About us

Sandbach Striders was born back in 2003. Since the early days, membership has grown with a firm ethos of the club being not just about running but social activities as well. The club is affiliated to UK AAA and has its own qualified coaches. Many other special events take place on various nights too.

The club meets on Wednesdays at 18:30 and Sundays at 09:00 at Elworth Cricket Club.

Whilst many members compete in races from 5k to Marathons, the emphasis remains purely on keeping people motivated and having fun. Why not scan through our race reports to see what we’ve been up to? Having read them, you’re sure to see why Sandbach Striders has developed the motto of being

"No Ordinary Running Club!"

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Race Report: International Marathon of Marrakech 29/01/2012

40 hours in Marrakech might well be an environmentalist's nightmare, but the chance to run my first (and possibly only) African marathon was too good a chance to miss. A summer flight to Marrakech is easy to arrange, the previous summer I'd flown there from Manchester for a ridiculously low sum. A winter flight proved to be a bit trickier and the only option available to me was to fly from Gatwick, which meant a 3 hour drive either side of the 3.5 hour flight just for good measure. Still, it could be done in a weekend and on the cheap, which meant it was all systems go! We drove down to Gatwick on the Friday night as the flight was an EasyJet special, leaving at the crack of dawn. An uneventful flight saw us hit the terminal at Marrakech Menara Airport mid-morning. As we queued to get through the chaos that was the immigration queue we stared up at the bright blue sky and fantastic sun, a welcome change from the cold and damp of Cheshire.

Getting to the Expo meant a quick taxi journey. Which in itself meant a prolonged period of haggling to get the price of the taxi journey down to a reasonable sum. It can feel a bit weird haggling over a couple of quid, but it's part and parcel of any financial transaction in Morocco and once you get past the initial awkwardness it's also part of the fun.

The Expo consisted of a few open tents advertising a few French races, some French sportswear sellers and two massive queues. One for the registration for the marathon and one for the half-marathon. It's a French company that organises these races and you get the feeling it's a one man and his missus show. Still, number and technical t-shirt collection was painless. There were no other freebies on offer, not even a carrier bag to put your t-shirt on. To be honest I'd rather have nothing than a bag full of flyers and samples for stuff I don't want.

I was a little concerned about getting something nourishing to eat on the day before the race, because the concept of vegetarianism, as you might expect in a once French African nation, doesn't really exist. As such I made a bee-line for the Earth Cafe, Morocco's only vegetarian cafe located deep in one of the Souks located off Jemaa el-Fna, the main square where much of the life of Marrakech emanates from.

On the morning of the race, I slept in. A combination of a comfortable bed, a lovely warm room and absolute darkness meant I awoke, fell asleep, awoke, fell asleep, awoke, fell asleep. I finally jumped out of bed in a panic 30 minutes before the gun was due to go off. This meant breakfast was a glass of water and a carb gel rather than my preferred option of several strong cups of cafe and a leisurely breeze around the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. The race start was only a few minutes' jog from the hotel, and as there were no toilets or water at the start most runners had elected to arrive there as late as they could.

The half-marathon had set off thirty minutes earlier which thankfully meant the start line was less congested than it might otherwise have been, although it was still a slow walk  from the middle of the pack up to the narrow starting gantry. After a few minutes of indecipherable Arabic speech over the tannoy we were off. The route was one lap and started by winding its way through the City along the main thoroughfare. Traffic in Marrakech is to the Western eye "interesting". Most driving conventions are treated as voluntary and the best one can normally hope for when using a pedestrian crossing is for the mopeds and taxis to weave around you honking marginally less than usual. At one junction traffic was queued back as far as the eye can see, with each driver's hand hard on the horn. If it hadn't have been for the lone policemen holding the traffic back we'd all have been participating in a 26.2 mile game of Frogger.

After the race relaxing in Jemaa el-Fna
For much of the race the police and army managed to keep most of the traffic away from the runners. At least most of the big traffic that is. But the combination of sand and two-stroke petrol fumes prevalent in the air made breathing difficult at times and left a nasty residue which it took me a couple of days to finally shift. I'd read on a runner's forum prior to the race that local children following runners were a nuisance. I was quite enjoying them running alongside of me, high-fiving me and shouting "Allez allez!" and "Bravo bravo!". I was really starting to think how mean spirited the forum poster had been in his criticisms and asking myself how anyone could have been so cold-hearted not to have been warmed by the supportive chants and cheers of so many local kids. All this vanished in an instant when, feigning a high-five, two of the little gits tried to yank my Garmin from my wrist. A quick shove, a burst of speed and a loud shout of "Imshi!" averted what could have been an undesired detour. For future reference, "Imshi" is a fairly impolite way of saying "Clear off" in Arabic.

Towards the middle of the race the temperature started to rise and it peaked at 26°c, much warmer than I was expecting it to be. Water stops were reasonably well spaced out and had plenty of stocks of bottled water, fresh oranges (fantastically delicious but difficult to peel when running) and dates. Even the native Moroccan runners were  starting to feel the heat. At the race start they'd been shivering and jumping up and down to desperately keep warm. This was despite wearing what we in the UK would comfortably describe as multi-layered winter clothing. It was 18°c when the gun went off and felt to me like a very pleasant warm Spring day. The undulating course coupled with the total lack of shade meant I had a difficult last few miles. I ended up running next to a pleasant French lady and making the most of my limited French we kept each going on the last few miles as we weaved our way back into town. 

As we crossed the line we were presented with a medal and given as many oranges as we could hold, some more bottled water and a small bag of dates and sultanas. I was pleased to finish in 3:45 though my official time was slightly lower. Although we were chipped it seemed the only time logged by the race officials was the gun time.

Replacing spent calories with sweet mint tea and a slice of apple cake.
Would I do the race again? Yes. The flights were ridiculously cheap for such a long distance. The hotel was also stupidly cheap and of fantastic quality. Marrakech is a beautiful, inspiring, crazy, crazy city which everyone should experience at least once. I arrived back home at 3:45am ready to get up for work at 6:45 but It was definitely worth it.

For more information visit the website.



  1. Had the city and the race on my radar for sometime now, you certainly haven't put me off either. Well done Mik.

  2. I'm planning to participate this year, so thanks for the post, it was really good to read about these things.