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Rachid El Morabity: Interview with the five-time winner of the Marathon Des Sables

The « Marathon des Sables » happened since more than 30 years (1986) in the Saharan desert. Every year, the race last close to 250 km, open to the walkers also, begins in April. The participants must deal with the physical effort of the race and the high temperature of the desert: they have to be in food self-sufficiency, and carry on their back the food, material, water.

Meeting with Rachid El Morabity, Moroccan, Lyophilise & Co’s ambassador, several times winner of the Marathon des Sables.

You have won many times the Marathon des Sables in Morocco. How did this passion begin?

I always loved sport. When I was very young I played football and I was good at speed. When I joined the high school, I met an athleticism’s professor that identified quickly that I had strong capabilities in running, that I will excel in this field and maybe become a winner. I won many educational competitions, after at sports events in my town, Zagora, in Morocco… That is how my passion was born.

Talk about the physical preparation necessary for a such achievement.

For the Marathon des Sables, the preparation is serious and difficult. It needs a good physical and strict training. I start about 5 months before the event: I do strength training, workout in sand dunes, rocks, mountain, in order to be ready for all field. I can train for 3 hours, often 2 times per days… morning and night. The goal is to diversify the training for prepare to run in different types of soils.

What are the essentials psychological qualities to get it done, and win a sporting event like the Marathon des Sables?

It should prepare the physical but the mental too. For me, the mental preparation is about 30% of the complete preparation and thus the triumph. I keep in my head, at the beginning, during the training and at the arrival, that I must win. We can say that I visualize the arrival and my triumph.

You are undoubtedly a success story for the Moroccan youth sport. Do you have a model?

I’m impressed of my friend Lahcen Ahansal*. He won 10 times the Marathon des Sables, it’s a masterstroke, a model to follow.
*Lahcen Ahansal is a Moroccan long-distance runner, considered like a MDS’s specialist (victory in 1997, 1999 – 2007) : His portrait on Wikipedia

Which freeze-dried do you prefer to take in the Desert?

I like the flat of Lyophilise & Co, I find them well-balanced. The things that I prefer are fish and potatoes, and the package of dried meat. And the dish with rice… I find them perfect!

Which equipment do you take for the preparation of your meals?

Everything have to light: so a knife, a spoon and a bowl. I pick up some pieces of woods and we make a fire, and I heat directly my bowl.

(According to one of our ambassadors, Julien Chorier, who participated at his first MDS in Peru, the achievement and having meals together were often a pleasant moment. He has often benefited of the Rachid El Morabity’s competence who did a fire in all bivouacs. As you can see in this link).

How do you arrive to put all your stuffs in your bag? Some tips?

It’s a balancing act. With times and experience, that become obvious for me. I have a bag with 405 grams, and for all working well, I change the packaging for example. I replace everything in small light pouches, that provide me to save place and lightness.

What are your objectives for the next edition in April?

This is to win the Marathon des Sables. And the ultimate goal, it’s to win 10 times the MDS to equal with my friend Lahcen Ahansal.

What is your best souvenir of the last editions of April?

The best souvenir, for me, it’s the 2011’s edition. Some friends formed a team, I did not have to participate, but they were missing one person. They called me at the last minute, I joined them, and I won! It was so much unexpected. A surprise victory like that, is very memorable.

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