Marathon des Sables

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The Marathon des Sables (MdS, Marathon of the Sands, or Sahara Marathon)[1] is a six-day, 251 km (156 mi)[2] ultramarathon, which is the equivalent of six regular marathons. The longest single stage (2009) is 91 km (57 mi) long.

This multiday race is held every year in southern Morocco, in the Sahara Desert. It is considered the toughest foot race on Earth.[1][3] The first event of the Marathon started in 1986.

Racers winding their way up a large ridge.
A competitor at Marathon des Sables, Morocco
The camp in which competitors sleep at night.
Photo of the first British Runners to complete the Marathon des Sables (Dr Mike Stroud OBE, Rene Nevola, Richard Cooper and Prof Mike Lean).


The marathon was the brainchild of French concert promoter Patrick Bauer[4] who in 1984 traversed the Sahara desert on foot and alone. He covered the 350 km (214 mi) in 12 days without encountering a single oasis or desert community along the way. Two years later in 1986 the first Marathon des Sables was run. 23 runners participated in the race with Bernard Gaudin and Christiane Plumere (both of France) finishing as the winning man and lady. By 2009 over 1000 runners participate in the event and the Solidarité Marathon des Sables association is created. The aim is to develop projects to assist children and disadvantaged populations in the domains of health, education and sustainable development in Morocco.[5]


Edition Year Male winner Nationality Female Winner Nationality Notes
1er MDS 1986 Bernard Gaudin France Christiane Plumere France
2e MDS 1987 Hassan Sebtaoui France Marie-Ange Malcuit France
3e MDS 1988 Bernard Gaudin France Ange Malcuit France
4e MDS 1989 Hassan Sebtaoui France Claude Battistelli France
5e MDS 1990 Hassan Sebtaoui France Claire Garnier France
6e MDS 1991 Hassan Sebtaoui France Monique Frussote France
7e MDS 1992 Mohamed Bensalah Morocco Monique Frussote France First Moroccan man to win
8e MDS 1993 Mohamed Bensalah Morocco Irina Petrovna Russia
9e MDS 1994 André Derksen Russia Valentina Liakhov Russia
10e MDS 1995 André Derksen Russia Béatrice Reymann France
11e MDS 1996 André Derksen Russia Anke Molkenthin Germany
12e MDS 1997 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Rosanna Pellizzari Italy
13e MDS 1998 Mohamad Ahansal Morocco Rosanna Pellizzari Italy
14e MDS 1999 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Lisa Smith USA
15e MDS 2000 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Pascal Martin France
16e MDS 2001 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Franca Fiacconi Italy
17e MDS 2002 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Simone Kayser Luxembourg
18e MDS 2003 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Magali Juvenal France
19e MDS 2004 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Simone Kayser Luxembourg
20e MDS 2005 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Simone Kayser Luxembourg
21e MDS 2006 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Géraldine Courdesse France
22e MDS 2007 Lahcen Ahansal Morocco Laurence Fricotteaux France
23e MDS 2008 Mohamad Ahansal Morocco Touda Didi Morocco First Moroccan woman to win
24e MDS 2009 Mohamad Ahansal Morocco Touda Didi Morocco
25e MDS 2010 Mohamad Ahansal Morocco Monica Aguilera Spain
26e MDS 2011 Rachid El Morabity Morocco Laurence Klein France
27e MDS 2012 Salameh Al Aqra Jordan Laurence Klein France
28e MDS 2013 Mohamad Ahansal Morocco Meghan Hicks USA
29e MDS 2014 Rachid El Morabity Morocco Nikki Kimball USA
30e MDS 2015 Rashid El Morabity Morocco Elisabet Barnes Swe
31e MDS 2016

Notable participants[edit]

  • Moroccan brothers Lahcen and Mohamad Ahansal, who won 10 and 6 editions respectively.[6]
  • Marco Olmo, Italian ultratrail specialist, ran all editions since 1996, with best placement 3rd (achieved three times). At the 2013 edition, Olmo was 64 years old, and he was 47 when he ran his first.[7]
  • Dima and Lama Hattab, Jordanian twins who were the first female Middle Eastern participants in the race.
  • James Cracknell, British rower and adventurer, competed in the 2010 race and became the highest placing Briton to ever compete in the race, finishing 12th until fellow Briton Danny Kendall placed 5th in 2014.[8]
  • In 1994 René Nevola, Dr Mike Stroud OBE, Prof Mike Lean and Richard Cooper became the first British runners to complete the Marathon des Sables. René Nevola was the first Briton to complete the race and finished in 22nd place. This event was notable for its austerity and harsh sand storms (during which the former Olympian from Sicily, Mauro Prosperi, was lost for ~11 days before being found in Algeria following a well-publicized search of the Desert). The British runners completed the first scientific study to assess the energy balance throughout the event. Novel rations and energy drinks were developed with Be-Well nutrition Ltd, stable-isotope analysis to determine free-living energy expenditure was provided by the MRC Human Nutrition Unit (Cambridge) and Karrimor developed the KIMM-Camelbak runner's rucksack based upon a design provided by Dr Mike Stroud OBE. The results of this novel study have been reported in the 2001 textbook entitled 'Marathon medicine' edited by Dr Dan Tunstall Pedoe (page 186: Mean daily energy expenditure for the runners for the 7-day marathon ranged from 22 to
  • In 1999 Carlos Sposito was the first Brazilian to complete the Marathon des Sables.[9]



  1. ^ a b "Facing Africa NOMA : The Marathon des Sables",, 2010, webpage: FA8.
  2. ^ In 2008, the MdS was 145 miles (233 km).[1]
  3. ^ "Extreme Marathons". Time. 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ «Marathonien des sables, Lahcen Ahansal, enfant nomade et star du désert»
  7. ^ G. De Pascale, Il corridore - Storia di una vita riscattata dallo sport, Ponte alle Grazie 2012
  8. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^

External links[edit]