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Marathon of the Sands

The World's Most Daunting Footrace

Order at Amazon.com 1999
47 Minutes
Event Coverage
Available on VHS

This is the 14th running of the "Le Marathon des Sables" as captured by Outside Television in this 1999 video that lasts for 47 minutes. The athletes experience 148 miles of running in the merciless heat of the Sahara Desert of Northern Africa, one of the most extreme environments on Earth. To some of those who dare, it's a transcendent foray into the timeless sands of Morocco. And to the rest, it's an awful test of the limits of human endurance. With 580 competitors, from 28 different countries, starting this race you will be hosted by Peter Young during each of the six stages of the event. Tim Powell gets credited as producer, writer and director of this video that can be purchased through Amazon.com. The video has seven break periods where the screen is black for up to ten seconds, where commercials once were once inserted, although the sunrises and sunsets are beautiful frames to these breaks in the action.

These athletes must be totally self sufficient, although the race provides water and berber tents, they must carry their own food, clothing, and sleeping bags. Nine people share a tent together and the tents are taken down at 5:30 each morning. The course is marked with painted stones, although there are sections of orienteering during some of the stages.
As one competitor says, "I've done Ironman several times and that's a breeze. I've done Eco-Challenge and that was easier than this."

Featured Athletes Include:

Lahcen Ahansal, Morocco. The 1997 winner looks to regain his title, although he must first overcome a 30 minute penalty for not providing his passport.
Fabrizio Bernabei, Italy. He finished third last year. Will he improve his performance this year?
Cinzia Arduzzoni, Italy. She has her sights set on a victory here after finishing second in last year's contest. Will her body and mind withstand the test?
Lisa Smith, United States. Last year she was bit by a scorpion and crawled to the finish. Can she become the first U.S. winner of this event?

Stage 1: 18.6 miles, Temperature 84 degrees at the 9:30 AM start time. Not too many dunes, however some severely rocky terrain. As one athlete expressed himself: "This is like...this is...I don't even know. It's like...have you been out there? It's whacked! It's whacked out of shape is what it is." Twelve runners drop out during day one. Are those remaining prepared for the test that has yet to come?

Stage 2: 20 miles, Flat with some sand dunes, and more foot aching rock. Suffering is bringing people together. Who will be at the back of the pack with the camels today?

Stage 3: 23 miles, 6 mile section of steep sand dunes and a section were the athletes have to provide their own orienteering. When the athletes go off course and miss a safety checkpoint, how far will they go astray before the safety helicopter must intervene and those athletes start to backtrack?

Stage 4: 48 miles, The longest stage in the history of this race. 9:20 start time with the top 100 athletes starting three hours later. Estienne Arndt, from South Africa, states: "We've done this distance before and one thing I'm nervous about is I know how far 74 kilometers is. It's a long, long way. That's actually...I think it would be better to not know how long 74K is." You will visit the medical tent where feet have taken a beating and they don't use any antiseptic. With nightfall comes new fears and challenges as people navigate in the desert without any light. How many will become confused and disoriented if they continue to push themselves?

Stage 5: 26 miles, "Dune Day" with the second highest dunes in all of the Sahara Desert. The hottest day yet with 120 degree temperatures. Spirits are high with the end in sight, although the men's leaders are just seconds apart with one more day to go.

Stage 6: 12.4 miles, The final day, ending in the city under balloons and cheering spectators. Emotions are strong at the finish and you won't see much running today as the focus is placed on the finish line.

Lisa Smith: "Everyone in this race is a hero"
Michele Schaiman: "This experience has taught me that there is a very deep deep reservoir of strength that I have in myself that I didn't know I had."
Narrator, Brian Bastien: "Suffering has much to teach. It is this that makes people long to return year after year."

· Event Coverage   · 1999   · Topics   · Ultra Running