Mark Gillett

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Trans Atlas Marathon

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Last night I arrived in Morocco for the first time in just over a year. The last time was to shoot for the Marathon Des Sables but I am here this year for a new race, The Trans Atlas Marathon. Travelling and filming with Chris O’Conner of CojoFilms, We were greeted by Mohamad Ahansal. The last time I saw him was winning the 2013 MDS. Since then he and his brother Lahcen have set up their own race and, wow! What a course this seems to be….Trans Atlas Marathon 2014

I have been blown away in the last few hours learning about the race and making the journey to the start village of Zaouir Ahasnal.

The Trans Atlas Marathon looks tougher than most races I have seen. I know they are all difficult and I know the toughness is all about what you put in but these mountains are big. One quite incredible fact that has been pointed out is that the first three days is effectively 3 Ultras back to back. I don’t think there is a race in the world that does this. Many MDS runners claim 5 marathons in 6 days but its clearly not. The Trans Atlas is the real deal. 

Trans Atlas Marathon 2014Todays drive from Marrakech Zouia Ahancal, the village of the Ahansal family, was as spectacular as anything I have seen. Beautiful villages were interspersed with landscapes so harsh and barren and then mountains above 3500 meters all around. Everyone is so friendly and with only 30 runners we have all met already. We stopped for lunch at the beautiful spot of ….. where the waterfalls cascaded down. Tajine was on the menu and we sat in a private residence for a couple of hours just chatting and finding out about each other. 

I attended the MDS for 7 years since running it in 2006 but the later years I became more disappointed as time went on. With restricted “state controlled” press or media access and increasing numbers it just seemed like a money making machine that lost the core of its identity. The core that had been with me since reading about it back in the late 80’s. Now, though, it seems to have faded into just another running holiday or big once yearly tour of the Sahara. It is a great race, just lost a lot of its soul.

Trans Atlas Marathon 2014The Trans Atlas, though, is different. Its young, only in its second edition. Its intimate, beautiful and the owners of the race are real legends. They between them have won 17 Marathon des Sables. Mohamad and Lahcen have started something really quite incredible. And its certainly a race I would recommend to anyone who wishes to be stretched or simply wants to trek race through the most beautiful landscapes. 

There are 4 women running including last years winner. A slight 5 foot girl, Aziza, who runs a PB of 2 hrs 50 for a marathon. Another half Moroccan Swiss girl, one French and one German. Most of the male runners are Moroccan following in the footsteps of the Legendary Ahansal’s who have become the real local heroes. The are 4 other European male competitors.

Being here takes me to times I have spent in the Himalayas. The culture and local hospitality is so welcoming and peaceful. The river runs below our lodge and the jingling from the kitchen is mixed with local music softly beating in the background. Women and children are by the riverside washing or doing the laundry, donkey’s laden with crops a being led by the farmer and goats are being herded everywhere. I am not sure I have felt such peace in a long time. Or at least since I flw over Alaska a few months ago. Here is different tho. Its a culture as old as it gets and with a purity so lost in our own crazy world of making money. 

If you want to run with the best in Morocco, this is the place to doit. Not only doyou run with them but the evenings are spent in a social setting sharing stories and cultures. To enter costs €1490 which is less than half the price of many other events. A no-brainer!

For more information or entry go to www.transatlasmarathon.com 

Here is a look at the profile for Stage 1. Stage two is tougher still.

1 etapa TAM 2014

Gallery so far..

Written by markgillett

June 10, 2014 at 10:21 am

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