For the first time, a Peruvian Edition of the epic Moroccan race “Marathon des Sables” was held between November 26 and December 6. The background was the Ica desert, promoted as “the most beautiful South American desert”, containing “sand even softer than the Sahara’s”.
Le “Marathon des Sables”, which is French for Marathon of the Sands, is a 6 day-race that takes place annually in the Southern Morocco. Called the toughest footrace in the world, it crosses around 250 km of the Sahara Desert. It was created in 1986 by the Frenchman Patrick Bauer, who two years earlier had traversed the Sahara solo by foot.
The most famous participant so far is Luis Enrique, former Spanish footballer and ex-coach of FC Barcelona, who completed the intense race in 2008.
Though only 30km away from the sea, the Ica desert is one of the world’s driest regions. Its huge dunes and sandy hills are situated between the Pacific and the Andes Cordillera. Daily temperatures rise up to 30 degrees. At night it cools down to 10 degrees. Needless to say, it’s a highly challenging setting for running a race.
The marathon consisted of 250 km, to be completed at a free pace and with participants being self-sufficient by carrying their own gear and supplies. The run was divided into 6 stages, the heaviest stage being the fourth, with an astonishing 68.4 km to be run.
The event took 282 athletes from 40 countries through the dunes of Nazca and Paracas for the run of a lifetime. 60 people withdrew during the race.
After 6 highly demanding days, the Moroccan athlete Rachid El Morabity won the contest. Peruvian Aldo Ramirez was the laudable runner-up. In the women’s race, French Nathalie Mauclair finished first, ahead of her compatriot Melanie Rousset. Peru’s pride was secured in third place by Rocio Carrion.
Those interested, but less sporty can participate in the “Half Marathon des Sables”, to be held next year in the Fuerteventura Dessert. With only 120 km divided into 3 stages, it’s probably more within reach of the casual runner.