One of the world’s toughest races, the Marathon des Sables, has been tainted by tragedy following the death of a competitor who suffered a cardiac arrest in the dunes of Merzouga
Tragedy has hit the Marathon des Sables as organisers confirmed the death of a competitor after he suffered a cardiac arrest.
The six day, 156-mile ultra-marathon race, approximately the distance of six regular marathons, is currently taking place in its traditional venue of the Sahara desert in southern Morocco.
The first stage passed without problems but during the second stage on Monday, which took place in the Merzouga dunes, a French entrant, who was in his early 50s and had passed all the medical requirements to enter the race, fell seriously ill.
He received immediate attention from two other competitors, who were doctors, and they triggered the SOS button on his beacon and started the heart massage protocol.
The event’s medical director arrived on the scene within minutes by helicopter but, despite 45 minutes of attempted resuscitation, he was later pronounced dead.
In a released statement, race director Patrick Bauer said: “Out of respect for the family of this competitor, his anonymity will remain preserved,” who confirmed the man’s loved ones had been notified.
“In order to respect all the people who have prepared for this adventure, the staff has decided to continue the race,” Bauer continued.
He also added that continuing the event would be a way of paying homage to a ‘brother of sands’.
It is the third such tragedy in the 35-year history of the event.
On Tuesday morning, the event’s official Twitter account announced: “Stage 3 – 37,1 km. The race will start after a minute of silence. Thank you for your messages of support.”
Following the news, former Marathon des Sables competitor Anja Madhvani also paid tribute on social media saying: “Tragic news from MdS as a French runner suffers a fatal cardiac arrest. Terrible news for his loved ones, his fellow competitors, and the race team.”
Dennis Hall, who is currently competing in the race, tweeted: “At this morning’s briefing we were told day one was the hottest ever for Marathon des Sables peaking at 54 degrees, and a record number of dropouts at 39.
“Today included 14km of sand dunes- brutal. On finishing, I heard someone died on the course today. I’m going to be careful.”
The event is the brainchild of French concert promoter Bauer, who in 1984 travelled through the Sahara desert on foot and alone, covering 350 km (214 miles) in 12 days. Two years later the first Marathon des Sables was run.