Mohamad Ahansal, 5 times winner of Marathon des Sables, is now organizing his own races in Marocco. Zagora Marathon and Transatlasmarathon.
For the second time I had the possibility to participate at the Transatlasmarathon running 280km and 13.000 positive verticals in six days through the mountains of the Atlas in the north of the Sahara. In the valleys it can be very hot, but also wind and snow can appear on the summits up to 3500m and the terrain is simply exhausting. A good third of this Ultratrail is actually without any trail leading from rock to rock, through the sand up to high plateaus with a very rich and beautiful flora and fauna.
Running through endless fields of flowers and corn on more than 2500m is simply unique and makes every runner humbled even the maroccans themselves.I’ve seen the nomads living with their families and animals, 3000m above the sea, with only their most vital possessions. I’ve heard their children laughing even though I don´t know if they have any toys, if they ever will have the opportunity to go to school and I heard the goats, sheep and donkeys shouting all over the mountains, where you usually think there could be no life.
After running I rested under the trees of an oasis, sitting on fresh green grass next to a spring, watching the nomads moving with their animals from place to place, smiling at me and trying to talk to me with their hands and some facial expressions just to let me know that I´m most welcome. After arriving in Zaouiat, Ahansal I met many competitors of the last year and felt really happy to see them again. Totally we were about 35 runners, including the three fastest of TAM 2013 and five women. I managed the last day before the start much more relaxed than the year before, just tried to get my fatigue of working hard the last weeks out of my bones by running a few kilometers around the village.
The first day included 54km and 2800m positive verticals, three peaks up to almost 3000m – a day for me, loving the uphill and downhill parts.I suffered for being very weak and tired and finished 13th. Surprised by the fitness of the Moroccan runners with almost no muscles on their legs, instead of my “jambon almand”. Many of them over paced on the first day and were suffering from muscle pain, blisters or more serious injuries.
The next stage, similar to the first and I wanted to attack and started with a high speed, trying to follow the three leaders Ali, Samir and Rashid. Rashid and I kept on running together until km 30, I even overtook him by the steep downhill, but couldn´t hold 3rd place at the end, because of the endless flat 20km in the valley. So I finished as 7th, still lucky, that I gained six places and felt my strength coming back.
I remembered the third stage was my favourite from last year and so I was looking forward to the next day with 44km and 2300 positive verticals, and almost no flat sections. After the start I rushed the leader group and reached the final line in 4th. I could hold on to my power for the next days and finally finished the TAM 2014 behind the Moroccans as best European on place 4, which means I improved a little bit and there is still more place for 2015.
But this time I was not the only one starting for UVU. Magdalena „Maggy" Martini from Murnau, Germany was with me to run the whole distance. She is mother of two children and works 100%. She hardly has time to train, but managed to be strong enough and competed with the very fast Maroccan runners.
Maggy: I´m certainly not a professional runner, but got the chance to take part in a very special race. Special because of its founder Mohamad Ahansal, its participants and of course the whole organizing team behind this challenge.
So I started as an keen runner (but certainly not professional), very excited of what would happen the following week. When I reached the final line the first day after getting lost, suffering from heat, hunger and pain in my legs and my lungs I was proud of myself, but at the same time I thought I will die, if I have to keep running for five more days.
During the second stage, which was even harder than the first with 57km and 2800 positive verticals up to the highest col over 3500m sea level, I started to think about, what I´m doing here and I promised myself I will stop running and never do something like this again. I had a hellish pain in my legs, my fingers were swollen and I only wanted to lay down somewhere to rest. I was afraid and totally alone. I didn’t even know, if there is still someone behind me. A few competitors had given up already after the first day. So I went on running by counting every step in German, French and some other languages, which kept me going.
Suddenly I felt better, enjoyed the steep downhill and reached the final line for the second time. I was very motivated, especially in my dreams during the nights, where I kept on running and fighting going through the next few days with a lot of positive power. I felt better organized ,stronger and finally I got faster with every stage. Humbled by the beauty of the landscape, which sometimes impressed me so much, that I had to stop running to feel and smell it. I often had such strong feelings letting me cry, smile or both at the same time.
I always wanted to discover Africa on my own feet. Now I did it in the most intensive way during these six days. From my arrival in Marrakech up to leaving on the plane back to Munich, I definitely can say, there were only good experiences, which really impressed me and maybe changed my life. Now I know, if I go over my limits and focus on the important things, I can discover myself and life in a different kind of way as at home being a very busy mother and teacher.
I was part of a fantastic team, that became a big family with a lot of good energy and positive thoughts of each other This really pushes me to keep on running. I´m looking forward to running my next multi-stage race, „Inshallah!". Thanks to Basti and UVU, who gave me the possibility of this unforgettable experience at Transatlasmarathon 2014.