It has now been four days since I ran the Marrakech Marathon in Morocco. Normally in the first few days after a marathon or some other big race, people tend to kick back, relax and take it easy. That has never been the case for me. This is not because I didn't want to but because I just could not do. So between work and family obligations, this year was no exception. Now that I am not quite as busy and my body is out of the soreness stage, I am ready to look back and share my experience from this past weekend.
I guess I will start with packet pick-up. I wrote a detailed post last week about packet pick-up and the marathon village so I will be brief here. The marathon village was set up in front of the big post office near the center of town. After I registered online for the race, I got an email from the French company that did the registration saying that the race number pick-up would begin on Friday afternoon, two days before the race. This ended up being nice because my Saturday was already looking to be quite busy.
The marathon village
So, Friday afternoon we went over and got my race number and it turned out online registration included a t-shirt, nice! I had heard that you could register at the village on race weekend, but everyone that told me had never actually ran the race. It turned out that you could. From what I saw the price seemed to be the same as it was for online registration, but I do not think I would have received a t-shirt. With race number in hand, some flyers about future races, and the excitement building, I was ready for the Sunday morning race.
It doesn't seem to matter how much training I do, how well I prepare the night before, or how confident I feel the days leading up to the race, when I get up on race morning I always feel under prepared and this year was no different. My wife and son came along as my cheer squad. As we parked behind the big mosque, Katobia, I was confident that I'd finish but unsure of how I would arrive to the finish line.
We walked the half mile to the starting line, getting passed by people warming up the whole way. Seeing as it was about 40 degrees out, I too should have been warming up, but I was just to cold. We arrived at the starting area about 30 minutes prior to the race, which turned out to be a good thing because there was no rhyme or reason to the way people were lining up.
Lots of people
As the starting time drew closer and I became colder, the starting area filled up. The elite runners came out of a side tent and did their warm ups. I was standing on a curb talking to my wife, on the other side of a barricade, and enjoying the exciting race atmosphere when my said, "Wasn't that the starting gun?" and we were off. The age group runners began about 100 yards back from the start but since this race has chip timing it wasn't a big deal.
The starting line is under the red tunnel thing
After we went across the starting line the course goes about half a mile before turning to the right. This is really nice since it is also the last half mile of the race and its good to see the final stretch before hand. The route then goes to the Marrakech train station and then takes the runners through one of the side entrances to the popular Menara Gardens. It was here in the gardens that the race provided its first water station. The stations were placed about every 5 km the entire race. The water stations provide you with an average sized bottle of water which was good because I was carrying a small Nathan water bottle and it made it super easy to refill. After running through the gardens on a nice paved path we exited through another side gate.
Running past the Marrakech train station
Exiting the Menera Gardens
The race then proceeded south, out toward the city's race track and the Agdel Gardens. Let me take a second to describe the aid stations. As I said every 5 km from the start was an aid station. These always had water bottles and starting at the 10 km aid station they began offering whole oranges and little baggies of dates. I was carrying my own energy gels but I probably in the last three aid stations ate four whole oranges. It gave me a surprising boost. Also, every 7 km were sponge stations, at the first one since it was cold I thought the idea of a sponge station was crazy but by the last few stations, as the day heated up quickly, I was very thankful for these soaking wet sponges.
OK, back to the race. As I got close to the Agdel Gardens I began to chat with a "65ish" year old man named Mustafa. He lives about a mile away and was running a strong pace when we met. We talked for a while, he told me this was not his first race. After a few miles I realized he was speeding up. I began to worry that if I couldn't keep up with this guy maybe I should not be out here. I decided to stick to my plan and not chase him down. This ended up being a good call since at the next aid station I passed him as he was walking and eating an orange. He looked strong so I'm sure he ended up doing well.
Mustafa is the guy in white on the right
After the gardens the course loops around the back side of the old city and then follows the city wall back into town. At about the 15 mile point, the half marathon course which started an hour after (9am) the full (8am) met up with ours and we ran with the other runners for about two or tree miles. At the Bab El Khemis the half turned to the right to head to the finish line, as the full went right back out of town.
Up next the race took the runners up to this small back road that I did not even know existed but is apparently a major road. This is the road that leads to the Palmeraie Golf course and a bunch of rally Fancy hotels. There were also lots of camels for the tourists to ride here when they are not running a marathon.
Finally came the last big road, 5 miles down the Road to Casablanca, before turning after the train station for the finish line. This 5 mile stretch and a little bit before is where my race fell apart. Looking back at my training I realized that after doing several shorter distance races in December in the States I did not give my self enough time to build up to some good quality long runs before the race. So, about the 20/21 mile area my feet began to just feel awful. So, instead of giving up i adjusted. I finished slower but I finished and to me that is always my primary goal.
I crossed the finish line in 3:58 and had a smile on my face. I had enjoyed my first marathon in Morocco. At the finish I was given a little finishers metal and met up with my wife. It really was a great race and I really am looking forward to next year already. I would recomend this race to anyone looking for a destination race whether it be the half or full marathon, this would be a great choice.
A couple of side notes:
- There were lots of police and security on the race course keeping traffic at bay and providing general security.
- The city turned out in force to cheer on all the runners not just the pros. All the way to the end of the race there were kids wanting high fives and cheering us on.
- Although there were some things I would like to see improved (like at all races), this race was very organized.
- There were 662 full marathon finishers and 3,675 half marathon finishers.
- The race winner was Tum Stephen from Kenya with a time of 2:06:35.
- Very flat and fast race route.
- While I was running the race my wife went to a cafe in Jemaa El Fna and watched the race leaders on the TV.
My wife's view of the race
Here is a list of the Marrakech Marathon posts I wrote leading up to the 2013 race this year: