Marathon des Sables: The Expert's View

Nicolas Maréchal, ultra-trailer, ran one the toughest races in the world: Marathon des Sables, a mythical race created in 1986, across the Moroccan desert. It includes 6 stages, between 30 and 80 kilometers per day, in extreme temperatures: up to 50°C (122°F) during the day and down to 5°C (41°F) at night.

Nicolas also ran for a good cause: raise funds to help disadvantaged populations in Cambodia, thanks to the Cercle des amis cambodgiens association for which he managed to collect 2 500€.

Discover his story here.

Such a unique performance required specific equipment: here are some technical details from our experts.

Within the framework of No ordinary Stories, Essilor Sun Solution supported and accompanied Nicolas Maréchal during an incredible challenge: his first time participating in Morocco’s Marathon des Sables in 2018. An excellent occasion to discuss the major role of sunglasses in difficult or extreme conditions with the experts of Essilor Sun Solution.

What are the dangers of exposing one’s eyes to the sun in a “desert” environment like the one in Morocco?

Essilor Sun Solution: The Marathon des Sables happens in southern Morocco and covers more than 200 km. The itinerary covers all sorts of terrain: dunes, rocky plateaus, trails, dried-up wadis, palm groves.

It’s a demanding sports event that unfolds in the desert heat, in extreme temperatures that can approach 50°C. As such, sunglasses are essential for protecting oneself from the UV rays and wind: it’s important to be protected from the dryness of the air.

In fact, the closer you get to the equator, the more the sun’s rays become perpendicular and, thus, harmful. We also know that sand reflects between 5 and 25% of UV rays.

In this dry and windy environment, wearing sunglasses contributes to relieving the eyes, which may be irritated by sand or dust. If the frames are curved, they are better suited to fitting the shape of the face and this enhances their effectiveness.

What type of lens should be chosen to be perfectly protected? 

Lenses of filter category 3 that block ultraviolet rays and offer protection from the visible light. This level of solar protection is effective in situations of intense brightness like that found in the desert.

Such an adventure requires great precision. How can Essilor Sun Solution lenses improve these race conditions? 

The lenses worn by Nicolas Maréchal are E-SUN™ KOLOR UP™ lenses that improve color contrast. From muted and diluted colors that come from nature, E-SUN™ KOLOR UP™ sun lenses, in addition to providing UV and blue light protection, make the boundaries between colors sharper and enhance the eye’s ability to recognize colors. As a result, the wearer can see the differences between them more clearly, better recognize details and react accordingly.

What is the technical process behind the lenses selected? Were they specially designed for these extreme conditions?

The lenses selected were E-SUN™ KOLOR UP™ lenses: they provide more vibrant color in the sun. They enhance the beauty of colors while maintaining a high level of sun protection.

While solar filters generally make the environment darker by darkening colors, the E-SUN™ KOLOR UP™ collection maintains the intensity of natural colors while also providing protection against the dangers of the sun.

Did you work closely with Nicolas Maréchal?

We had exchanges with Nicolas about the environment that he was going to be facing, as well as his preferences in terms of viewing colors.

In fact, E-SUN™ KOLOR UP™ lenses are available in several basic colors, which may be described in two key words: Brown (bright and warm), Copper (powerful and strong), Gray-Blue (realistic and genuine) and Gray-green (comfortable and soothing). Nicolas Maréchal chose to wear brown lenses.

How are these lenses tested?

These lenses satisfy the requirements of standards in effect and, thus, they pass the corresponding tests. Furthermore, they are used by consumers and the athletes’ team of our partner in this no ordinary story: Uvex.

For a brand like Essilor Sun Solution, what does this degree of technical and human involvement contribute to this sort of extreme adventure?

It doesn’t only involve an extreme adventure, but also represents the opportunity to provide support, through Nicolas, to the “LE CERCLE DES AMIS CAMBODGIENS” association, whose activities are aimed at helping underprivileged people in Cambodia. In fact, Nicolas wants to raise awareness among the public and obtain donations.

As a reminder, the motto of Essilor Sun Solution is “no ordinary sunwear for no ordinary people”. People are passionate. At Essilor Sun Solution, we help them live their passion at a deeper level by offering them no ordinary sunwear. Our first mission is to improve their lives by improving their sight and to constantly reinvent the magic of sun lenses.

How can a specific model of frames make the difference in a race like the Marathon des Sables?

The frames must suit the shape of the face perfectly and surround the eyes adequately. Ergonomics and lightness are 2 essential elements for this type of marathon, so as to ensure optimal comfort throughout the event. Uvex, our partner in this adventure, offered its expertise to assist Nicolas Maréchal in selecting his frames.


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We serve all our customers of the sunwear industry, for sports, lifestyle or fashion.

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