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After three days exertion in very high temperatures, the bodies are beginning to suffer. Some are having to dig deep mentally as the 30th SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES takes them across the south-Moroccan Sahara and its very varied décor.

Open-air cinema

1,293 starters. Retirements (since the start): 37

At 12 noon GMT. Temperature: 31.5°C – Hygrometry: 19.5%

 SAM0870 moyOnce again the third leg of the 30th SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES, contested between El Otfal and Zireg jebel offered the 1,293 runners still competing in this event a truly extraordinary show. A show in which they are the main actors in a film where 3D is the norm.

It is a technicolour cinema with all the different desert hues. The black of the rocks, the yellow and pink sand pushed up onto the tops of the mountains by the sandstorms, the white of the dried-up lakes and the green of the acacias, which emerge like lighthouses in the middle of the desert. This third leg, heading due south, used up just about every colour in the palette in its vast expanses and the passes traversed between two valleys.

It’s a cinema where the scenarios are never predictable, where there is a constant jockeying for position and the euphoria is sometimes succeeded by distress. At that point you need to muster all your mental strength and at times you have to rely on the support of the runners you cross paths with by chance in order to dig deep and search for a happy ending.

In this particular cinema, there is no need for violins to create emotion. Glances, handshakes, air punches, embraces and hugs are sufficient to cause a few tears to well up through the exertion. For the original soundtrack, solely the breath of the runners, the encouragement of the controllers and the cries of relief break the silence of the desert.
On Wednesday, the survivors will begin their long film. The long leg, feared by all with its 91.7km between the Zireg and Jdaïd jebel, which is the longest distance in history of the MARATHON DES SABLES. All of those at the finish are sure to win an Oscar.