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Kingston ultramarathon runner finishes Sahara race 325th

April 14, 2013
Runners are barely perceptible in the dunes of the Moroccan Sahara Desert on the final stage of the 28th Marathon des Sables.

Runners are barely perceptible in the dunes of the Moroccan Sahara Desert Friday during the final stage of the 28th Marathon des Sables.

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Kingston ultramarathon runner Martin Mack successfully completed the 28th annual Marathon des Sables Friday, crossing the finish line of the fifth and final stage 325th in an international field that began six days earlier with 1,198 runners.

Mack, a building contractor competing in his fourth race across the Sahara Desert in southeast Morocco, said this year’s edition of the race — which covered 223.8 kilometres in total — was the toughest one he’s run.

Friday’s marathon leg, 42.2 kilometres from Jebel el Mraier to Merdani, was conducted on the hottest day of this year’s race.

“The course had everything the Moroccan terrain has to offer,” Mack wrote in an email to friends and supporters. The race began over several dunes — “sand and more sand” — then gave way to rocky flat land. There was also a crevasse to cross.

“I ran all of that section,” Mack wrote. “At this point it was almost lunch time and the heat started. I really had to focus on my water conservation.”

After that the course took runners through heavy, rocky terrain, over dry riverbeds and low valleys “with no wind and stifling heat.” Then came a long uphill segment with a major climb over the final two kilometres to the next checkpoint.

“I ran out of water,” Mack wrote. “I took two salt tablets and rushed to get to the next checkpoint quickly.”

The 8.5 kilometres from the third checkpoint to the finish line was over large sand dunes.

“I rationed my water with only one bottle left and the mid-day heat in full force,” Mack wrote. “The last four kilometres to (the finish line) was all uphill so I ran fast.”

The finish line is described as “positioned surreally on a terrain of black rocks, at the foot of the beautiful yellow and pink dunes of Merzouga, the highest in Morocco.”

On the race’s website, organizers write that finishing the Marathon des Sables will not only be a highlight of a competitor’s life as a runner, “but also their life as a man or woman.”

“No matter what their performance, the moment they cross the finish line, (runners) will be aware of having pushed back what they thought were their limits. A lot of them have had to dig very deep to a place where they have discovered strengths and resources they didn’t even suspect they had.”

Moroccan Mohamad Ahansai finished third in Friday’s final stage to claim his fifth Marathon des Sables with a 42-minute margin of victory over defending champion Salameh Al Aqra of Jordan. Ahansai, who covered the course in 18 hours, 59 minutes 35 seconds, previously won the event in 1998 and three years in a row, 2008-10.

See Martin (bib No. 1045, in the orange t-shirt) crossing the finish line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChLBhB9H230

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From → Amateur sport

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