race, which can be easily accessed by anyone in the LIVE section of the race's website (available from the start of the race, i.e. from Sunday onwards). A great technology at the service of safety, but also a formidable way for relatives to follow their favourite competitor.

238 KM OF DESERT

The roadbook given yesterday to all competitors enables them to have a detailed view of the 6 stages they will have to either run or walk. On the menu: 238 km of stony plains, sandy dunes, dried oueds, rocky plateaus, and djebels. The race course of this 36th edition is very similar to that of 2018: indeed, competitors had loved it, especially the two crossings of jebel El Otfal, the vertiginous crests, and the splendid dried lake. Everything you need to treat your eyes and return home fully energised!

Tonight, the MDS organisation will provid all competitors with a last supper; and tomorrow morning, food self-sufficiency will start. Then, at 9 AM, it will be the start of the first stage, measuring 30.3 km. Finally, the adventure will begin! "I'm like a kid," Christine LEDUC enthused, "I've been seeing pictures of the MARATHON DES SABLES for years, and yesterday I was just in front of Patrick BAUER on his 4x4. It's totally crazy!"

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A Big Thank you

To our suppliers, partners, supporters, volunteers

MOROCCAN NATIONAL TOURIST OFFICE
OCP
THÉ BELLAR
SOFAC
Sidi Ali
MUTUAIDE
BODYCROSS
SPOT
TV5MONDE
TERRES D'AVENTURE
Royal Air Maroc
TGCC