The Results: A top class international field produced a marathon winning time of 2:08 with 21 runners doing 2:18 or less. Any one of those would have won the Brighton marathon. The top 50 runners were finished by 2:45 and they were virtually all from Ethiopia , Kenya and Morocco. Jim Graham was the 98th man (the 4th British male runner) by finishing in 3:11, just a few seconds outside of PB.
The half-marathon race started 30 minutes before the marathon and the winning time was a sensational 1:01:59. Helen Graham was the 359th woman home in 2:17 (including time spent in a mid-race comfort break) which is MSTC best half-marathon time of the year (so far).
The web-sites and results on the internet are mostly in French, so it is a bit tricky to work it all out. Race numbers went to around 7,000 but that seemed to combine half-marathon and marathon. Therefore, the event is tiny compared to London Marathon and about half the size of Brighton Marathon. There appear to have been fewer than 700 marathon finishers with the majority of runners doing the half-marathon.
The experience: The easyjet flights and transfers from Gatwick to the superb hotel "les Jardins de la Koutoubia" were a doddle (www.lesjardinsdelakoutoubia.com).
We chose to organise the trip and race entry ourselves rather than use one of the marathon tour companies. As a result we paid the same in total but got a much better hotel that was just half a mile walking distance from the race start/finish. Collecting race numbers the day before from the expo was easy and great fun as it coincided with a kids race that day.
Marrakech is a culture shock (in a good way) for a couple from Hassocks. A cross between "Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Arc" and "Carry on Follow that Camel". Shouldn't have been such a culture shock because Carry-on-Follow-that-Camel was filmed on Littlehampton beach. Like Littlehampton, Marrakech feels like it hasn't changed much for centuries (except the horse-drawn carts in Marrakech have rubber tyres now). There was plenty of exhaust fumes from 2-stroke mopeds to remind one this is the 21st century.
Following the race we had a swim in the hotel pool then a nice wander in the Marrakech Souk (markets a few hundred yards from the hotel). Within minutes we had got live snakes wrapped around our necks and were being demanded to pay money for the privilege. Mayhem. It was frantic and amazing doing a little shopping for souvenirs.
The race was different with no energy drinks but just bottled water at irregular intervals (carry your own bottle I suggest). No energy gels but oranges, dates, figs and raisins on offer. The middle of the marathon had a 5-mile section with no feed stations and running through busy city roads competing with traffic and pedestrians. It is actually possible to get lost even though the runner in front is just a few metres away. The road closures get a bit less well enforced once the elite runners have gone through (I'd have had those Ethiopian Olympic Team runners otherwise..honest). However, the course is flat and has no annoying hairpins or switch backs so definite PB potential. The temperature was a pleasant 13-15 degrees during the race plus there was some shade from palm-trees and the ancient city walls.