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 SAM0077 moyRachid El Morabity retains his title and secures his third victory whilst Suede Elisabet Barnes takes gold for the first time on her second participation.

Princes of the desert

1,240 runners on the start line. 89 retirements since the start

At 1200 noon (GMT). Temperature: 27.5°C. Hygrometry: 12.5%.

Of course there is a leaderboard. Of course there is a ranking with the winners. However, on the finish line, everyone rightly feels like they’re a winner. Everyone dives into the arms of Patrick Bauer, Race Director, after receiving the finisher medal, the thought of which has coloured their dreams over the 238km already covered in six days.

 SAM0469 moyOn Friday, at start time, the faces are etched with tiredness, but everyone recognises that they’re touching the Holy Grail, that deliverance is close. Ahead of them is a final timed leg spanning 42.2km, the distance of a traditional marathon, between Jdaid and Kourci Dial Zaid. Having traversed the Ziz wadi, one of the biggest wadis in the region and a short string of dunettes, they then tackle the Znaïgui erg with nearly 3km of dunes before making headway towards the deep orange of the Merzouga dunes. What a spectacle to see them sprinting the last few metres and forgetting all their aches and pains and all the suffering endured over the past days. It all seems to come out in this final yell, in this last groan, which will long ring out across the desert. The delight, the relief and the pride overwhelms them. A lot of the runners will leave this bewitching south-Moroccan Sahara different. Often, the SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES upsets the runners’ existences. It makes them richer and more intense.

On Saturday, before making Ouarzazate, the competitors will traverse the Merzouga dunes for the Charity Unicef leg. Some have their family and friends here to welcome them in, enabling the happiness experienced by all the participants to be shared, leading to a whole new set of beaming smiles.