A few weeks ago I began my training for the 2014 edition of the Marrakech marathon that will be in January. I have not had a recent race (my last race was the Rabat Half Marathon in April). So, when a friend sent me a message this past Friday asking if I was running the Marrakech 10k (Rahal Marrakech International 10k) on Sunday I was surprised because I didn't even know this race existed. However, I saw an excellent opportunity to get a good baseline for my training. I found a little bit of information about the event on the website running.ma but no info about where or how to register. I ended up calling a number I found on the site and they told me that registration could be done on Saturday afternoon in the park in front of the McDonald's in Guiliz (the downtown part of Marrakech).
On Saturday afternoon, after my run, I went to the park and found quite a bit going on. There wasn't an expo like at the marathon but they were building the grandstands, starting arch, and the finishers' podium. I easily found the registration tent and filled out the form along with registering two of my friends. The entry fee was 50 dirham for Moroccans and 100 dirham (about 10 euro) for all foreigners and this included a race t shirt. A good deal in my opinion seeing that a 5k in the US typically starts around $25. I got our race numbers, looked over the over the race map, and then went home to try and figure out how I wanted to run this last minute race.
As I said, I had registered some friends to run the race as well so they stopped by our house on Sunday morning dropped their children off and we carpooled to the start of the race. On the way there they were talking about their race plans and what pace they were aiming for and when they asked me I still had not decided how I wanted to run it, easy and enjoyable or hard and try for a PR. In the end I didn't decide until the gun went off and I crossed the starting line. After we got to the starting area and made our necessary stops at the portatoilets we noticed that a rather large and festive group had formed in the middle of the road to do some stretching pre-race led by a very energetic lady.
At about 5 minutes before the start of the race the race officials opened up the starting area for all the runners to line up. prior to this no one was allowed to line up in the area in front of the starting line. Then, as I have come to understand is the norm here, without any announcements or countdown the starting gun is shot and off the mass of runners go.
While it took me the better part of a minute to get to the starting line thankfully the course was chipped timed which was nice because at the 5k point there was a timing line that recorded everyones' 5k split. As I ran across the starting line I decided to run the race hard but not to hard as to mess up the rest of my training. The course led us down the road from the park to and past the Marrakech train station. Then it followed almost the identical route as the marathon for about the next few kilometers. We ran to a side entrance to the Menara Gardens and then followed the paved walking path around the lake and out the other side. from there we made our way to the road that the airport is on and then headed back to the city.
At this point, over halfway through, I began to chat with a few of the people around me. I talked with about four different people and found out that for three of them, this was their first time running a 10k race. Moroccans are just good runners. Maybe its the amount of vegetables they eat or the vast amounts of walking they do but for a lot of people here they seem fit without having to do much training. Once I figure out their secret I will pass it on to you all.
As we neared the 2k sign I picked up my speed a little, I had fallen in behind a small group of guys that were keeping my pace but were doing it without much effort. They were joking with every police officer they passed, smiling for any camera they saw, and high-fiving and one that would give them a five. They made this pace seem so easy and their energy helped me, that is until we turned the last corner and saw the finish line. When we was within sight of the finish they took off in what seemed like a 100m race in the Olympics. Needless to say I got dropped but was able to cross the line strong with a PR by 3 minutes from my last 10k.
After finishing the race I was given a finishers medal and a water bottle. I ended up waiting around the finish line for my friends to cross. It was really nice to see how many people were hanging out at the finish area cheering on every runner that came in all 700+ of them.
I did forget to mention above that there were two water stops, one in Menera gardens just over 2 miles into the race and a second one at about 4 miles. I really enjoyed the International Marrakech 10k race this year. Although it was a last minute thing for me I had a really good time running with so many other people. If your in town next year on the weekend of this race I would highly recommend you run it. If your staying near to old square in a hotel or riad it is just a 10 minute walk from the square to the starting line.
I added below a video I took. It is from the start of the race as we were all lining up. If you ran the race this year or in years past let me know what you thought about the race below in the comments then get out and train for next race in Morocco.