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Marathon des Sables, Stages & Race Reports

April 3 - Race Day 1 – 33km


Dar Kaoua to Kourci Dial Zaid

After the Moroccan tent fairies took our tent away whilst we were still packing our gear we made our way to the start line.

Each year they get you to stand in a shape of the race number, in this case ‘26’ as it is the 26th running of the event.

The skilled cowboy in the helicopter would become a familiar, and often welcome, sight over the coming days, zoomed around taking photos and video as we prepared for the off.

Patrick Bauer, the race founder and organizer, gave a little talk each day, how far, how many check points and how much water we would receive.
I’d checked the start area the day before; I knew it was going to be a sprint to the first ridge where a bottle neck would form.

Nervously the count down began, in French. I tried to remind myself that it was going to be a long week, not to go too nuts out of the gate.

We were off! I pushed hard on the track I’d picked the day before; I hit the ridge fast and was in the first 10 over the top! The helicopter was close, I was buzzing!

A French chap and I started doing turns into the wind as we ran across a rocky plateau…. The pace was high; too high it would turn out. He encouraged me to keep with him – the leaders were clearing out in front, now several hundred metres between us.


I had to ease up before CP1, the damage had been done.

Literally 10 steps past CP1 were the highest dues in Morocco, this was to cause the knee problems I would suffer for the rest of the race.

In severe pain, I began to fade, people passing me in ever greater numbers.
Malcolm the kiwi passed me, he could see what was wrong and advised I stretch out the left leg now before my ITB trouble became worse.
I attempted to do so, the rest of the stage I suffered. I experienced muscle spasms all over my body.
I hadn’t used the salt tablets provided by the race org, i had received advice from my sports dietician from the AIS,  that my "diet would supply enough salt and not to use the supplied salt tablets ". Have a look at the salt crust on my hat after day 1

I hobbled in to Biv2 having just walked the last 7km – I had been handed a lesson by the Desert, one I would not forget

From the competitor's roadbook:


03/04/2011 - STAGE N°1 :



  • Km 0 : Prendre direction S/E (cap 140°) jusqu'au CP1.

  • Go SE (course 140°) until CP1.

  • Km 0,2 : Cross small dunes then cross En Neijakh oued.

  • Km 0,9 : Slightly uphill for around 100 metres. Plateau with small pebbles.

  • Km 8,3 : Moderately hilly terrain.

  • Km 13 : CPI at the foot of Chebbi erg. Go S/SE (course 157°) to cross the dunes.

  • Km 26 : CP2 as you exit the dunes. Follow markings until you reach the cairn at Km 26.7.

  • Cross rugged oued. (Tamarix and camel grass).

  • Km 26,7 : From cairn, go S/SE (course 151°) until bivouac. Variable stony plateau, mostly flat.

  • Km 33 : Arrive at B2

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