“When I am running alone in the mountains, I feel like Queen of the World. No money can buy that feeling. And then at the end of a hard but beautiful day, you come back to the warmth of a Berber welcome. Two of the many reasons I love Morocco." Alice Morrison, UK

Daily life during the Trans Atlas Marathon begins very early. Early with the golden sun, early with the damp earth. Even before the village starts to wake up, the runners are peeling off their sleeping bags, zipping into jackets, blinking in the morning light.

Mornings in Morocco never cease to be magical. The call to prayer echoes off mountainsides. Somewhere, a donkey is braying. Tea glasses start to clink in the kitchen, and runners pad across the dining room in socks.  A Moroccan competitor fills up his water bottle with tea for the day’s stage; he grins, and turns away without explaining. He doesn’t need to.

As the fifty-odd competitors begin to pool at the day’s starting line, the first rays of sunlight start to warm the ground. Competitors hop up and down, shaking out their legs and breathing into their hands. This group is a school of fish, a constant exchange of positive energy, lingual or otherwise. An Arabic-speaker laughs with an English-speaker, swapping bright eyes and an insatiable desire for these mountains. Then, with a countdown, they’re gone—whooping and smiling and legs churning through the dust, off to discover the Atlas.

“The Atlas Mountains have so many different faces. There are so many different landscapes…from rugged rock to sandy like the desert…but also green, with much water. Where else can you find yourself on a 1,300-meter climb that takes places completely within an active riverbed? A completely other world. “ Tim Wortman, Germany

The days during the Trans Atlas Marathon are full of surprises, full of secrets. There are towering mountains, there is blistering sun. There is screaming wind, and there are silent canyons. The days’ routes wind through mountain villages, past clusters of schoolchildren and herds of bleating goats.  Everyone makes his or her way along the day’s route in a different number of hours; this timing means that the Atlas reveal a different face to each competitor. The front pack—the Moroccan runners—floats across the mountains, dances across rocky trails. They see the villages in the mornings, empty and dew-filled. Others hit the mountains during mid-day, meeting bright sun and villagers washing rugs in the river. The final crew finishes the day’s course in the evening, arriving back to camp as the sun slides behind mountain peaks. They spend their days with Abdul, the race’s sweeper—and these final competitors might be the ones to leave the Atlas with the most intimate knowledge of the landscape.

"Being at the end of the pack is great. Abdul tells you 'you can eat this plant to help with this,' or 'the rocks are formed in this way because of x,y, and z.’ …Doing the stage with Abdul is like being in a university.”  Olivia Kickcha

The evenings during the Trans Atlas Marathon are warm, relaxed. T-shirts and socks dance in the wind, hung up to dry as their owners kick back at the dinner table. Soup splashes into clay bowls, bread is tossed from basket to hand. Yet again, the languages swirl: Moroccan Arabic. Dutch. German. Tamazight. English. French. The most beautiful part is listening to everyone as they try on these different languages, operating with words that aren’t natively their own.

“TAM is a physical and mental transformation for me. “ Mae Zhou, China

“The Trans Atlas experience is powerful, trance-like.” Iris Hangel

The nights during the Trans Atlas Marathon end with a whisper. A warm wind swirls in from the Sahara, and bright stars are smeared across the sky. Snoring runners are tucked into mud-walled rooms, waiting for the next morning. These runners are brothers and sisters, and they’re waiting together for the next day’s stage. They’re waiting for the next sunlight, the next bright-blue sky, the next adventure through these mountains.

“Heaven above me, pristine and pure, deep…the sky here is abyss of light. I felt divine passion when I climbed these mountains. I just wanted to fly--all I wanted to do is run.”  Iris Hangel

This year’s edition of the Trans Atlas Marathon took place at the end of May, 2016 Next year’s edition will kick off on May 12th, 2017.