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Marathon des Sables, Stages & Race Reports

April 5 – Race Day 3 – 38km


Jebel El Mraier to Oued Rheris Est


It was a clear morning, the dust storm having blown away.
I had a large white sticking plaster still on my right knee after the injection.

I thought today, I would just see what happened, see if the knee would play ball and allow me to contiune.

The usual race announcements, the happy birthdays, ACDC music over the loud speakers and we’re off again.
I held a good pace, minor discomfort in the knee, I would hold an even tempo as long as I could.
Through a small village, past their well, I has holding pace with a Spanish chick, she looked hard core! [later was to find out she'd won the race..TWICE!]

The slope increased and so did the rocks; we were headed for a high sandy pass.
The Gobi Desert 3rd place getter came into view [Pinbin from China], I then took a different line up the rocky slope to Pinbin and passed him – things were looking good!

The sandy pass was amazing, I was enjoying myself, not under any pressure. Snapped a few photos. It was only on my return flight to Australia that I noticed in one of those photos; Justin was only 4 runners behind me at that point.

Over the top and across another plateau, the rocks increased and I had to take care not to break an ankle. The line of runners was being stretched right out, into a spread, single file.
CP1 came into view, and all was going well. Through the dunes on the other side of CP1, a Saudi runner introduced himself as ‘Mo’ he had a clipped English accent and ran beautifly over the sand. We ran and chatted until I could no longer hold pace with him, thankfully it was just general tiredness that slowed me, not acute pain this time.


The wind picked up again, the left brim of my hat wanted to stay up, like a slouch hat. I expected that I would get a sunburnt ear that day.
The wind and the heat spread the field even more.
I was passed by a few French runners but soon felt quite alone.
Then, my airborne friend [the camera chopper] popped up from the checkpoint ahead.
He came toward me in his usual style, fast, low and sideways!

The thunderous roar as he passed over my head gave me a boost, and with a war like cry I pushed on to the next CP, full of beans again.

Malcolm the kiwi had just caught me. This is the bloke who told me that I needed to be stretching when I was in trouble on day one.

We had a quick chat as we sorted out our fresh ration of water. He seemed surprised to see me so well placed. Ahead of us was a rocky crevasse to ascend, Malcolm led the way.
We summited and prepared to drop down the technical, yet sandy side and on to the last stretch before Biv 4.
Another photo opp!


It was deceptive; the plain toward the finish had another dune section,
At one stage I came across some wild camels, no one else around to see me smile at them.

To confuse runners, our course took us past an actual Berber camp, similar to the tents we were using in our camps, but still a long way from our finish.


Atop a high dune, the finish could be seen, still 5 or 6 dunes away. Again, a good time for a quick photo. I was about to take another when Justin acknowledged me and offered to take a shot for me. I powered down the camera and stowed it quickly, Malcolm had suggestedearlier, that I was the lead Australian that day; I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to be first home on a stage!
I said to Justin ‘thanks, no, lets get going…how are you feeling?’ attempting to gauge what he had left in the tank and how much this was about to hurt.
Justin said he was over it and just wanted to get to the tent as quickly as possible. Some solid running was coming up.


I ignored the plea from my knee to take it easy, to slow down on my descents on the final dunes. I knew if I went too slow there, I may not have time to recover the loss on the open ground before the line.
I was determined to not look back, to run as though Justin was on my heels the whole way.
We broke out of the dunes and encountered another rocky plateau; we had to run a slight right hand curve to track around the bottom of another dune.

It must've looked like a prison break! I tried to pick my line through the rocks as best I could, a fall now, at this speed, would be a race stopper.
I pushed over the line, and then looked back…daylight! Justin came over the line a minute behind; we were both pleased and headed for our friend, the guy with the sweet tea.
It turned out we were the top Aussies for the day and we placed well overall too, 64th & 65th I believe.
It was a happy occasion to email that night, with some good news at last

We got to our tent and what we saw didn’t bode well, Ed’s pack and walking poles were there [this told us he was out of the race] but fast Dan and Jason were nowhere to be seen. What’s more is – by an earlier agreement, the first home pulls up the carpet, sweeps the rocks away and then re-lays the carpet so we can just flop when we get in. We were buggered, and now had to do this before we could relax.

Turns out our two missing guys were at medical, getting blisters sorted beat the rush later.

Ed had indeed withdrawn from the race; he made it to CP1 then called it a day.

When you pull out of this event, all of your food must be surrendered so as you don’t feed other athletes, to keep things fair. The athlete, that has withdrawn, is then feed by the race org, beer & wine too!
Ed, being an Aussie, offered our tent the luxury of a hot meal that night…Ed was the only one amongst us who chose to bring a stove and the race org didn't make him give it up.

So we took turns cooking our food and making a hot beverage, I even broke into the next day’s food allocation as a) this was a good comfort opportunity, and b) I hadn’t been eating well during the days stages. With the 82km leg coming uptomorrow, I thought it wise to stock up on fuel!
Thanks Ed!


The other excitment for the night was our tent had a visitor...a camel spider...unfourtunatly for him, he didn't survive to get into the Helen's sleeping bag - lucky for Helen though.






















Start of day 3 - didn't know what to expect

















The first sandy pass

















When in doubt, get an offical to take your photo!















Justin [4th one back] chassing up the sandy pass - i didn't know he was in my shadow until a couple of km to go


















Being by yourself didn't mean you were alone, a couple of wild camels

















Looking back down the rocky climb and back to the last set of dunes we crossed

















Another keen offical wanting to take my picture. Biv 3 in the distance [a LONG way in the distance]




















This camel wasn't too friendly, but still followed me, I was glad they are vegos!





















What was left of our camel spider! [about match box size]































What a mate thought a camel spider might look like! [thanks Pete]












































From the competitor's roadbook:


05/04/2011 - STAGE N°3 :


  • Km 0 : Go S/SW (course 195°).

  • Km 0,8 : Slightly uphill before plateau.

  • Km 1,4 : Cross oued with mounds of sand and camel grass.

  • Km 2,1 : Direction S/SO (cap 201°) jusqu'aux palmiers du Km 5,3. Cross 2 low hills, then valley with small pebbles. Go S/SW (course 201°) until palm trees at Km 5.3.

  • Km 5,3 : Oued. Palm trees. Go up on to the plateau just by the well. Go S/SW (course 214°) until bottom of pass to cross the village of Jdaid.

  • Km 6 : Start of uphill rise towards pass. Rocky then sandy at the summit.

  • Km 7,6 : Summit of the Jebel El Abeth sandy pass. Go down S/W (course 231°) until Km 10.2. Sandy then increasingly rocky.

  • Km 9 : Follow the oued to avoid rocky terrain.

  • Km 10,2 : Exit oued going West (course 236°). Stony terrain.

  • Km 11,3 : Pass through a very small gorge. Cross stony terrain.

  • Km 12,5 : CP1. Go S/W (course 219°) until Thouil djebel. Succession of variably stony valleys.

  • Km 17,5 : Thouil djebel to the right. Go S/W (course 222°) until CP2.

  • Km 19,3 : Cross sandy oued.

  • Km 21 : Sandy terrain with small dunes.

  • Km 21,9 : Enter dunes. Follow course 222°.

  • Km 24,5 : CP2 as you exit the dunes.

  • Km 31 : CP3 after the dunes. Stony terrain then rocky up to summit of steep-sided gorge.

  • Km 32,2 : Summit of gorge of Foum Al Hopath djebel. Technical descent for 150 m then sandy descent.

  • Km 34,4 : Enter the erg. Follow course 272° up to finish.

  • Km 38 : B4 finish line after exiting dunes.


Tim's time: 5:03:48
Leader's time: 3:14:50

Overall Tim's time: 15:39:11
Overall Leader's time: 8:57:27

Tim's position: 143rd/833 finishers (16 DNFs)
3rd Australian out of 17 (3 DNFs)

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