Nine-time winner of the Marathon des Sables, Moroccan Rachid El Morabity, heads the field after the first stage of the 2023 race following a 36.3km jaunt through the Sahara Desert. In the women’s race, 2019 champion Ragna Debats has opened up a near 10-minute lead, with the Great British pair of Jodie Moss and Catherine Young in the top seven.
Dubbed the ‘toughest footrace in the world’, the six-day, 251km desert ultramarathon is on the bucket list of any endurance runner, but competitors face gruelling conditions coupled with an unforgiving landscape in their quest to complete the event.
Rachid starts strong
Rachid El Morabity, who is gunning for a record-equalling 10th Marathon des Sables victory – Lahcen Ahansal currently holds the record – completed stage one in a time of 2:46:15, a minute ahead of his brother Mohamed El Morabity (2:47:15) and fellow Moroccan Aziz Yachou (2:47:16).
The leading trio were four-and-a-half minutes clear of the lead European in the race, France’s Mathieu Blanchard (2:51:48) – one of four Frenchman in the top 10 – Geoffrey Plisson (2:58:03), Erik Clavery (3:01:51) and Pierre Meslet (3:06:50) also in contention.
A further four minutes back from Blanchard was the fourth of five leading Moroccans Abdelkadar El Mouaziz (2:55:57), with Hamid Yachou (2:59:40) the last of the quintet. Russian Vasilii Korytkin (3:04:33) also crossed the finish line of stage one in the top ten.
Debats leads, Moss in contention
Dutch runner Ragna Debats has opened up a commanding lead in the early stages of the women’s race, completing stage one in a time of 3:26:40. Her nearest rival is Maryline Nakache (3:36:29) of France who sits nine minutes and 49 seconds behind the leader. Aziza El Amrany of Morocco rounds off the top three a further 17 minutes 25 seconds back.
Jodie Moss, who has ambitions of finishing in the top ten – as she did in the 2019 race – following a devastating injury scare, is among the contenders in fourth (3:57:47), but is currently over 30 minutes off the pace. Fellow Brit Catherine Young (4:20:18) resides in seventh, almost an hour off the lead.
Standings after stage one
- Rachid El Morabity (MOR) – 2:46:15.
- Mohamed El Morabity (MOR) – 2:47:15.
- Aziz Yachou (MOR) – 2:47:16.
- Mathieu Blanchard (FRA) – 2:51:48.
- Abdelkader El Mouaziz (MOR) – 2:55:57.
- Geoffrey Plisson (FRA) – 2:58:03.
- Hamid Yachou (MOR) – 2:59:40.
- Erik Clavery (FRA) – 3:01:51.
- Vasilii Korytkin (RUS) – 3:04:33
- Pierre Meslet (FRA) – 3:06:50
- Ragna Debats (NED) – 3:26:40.
- Maryline Nakache (FRA) – 3:36:29.
- Aziza El Amrany (MOR) – 3:53:54.
- Jodie Moss (GBR) – 3:57:47,
- Elise Delannoy (FRA) – 4:08:41.
- Tomomi Bitoh (JPN) – 4:17:52.
- Catherine Young (GBR) – 4:20:18.
- Manuela Soccol (BEL) – 4:21:29.
- Brunilde Girardet (FRA) – 4:22:39.
- Corina Sommer (SUI) – 4:25:19