Race: Transmarocaine Tizi N’Trail

Tizi N'Trail
© Paul Vilcot

Fancy running across the sands of Morocco? Maybe the Transmarocaine Tizi N’Trail is the event for you! Our regular brace blogger Lucja Leonard (aka Running Dutchie) has the lowdown on this exceptional race.

Setting the scene

‘Tizi’ means mountain pass in Morocco, but this event could easily be called ‘Sahib n Trail’ meaning ‘friends and trails’. Imagine a lovely long weekend away in the sun, running undiscovered and remote trails in a country full of culture and colour.

Add to this the security and comfort of a fully supported event. You sleep in traditional Berber tents atop mattresses and kept warm with blankets, with showers and facilities at the ready and three meals a day provided. Yet you are away from the modern world connectivity, where your entertainment is watching the sun rise and set.

Tizi N’Trail has been holding these events in Morocco since 2013. After attending Tizi N’Trail 2017 and having the most amazing experience, I couldn’t resist returning. One of the great things about the Tizi N’Trail organisation is that they change locations every year, so you can keep coming back year after year and experience a totally different part of Morocco. The 2018 edition was in Essaouria, a port city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. Its medina (old town) is protected by 18th-century seafront ramparts, used in Game of Thrones.

Getting started

There were 140 starters, and we all wandered to the main square in the port for the official start photos before we headed to the beach for the actual race start.

Day 1 was 16 miles of beach running, with a few dunes towards the back half to really test us out. The participants soon spread out as we found our own rhythm and pace; the race caters for all levels whether you are a first-time multi-stage runner, would prefer to walk or are a seasoned runner.

Just over two hours of running and the finish line is in sight. A lunch of sandwiches and fresh local fruit is provided, and we head back to the beach to watch the rest of the runners come in for the day.

The camp is a bivouac nestled up in the dunes with tents set up to sleep eight, along with a communal dining area, shower and toilet facilities. Waking naturally to the sounds of the waves, everyone was ready for breakfast.

After packing our stuff away and bags stored on the trucks – no self sufficiency here – we were ready to face Day 2. 12 miles over amazing scenery with river beds and high coastal paths, technical and challenging.

We finished the day on a deserted beach, apart from our camp. It was absolutely idyllic and some of the runners and myself braved the Atlantic Ocean for a rather quick dip to soothe our tired muscles.

The last day

The clocks go forward during the night, but this matters to no-one as we awake and indulge in a tasty breakfast before congregating on the beach for our final start. This will take us straight up a jebel (mountain) to begin with, before heading inland over rocky terrain and flower fields for 14 miles, before a final stretch along the beach to the finish line.

People like to challenge themselves with everyone running for different reasons, and it is simply amazing to see people of all walks of life complete these events. The final night consists of the awards ceremony and a banquet of delicious Moroccan food, and the bar is open!

We were all sad to leave the next day; the event had gone by all too quickly ,but what a fabulous experience was had by all with new friendships forged. We all promise to return for a reunion next year for Tizi N’Trail 2019, which is going to see the event heading to the mountain.

It will be starting at Lake Takerkoust (only 30 mins from Marrakech) before heading to Asni and finishing up at Oukaimeden where we will be in the shadow of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in the Arab world.

See the full review and more photos at here

Tizi N'Trail
© Paul Vilcot