Fernanda Maciel ran the hardest race in the world

Brazilian ultrarunner shines after running the world’s hardest 250km race through the Sahara Desert.
Fernando Maciel smiles for her third-place podium finish in Marathon des Sables.
Fernanda Maciel finishes on the podium in MDS 2017 © Cimbaly©AlexisBerg
By Francisco Cremonese

What were you doing last week? Stuck in traffic heading to the office? Or were you able to grab a moment during the Easter holidays? Well, Brazil's Fernanda Maciel was off in Morocco, running over 250km of sand dunes and absolutely sending it to grab third place in the world’s hardest race: the Marathon des Sables.

With an awe-inspiring time of 24h 44m 59s, this world record holder confirmed, once again, that she's among the best ultrarunners on the planet.

“Finishing this competition, is a victory and a dream,” Maciel said. “Since I was little, I have always heard of the Marathon des Sables, and I knew that I could run it one day. It’s the only competition that makes me cry in pain and in joy after crossing each daily stage.”

The Marathon des Sables, or Marathon of the Sands, is considered the toughest foot race on Earth. Over the course of seven days, runners cross the Sahara Desert, covering over 250 km under a scorching sun during the day (+50ºC) and freezing cold nights, where temperatures hover around freezing. With the dawn of each day for a week, runners set off to tackle a new marathon – including a huge night stage of over 85 km – all entirely in the sand.

Runners from all around the world faced heat, fatigue, hunger and the weight of their own backpacks. Adding to the challenge of the race, every day is an entirely self-sufficient competition; so each runner had to carry their own food and water, plus a mandatory first aid kit.

If the magnitude of this hasn’t hit you here’s some help:

© Marathon des Sables

By her side on the podium, the two-time Swedish champion Elisabet Barnes, female winner of the 32nd Marathon des Sables, and Natalie Mauclair of France, who claimed the silver medal.

The winner of the men’s category was the five-time world champion, Moroccan Rachid El Morabity, who hit 250km in 19h 15m 23s.

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