All competitors have got the same thing in mind: the worst is over… At 7 am this morning, 19 runners had given up just before or during the stage. Others kept arriving all through the night, making the finish line a very moving scene. All kinds of reactions could be seen: most often joy of course, but also pride, tears or sheer disbelief to have finally got through. The long line of head lamps guided by a green laser in the middle of the desert made a deeply poetical image, definitely the most striking moment of the race, suspended in time, to remain forever in everyone’s memory. Be they competitors or staff. Needless to say, top runners arrive before nightfall, as did Moroccan competitor Touda Didi, who left her female challengers way behind. Unless something drastic happens, she should finish this stunning week with a well deserved title. She is two hours ahead of the second woman, Simone Kayzer, who will find it extremely difficult to catch up with her, despite her great experience on the MDS. On the men’s side, Al Aqra is only sixteen minutes behind Mohamad Ahansal : not an impossible gap to fill. But the Jordanian will have to run a phenomenal stage tomorrow, and bet on some sudden weakness from the Moroccan favourite – something unlikely to happen from an athlete on top shape, well on his way to succeed his brother. This “resting” day – only truly restful for the lead of the race – allows bodies to have a break, especially after huge temperature variations (35°C difference between night and day) and a course most competitors described as “really complex”. Tomorrow is the classic marathon day, a last test before the fairly easy final stage. Despite tiredness, and a blasting heat, there’s a definite sense of relief on the bivouac, nearly a holiday feel…This stage is a “tour de force” not only for the runners but also for the organisation: everyone has to give its best, especially in the night time. A laser will be guiding the competitors who also have luminous sticks and distress flares. Doctors and race officials are spread along the course in six check points. They will not getting more sleep than the runners, staying up all night, under the supervision of two most useful helicopters. Today more than ever, managing the race is a real challenge. Some competitors plan to run straight to the next bivouac; others will be making good use of the last three check points to get some rest and have a bite to eat.Coursewise, the heat is in two phases: an extremely difficult first one, with a terribly steep climb (25% slope factor), and an easier 2nd one, with flat and straight grounds, an opportunity for the lead of the race to have a bit of a fight.One thing’s for sure though: tomorrow night, all competitors will be champions.
I have yet to receive a mail from Markus today, but looking at the results on the official website, both Markus and Josh completed stage 4!
Congratulations guys! What a fantastic and unbelievable achievement!!!