UMED – Ultra Mirage© El Djerid
Ultra Mirage in the Tunisian Desert, The Tunisian Sahara – mixed terrain that involves oasis, palm groves, sand and of course intense heat. It’s a tough place to walk, never mind run! But over 130 runners toed the line for the 2nd edition of the UMED – Ultra Mirage© El Djerid.
Known for its unique landscape, this desert has featured in many a movie, the most famous being Star Wars Episode 1. Bulbous buildings, the space port of Mos Espa still remain in the area and they provide a unique backdrop to the start and the finish of this single loop, 100km race.
The desert is a calm place and Mos Espa, surrounded by high dunes, makes for an incredible start as the morning sun breaks the horizon.
In 2017, Mohamed El Morabity won the race. It was great run in Ultra Mirage in the Tunisian Desert on a course that had to be changed in the 11th hour after freak rains damaged the original course. The single loop 100km race became a two loop 50km course.
In 2018,Ultra Mirage in the Tunisian Desert (UMED) was back to the original route and although described as flat with little elevation gain, the runners would soon find out that this was no easy course.
With a 20-hour time limit, runners departed on the stork of 0700, the cut-off time coming at 0300 the following day. The 100km race broken down into sections where aid and refreshment would be provided at 20km, 35km, 50km, 65km, 80km and then the finish.
Each aid station would have its own cut-off time too to ensure the safety of each participant out on the course. Marwen Kahil from Tunisia dictated the early pace along with Mohamed Mnsari while the pre-race favourites of Mohamed El Morabity, Sondre Amdahl and the desert king, Rachid El Morabity bided their time.
Women’s favourite and two-time Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes was shadowed by Shefia Hendaoui while Orianne Dujardin followed.
At the first aid station, the men’s race was hardly unchanged with all the main protagonists together, whereas in the women’s race, Elisabet had made her move slowly pulling away from all the other challengers.
With 35km covered, the race was taking on a whole new perspective at checkpoint 2. Rachid had now made a move and was slowly pulling away looked calm and relaxed. Rachid’s brother Mohamed followed flanked by Tunisian, Emir Grairi.
Minutes later, Norwegian Sondre Amdahl followed – a past top 10 finisher of the Marathon des Sables and winner of the Jungle Ultra. Shefia and Orianne could do little in the women’s race other than follow the trail blazed by Elisabet.
Checkpoint 3 with 50km covered only confirmed the dominance of Rachid and Elisabet but for the men, Mohamed was in trouble! He moved from joint 2nd to now place 4th and he didn’t look good! Emir was now in 2nd and Sondre 3rd. For the women, Orianne now had a slender lead over Shefia – the race was beginning to take shape.
The next section of terrain was relentless soft sand and it took its toll on every participant. It just sapped strength and broke any run stride into a stumble.Ultra Mirage in the Tunisian Desert It was here that Sondre made up time and moved into 2nd. He was some way behind Rachid, but he looked strong.
Behind, Emir was struggling, so much so that Mohamed and caught him and the duo ran together. For the women, Elisabet was now moving into the top-5 overall and Orianne was pulling away from Shefia as the heat and terrain took its toll.
Rachid at the 80km with his lead reduced. He was struggling. The heat was punishing him, and he struggled to re-hydrate and eat. He left for the final push to the line knowing that the final 20km would be a challenge. Sondre arrived only minutes later looking very fresh and ready for the hunt.
He pursued the desert king and despite bringing Rachid close, the skill and the tenacity of the man up front was too great, and he clinched victory collapsing in to the arms of race director Amir. Sondre placed 2nd and the Mohamed rounded out the podium after Emir withdrew from the race in the closing stages due to dehydration.
Elisabet was a conniving women’s champion. Her race was so complete that she placed 4th overall. Orianne placed 2nd and Shefia finished 3rd.
- Elisabet Barnes 10:26:06
- Orianne Dujardin 12:58:57
- Shefia Hendaoui 13:35:57
- Rachid El Morabity 9:11:47
- Sondre Amdahl 9:18:12
- Mohamed El Morabity 10:17:33