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38TH MARATHON DES SABLES LEGENDARY - THE LONG STAGE KEEPS ITS PROMISE

DJEBEL EL OTFAL, April 16, 2024

As eagerly awaited as it was feared, the long stage of the 38th MARATHON DES SABLES LEGENDARY did not disappoint the 830 starters this morning: 85.3 km of sand and rocky terrain to cover under a blazing sun. It's tough, it's crazy. And that's exactly what they came for.

Traditionally, two starts are given for the long stage of the MARATHON DES SABLES LEGENDARY: the first at 6 a.m. for most of the field, and the second 1h30 later for the first 50. Every year, this time lag makes for some wonderful moments of sharing, as the "anonymous" runners are overtaken one after the other by the "elite" runners, with cheers from all sides and whistles of admiration for the professionals' strides. Mutual respect and admiration: fine values that match those of the event.

DIFFICULTIES THAT MAGNIFY THE BEAUTY OF THE DESERT

This third stage is a classic on the MDS LEGENDARY, with the famous EL OTFAL jebel climbed on its rocky side and descended on its sandy side, the magnificent ridges of the JOHA BABA ALI and HERED ASPER jebels, the passage at the foot of the BA HALOU ruins and the long line of dunes that follow, the crossing of the RHERIS wadi, the sandy foothills of the RAS KHEMMOUNA jebel, the MAI DER salt lake and the crossing of the EL MAHARCH pass. Superb places further magnified by the effort, as John ODONNELL (D289-GBR) testified a few minutes after crossing the finish line: "Each section had something really spectacular. It was really hot. What I liked best? The feeling of accomplishment. As well as the checkpoints: everyone is really fantastic."

ENJOY THE MOMENT

On the course and at the finish line, even if the faces grimaced, the testimonials remained enthusiastic, as demonstrated by Matthieu SCHOLTEN (D214-NLD), who arrived late in the afternoon: "It was a long day. Lots of sand. But it was great, with a lot of encouragement from the staff and the other riders being really lovely. The top of the first climb was incredible, a panoramic view. That's why we come."

These many testimonials echo this morning's briefing: "You're not here by chance, you've invested a lot to be here this morning, you've had a first stage that wasn't so difficult, a second stage that scared you, so don't doubt yourself on the long stage. Savor the beauty of the desert, believe in yourself, go from one CP to the next. What you'll encounter today is exactly what you came for."

DIFFICULT CONDITIONS

In addition to the distance and difficulty of the route, the heat weighed heavily on this long stage. At the end of the day, some thirty participants had to stop their adventure prematurely.

Then, as night fell, the peloton was plunged into the very special atmosphere of the MDS: the impression of navigating in an indefinite space, with the ground beneath your feet, the immense starry vault above you, and the reflective markers as your only beacon. A unique experience that everyone will remember for the rest of their lives.

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