Runners battle the heat in a desert race
For those survivors who cross the finish line of the 35th Marathon des Sables, the six-day 254 km race through the sand brought heat exhaustion, blisters, diarrhea and joy.
“It’s so hot. It’s unbearable. I cry while walking. I’m exhausted, my head is spinning,” says Sixtine Morizot, a 30-year-old Parisian, somehow sinking her feet into the sand.
This year, temperatures have been particularly high in the Moroccan desert. They reached 52 ° C on the second floor. A competitor died of a heart attack after overheating.
“It’s special this year, because there have been a lot of retirements, the main cause of which was dehydration,” said Frédéric Compagnon, chief medical officer of a team of 45 people.
“The temperatures are high, but not extreme. It is hot and people were not well enough prepared. There are heat strokes, which, associated with high temperatures, also cause hallucinations, even comas, ”he said, adding that he had counted nine runners who had fallen into a coma.
Alix Noblat, who appeared on the French reality TV show Koh-Lanta, lost consciousness during the third stage. She had literally emptied, like almost half of the camp, because of an epidemic of gastroenteritis that had spread like wildfire.
The nocturnal bivouacs were animated by vomiting and diarrhea.
“It’s like Jurassic Park, you can hear the vomiting,” Noblat said.
At the bivouac of the race, the podiatrists are busy. Each evening, runners lie on their backs and stretch their legs, offering their swollen feet for treatment.
Companion said he saw a man whose skin on the soles of his feet had completely disappeared, leaving the flesh raw.
In Thursday’s 86.2 km fourth stage, race leader Rachid Al Morabity finished in 8 hours, 46 minutes and 16 seconds at an average speed of 9.23 km / h.
A few seconds less than 22 hours later, Christine Taieb and Valérie Angot, two French women, cross the line hand in hand to the applause of the other competitors. They were followed home by Nadjib and his two camels, whose job it is to bring up the rear.
“I didn’t expect this welcome,” said Taieb, who was running his first Marathon des Sables at 70.
She was penalized by 30 minutes for “exceptional assistance in the water” during the stage.
“I’m an average woman, I’m overweight, I’m 70, I’ve worked a lot, but even at 70 you can have fun. I worked hard, but I feel good, I want to go dancing, but I know I’m going to limp when I go to do my laundry tonight, ”she said.
At the other extreme was Anna Kroijer, a 16-year-old Danish woman who lives in London and was the youngest competitor. She was running with her father, who finished the race in 2014.
“I’m still here. It hurts a lot,” she said Friday night.
“Crossing the finish line tomorrow would be so amazing,” she said, turning to yesterday’s stage, which at 7.7 km is a relative sprint. ” When I think of it. Wow, that’s gonna be a really intense feeling.
Before the penultimate 42.2 km stage on Friday, Morizot was sparkling. It was his first Marathon des Sables.
“And this is my last,” she said. “It’s the hardest race of my life. Truly. I have accomplished something. I have come to surpass myself, to push my limits. The contract is fulfilled. I won’t do it again. “
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