Madagascar Race 2014
250km running race in the North of Madagascar

Madagascar Race, the long stage (© P. Gatta)
Madagascar Race, the long stage (© P. Gatta)

The Madagascar Race 2014

The Madagascar Race is a 250 km (155 miles) running race which is part of 4 Deserts Roving Race series. The 2014 edition started in the north of Madagascar, close to the city of Antsiranana and went South - Soutwest to finish at the city of Ambilobe. There were 6 stages in 7 days: almost 4 Marathons in 4 days, then 77 km, a rest day and a final stage of 10 km.

The Madagascar Race is self-supported, which means that competitors have to carry all their equipment, clothes, sleeping bag, medical kit and 7 days of food. RacingThePlanet only provides them with water and the tents for the nights. According to the rules, competitors must bring at least 14,000 calories (2,000 calories per day). As always, I brought much more, around 23,000 calories (4.3 kg). The rest of my pack included the clothes, sleeping bag, medical and safety kit of 3.5kg, making a total of 7.7kg without water.

The concept and difficulty of the race is very similar to the Marathon des Sables and all 4 Deserts races organized by RacingThePlanet: the Sahara Race, the Gobi March, the Atacama Crossing, Jordan, Madagascar and the Last Desert in Antarctica.

There was a great variety of terrains, beaches, soft sand, volcanic rocks, Baobabs forest, dirt road, rice fields and many river crossings. The temperatures were around 35 Celcius with around 60% humidity.

Arrival at the first camp along the beach (© P. Gatta)
Arrival at the first camp along the beach (© P. Gatta)



All competitors arrived in Antsiranana, also know as Diego Suarez a couple of days before the race. On Saturday we had the race briefing, equipment review, check-in and then we went to the first camp in an old military camp from the Legion Etrangere, along a nice sand beach. The race started on Sunday morning and ended the following Saturday.

The Madagascar Race 2014

August 30: Briefing and transfer to Camp 1

The Saturday morning, 234 competitors coming from 43 countries left Antsiranana and arrived in camp 1 after 45 minutes of bus. We have been welcomed by locals and enjoyed the sand beach around.

Small villages along the course (© P. Gatta)
Small villages along the course (© P. Gatta)

August 31, Stage 1: "Three bays of the Indian Ocean" - 36.7km

After two months spent climbing in Mont Blanc Massif, the transition to a running race on soft sand and by 36 degrees was brutal.

Stage 1 of Madagascar Race (© P. Gatta)
Stage 1 of Madagascar Race (© P. Gatta)

Fortunately the stage was amazing. We crossed three bays and nice white sand beaches. The scenery reminded me a mix of Guadeloupe, La Reunion and Hawaii.

White sand beaches of stage 1 (© P. Gatta)
White sand beaches of stage 1 (© P. Gatta)

I finished the 40 km in 4:50 hours and is ranked 30/230.

Camp 2 (© P. Gatta)
Camp 2 (© P. Gatta)

September 1, stage 2: "Path to the Baobabs" - 46.8km

The night along the beach was a pleasure for the eyes but the mix of wind, sand and salt was terrible as we could not take a shower.

Stage 2 started off by 3.2km on the beach (© P. Gatta)
Stage 2 started off by 3.2km on the beach (© P. Gatta)

The heat is difficult to cope with and yesterday my heart rhythm was at 90% for almost the whole race. So for the second day, 46 km, I calmed down.

The Baobab forest (© P. Gatta)
The Baobab forest (© P. Gatta)

In the first checkpoint I was ranked 60, but I couldn't care less – this stage was the most beautiful one I have experienced within the RacingThePlanet races. White sandy beaches, bushes and the famous baobab trees, coconut palm trees, banana tree forest and rivers.

Variety of sceneries (© P. Gatta)
Variety of sceneries (© P. Gatta)

It was very hot and with all the river crossings many runners' feet were already destroyed.

River crossings (© P. Gatta)
River crossings (© P. Gatta)

At the arrival we had hundreds of village people singing for us and cheering – it was very touching to be greeted by them.

Rice fields near the end of stage 2 (© P. Gatta)
Rice fields near the end of stage 2 (© P. Gatta)

I lost my way a few times but ended up with a total ranking of 34/230.

Coconut as reward (© P. Gatta)
Coconut as reward (© P. Gatta)

Sunset on camp 3 (© P. Gatta)
Sunset on camp 3 (© P. Gatta)

September 2, stage 3: "The red Tsingy valley" - 42.1km

I started the third day slowly, but after checkpoint 1 I felt better and ran the rest of the 42 km.

New landscape for this stage 3 (© P. Gatta)
New landscape for this stage 3 (© P. Gatta)

New section of 3.5km along the beach.

Local on the beach (© P. Gatta)
Local on the beach (© P. Gatta)

Then we crossed the Red Tsingy which looks a little like a small Bryce-Canyon.

Red Tsingy (© P. Gatta)
Red Tsingy (© P. Gatta)

A lot of dirt road that gets really hot… Just before the camp we had a river crossing and we'd love to swim there but there are crocodiles!! Ran better today and gained 13 places: 21/230 (25 abandon as of now).

Camp 4 (© P. Gatta)
Camp 4 (© P. Gatta)

September 3, stage 4: "Route to the Sacred Lake" - 40.3km

Yet another beautiful stage, savanna, lots of dirt roads, small villages...

Savanna on stage 4 (© P. Gatta)
Savanna on stage 4 (© P. Gatta)

We ran 3 km around the Sacred Lake with many locals who came to cheer on us and laugh their heads off seeing these 200 idiots running in the 40°C heat!

Sacred Lake (© P. Gatta)
Sacred Lake (© P. Gatta)

4th marathon done. I feel better every day, so yet another month and all will be good! Only problem the race is over in a few days...

Another nice sunset on the camp (© P. Gatta)
Another nice sunset on the camp (© P. Gatta)

September 4, stage 5: "The Long March through the Grey Tsingy reserve" - 77km

The stage was beautiful but with such an effort you can’t appreciate anything. Yet many rivers destroying the feet...

Stage 5 (© P. Gatta)
Stage 5 (© P. Gatta)

The Long March, 77 km, has been a memorable battle, I gave everything. For the first time I have finished a Long March during daytime, finishing after 9:45 hours in 16th position completely wasted! I ran everything.

Finish line of the Stage 5 (© P. Gatta)
Finish line of the Stage 5 (© P. Gatta)

September 5: rest day

We spent the day resting, talking and having fun.

Overview of the 250km (© P. Gatta)
Overview of the 250km (© P. Gatta)

September 6, stage 6: "The final footsteps to Ambilobe" - 10km

I was worried about these last 10 km as my legs were tired after 240 km and I knew it would go fast. At the same time the guy behind me was 1h after in total ranking so no stress.

Start of the final stage (© P. Gatta)
Start of the final stage (© P. Gatta)

Finally the 10 km of dusty track were not too bad and I was happy to pass the finish line of this amazing race.

Finish line of the Madagascar Race
Finish line of the Madagascar Race (© P. Gatta)


This was not the hardest race I've done but the competitors level was definitely higher than previous 4 deserts races. It has been a pleasure to share these 7 days with 230 fellow runners!

Some food at the finish line of the Madagascar Race
Some food at the finish line of the Madagascar Race (© P. Gatta)


My final ranking is 19/230 with 189 finishing the race.

Madagascar Race medals (© P. Gatta)
Madagascar Race medals (© P. Gatta)


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