The Ahansal brothers, Mohamad and Lahcen, have been long established as two of the best ultra marathon runners in the world – finishing first and second in fifteen editions of the gruelling Marathon des Sables. Off the back of their success, the brothers decided to set up their own event, starting in Zaouiat Ahansal, the village that bares their name and which embraces the nomadic spirit of the Berber people.
And so, in 2013, the Trans Atlas Marathon was born. An ultra marathon like no other, this year will be the fifth edition, with the six day stage race seeing around fifty entrants take on the challenge of the rugged and gruelling 280km course across the Atlas mountains. With a total of 12,000m ascent and descent, the highest point of the route will take the runners to an altitude of 3,400m above sea level, eclipsing Europe’s highest ski resort of Val Thorens by 1,100m. Temperatures will rise up to 35 degrees celsius at the peak of the day.
The race isn’t self supported, so each competitor will only be required to carry a day bag with the mandatory items needed for that stage, such as food, capacity for up to three litres of water, spare clothing should the weather come in and a first aid kit – likely weighing in at around 5kg when fully packed. Each night is spent in bivouacs, and breakfast and dinner is provided.
The organisers of the race are also offering a ‘lite’ version available for runners should 280km be too far. This is 120km route is still run over the first six stages but, once the competitors complete the first half of each day’s route, they are taken to the finish by car.
Given the altitude and the intensity of the ascents every day the Trans Atlas Marathon is an exceptionally challenging event, and makes it stand out from most other ultra marathons. It looks set to push you to a level where you truly find your threshold and, judging by the testimonials of the runners from previous editions, it will be a trial that will ultimately make you a better and stronger person.
The Trans Atlas Marathon takes place between 12th – 22th May, and costs 1,490€. The ‘Lite’ version (a shorter part of each day’s route) costs 1,650€.