Morocco’s diverse landscape attracts all sorts of athletic competitions, from Atlas mountain marathons to kite-surfing in Dakhla:
Samir Akhdar skims over loose rocks and scree, his feet barely touching the ground. Running behind him is like watching a dancer: his arms and upper body making instant, almost imperceptible adjustments.
I only ever witnessed a few moments of this early each morning before Samir and the other local runners competing to win the six-day Trans Atlas Marathon were out of sight. They may have made it look easy, but my own laboured style – all bulk and brawn, sunburn and sweat – soon revealed the true harshness and technical difficulty of the terrain.
Just a few hours by 4×4 from the labyrinthine souks and chaotic hustle of Marrakech, the High Atlas mountains feel truly remote. Crossing vast alpine plains dotted with clumps of cobalt blue and gold flowers, or picking your way over 3,000-metre passes of crimson rock, you can travel for hours without seeing another person. Eventually, a steep descent down a barely discernible path deposits you in a fertile valley and an ancient mud-brick Berber village seemingly lost in time – then you get up the next morning and do it all again…[FULL STORY]