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February 18, 2018

Runners hit the desert for Tunisia's first ultra-marathon

Runners hit the desert for Tunisia's first ultra-marathon
'A runner competes in the Ultra Mirage El Djerid ultra-marathon in the southwestern Tunisian desert on October 7, 2017' - By: AFP AMINE LANDOULSI

'Moroccan Mohamed el-Morabity wins Tunisia's first ever ultra-marathon in the desert near the southwestern city of Tozeur on October 7, 2017' AFP / AMINE LANDOULSI
"'Moroccan Mohamed el-Morabity wins Tunisia's first ever ultra-marathon in the desert near the southwestern city of Tozeur on October 7, 2017'"

Ong Jmel (Tunisie) (AFP) - Dozens of runners headed into Tunisia's desert at dawn on Saturday for the North African country's first ever ultra-marathon.

The 100-kilometre (60-mile) Ultra Mirage El Djerid race, with a course skirting the Sahara desert's biggest salt lake, attracted 58 competitors including eight women and 25 foreign runners.

Morocco's Mohamed el Morabity battled his way over dunes, rocky hills and a salt plain to win the race in 8 hours, 48 minutes and 49 seconds.

'A participant walks between two camels during the Ultra Mirage El Djerid marathon in Tunisia's southwestern desert on October 7, 2017' AFP / Amine LANDOULSI
"'A participant walks between two camels during the Ultra Mirage El Djerid marathon in Tunisia's southwestern desert on October 7, 2017'"

He and his brother Rachid both competed this year at the Marathon des Sables, a famed endurance event in the Moroccan desert which inspired the Tunisian event.

The race took place in Tozeur, a southwestern region which served as a set for Anakin Skywalker's village Mos Espa in the Star Wars films.

"I think there is a real lack of this type of sporting event in the desert," race director Amir Ben-Gacem said.

Organisers hope to make the event an annual fixture on the international ultra-trail circuit, attracting 500 runners annually within three years.

"Tunisia is extremely well placed to hold this kind of event," Ben-Gacem said. "We have the beauty of southern Tunisia and we have all the infrastructure to do it."

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