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Morocco SS23

Words: Phil Gale

Photography: Phil Gale & Emmie Collinge

Rush hour in Marrakech is no joke. Motorcycles, cars, trucks, people, and equally as many horse and carts are all concentrated into one space, a heaving mass that flows organically in both directions. Unlike many European countries, the road and its rules here are less black and white, and more like a spectrum. A process that can be intimidating, but also liberating; instead of rules, there’s an overwhelming sense of attentiveness.

After 4 km on the sidewalk, I turned the corner to run along Marrakech’s old streets, close to the palace, and I realised how the seemingly haphazard lane order was in fact vaguely reassuring. From the isolation of an area for pedestrians, I was thrown into the whirlpool. Businesses flowed out into the traffic, which then flowed like water to find the path of least resistance.

It was then, on that first early morning scouting run, that I knew we were in for something really different to launch the Spring Summer 23 collection.

The plan had been set weeks before: five days with 1,100 km of driving on the menu. Starting in Marrakech, we’d head south over the Atlas mountains to find some desert, before turning west towards the coast in Agadir, and then looping back up to Marrakech, over the Atlas mountains once more to finish the trip. Four runners would join us – two from the UK, two from Italy – all eager to shoot and test the SS23 collection in its entirety.

Performance road, training and trail kits were on the list. Hip-hop on the radio. Within minutes of leaving Marrakech behind us, we had a front row seat for a rapidly changing landscape that would be the backdrop for our work and the setting for our runs.

A lot of people had questioned why we hadn’t organised a fixer or guide for the trip, or bulk-arranged everything through an agency. But with a little bit of previous experience shooting in Morocco and the ace card of the Italian-born runner of Moroccan heritage Badr Jafaari (13:32:07 5,000m / 28:41 10km / 1:02:02 half) up our sleeve, we were confident we’d be set for all outcomes—even if the exact details* and mind-blowing landscapes were yet to be experienced.

*The police only stopped us once, despite having roadblocks at the entrance to every town. Badr smoothed things over, adding that athletes are treated with respect out there.

Other runners on the crew were Italy’s Francesca Marangi Agostino, a 1500m specialist fresh from a scholarship in the US and now completing a Masters in Turin, as well two Brits, Oli Prior and Abdi Hamund, both familiar faces at SOAR.

Day 1

Tizi N’Ticka pass and Ait Ben Haddou

Day 2

Altitude intervals en-route to Taroudant

Day 3

The dunes of Tifnit

Day 4

Marrakech bound