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Marathon des Sables 2024 stage one: Moroccan stars dominate

Jonathan Turner
News Director
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The big favourites made a fast start in the 38th edition of the Marathon des Sables ‘legendary’ race on Sunday.

In the women’s race, Aziza El Amrany was a class apart while in the men’s it was no surprise to see the El Morabity brothers go one-two over the 31.1km opener as Morocco dominated once again.

Mohamed, the youngest and the defending champion, took the win in front of Rachid who is seeking a record-equalling 10th victory.

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Women’s race – Aziza putts hammer down

The 31.1 km was rolling rather than anything more extreme and promised to be fast.

A wind blowing from behind on the first half of the course, and a rather cool temperature for the South Moroccan Sahara (18°C at 9 a.m.) further accelerated the movement, reflected in the times.

Aziza El Amrany set off at a fast pace, a little over 14 km/h, not even trying to gauge the competition.

The pace slowed down a little on the sandy sections and on the djebels, but she still finished in 2h45’54”, or an average of 11.2 km/h.

Speaking afterwards, she said: “It was a little difficult in the middle of the course, but otherwise it went very well.“ As well as leading the female standings, she also finished 17th overall.

Her compatriot Aziza Raji, winner in 2021 and always in the top 10 in six previous attempts, was 26 minutes behind.

marathon des Sables stage one 2024 photo credit Ian Corless / MDS
[Photo credit: Ian Corless / Marathon des Sables]

Adriana Moser (NED), victorious at HMDS Morocco last October, is attempting the MDS for the first time and rounded out the podium one minute behind Raji.

Gemma Game (GBR) and Laurence Klein (FRA), victorious three times in the desert event, complete the top five.

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Men’s race – Rachid back in style

Everyone was waiting to see how Rachid El Morabity would fare on his return after last year’s controversial outcome.

The answer came immediately after departure: full speed ahead. The nine-time title holder set off at 18 km/h over the first very smooth kilometers, with the wind at his back.

He said: “I wanted to test the other competitors to see who is strong this year, and put the strategy in place for the other stages.”

Halfway through, reassured by the absence of the Europeans who were well behind, and the presence at his side of his brother Mohamed, Rachid slowed down his pace.

The two brothers were only followed by their compatriot Aziz Yachou.

Ultimately Mohamed who won in 2h11’09”, at an average of 14.2 km/h, with Rachid 30 seconds behind and Aziz next to him.

And at the end of the stage, practically all the starters arrived: 99.76% to be exact, an unprecedented percentage on a first stage of the MDS. The front runners completed the 31.1 km at an average of 14.2 km/h, the middle of the pack at 8 km/h, and the last finishers at 3.5 km/h.

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

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