Saturday, 14 January 2017

My Marathon des Sable

My week in the desert in brief..........Im writing it in brief because to be honest id forgotten to do it and close this blog off.... Im now about to start a new adventure and a new blog, so need to finish this one.

The MDS week started with a trip to Gatwick for the flight to Morrocco With Jon O Hara in his Audi Quattro.. At this point I didn't know that my amazing journey would end with a great drive back to Lowestoft in Jons car....
We stayed at the Gatwick Hilton and that evening we met for the first time, some of our desert tent mates..... Took it easy on the alcohol front, not wanting a flight with a hangover, but some did seem to be having a party.

I had a restless night with a mixture of excitement and nervous anticipation ahead of the " toughest foot race on earth" , this carried on through the flight to Morocco and the 5 hour drive out into the desert.
We arrived  in the pitch black, we had to find our tent which was number 135 with our head torches, get our bearings on this huge camp site, find the food tent before getting some kip.

Next morning is technical/administration day..... lots of sitting around, standing in queues, sorting out what you really want to carry for 6 days, getting rid of the stuff thats not going to benefit you, last minute phone calls home.. ( amazing how in the middle of the desert you can get a clear line to the uk, however living in Suffolk, I occasionally struggle). At the admin tent after getting rid of the stuff that your not racing with, your pack is weighed, race numbers ( very strict on where they are placed) and road map are given out... some people had their food checked for calories and also had their compulsory kit checked... but I wasnt one of them......
Once that was done.... there was nothing more to be done apart from to listening to Patrick Bauer + interpreter give a speech and then a band played some tunes... I just chilled out in the tent.

Day 1......a two year journey came down to this day.....oh my god... id watched videos of the famous inflatables at the start lines but being here was something else.... Patrick stood on top his land rover telling to drink plenty, remember to wear our hats and to take our salt tablets because it was going to be a hot day ( no shit Sherlock)
... Jon and Me made our way to some space near the back... Then Highway to Hell by AC/DC starts blasting out of the speakers and we are off.  It soon becomes apparent to me and Jon that running on the soft stuff is pointless and power walking with sticks is a faster and more efficient option.

Nothing but being there can prepare you for being there.... especially drinking warm water.. the surroundings are amazing, varied and at times relentless...... if I remember rightly every day had a dune stage in it some where.
I decided early on that i wasnt going to chance anything with regards to my feet... every checkpoint had doc trotters so as soon as i felt hot spots, I was getting them checked. This proved to be a good decision as i finished the event only having two small blisters during the whole event.
The single days had varieties in terrain but were similar in relentlessness and warm bloody water, but each day ended the same ...... cross the line under the teapot inflatable, get a cup of the most amazing Moroccan tea.... Back to the tent, fire on, hot water on, neck 500ml of Rego protein powder, have a hot meal with two ibobrufen tablets. 10 mins of yoga, check my feet, then into my sleeping bag to sleep with legs elevated on back pack, which turned out to be a good thing to do, as it protected my kit from sandstorms that came through the tent every night. So the sandstorms combined with sleeping on a rug thats are on top of stones didnt end in a good nights sleep being had.

That said, I still felt pretty good going into day 4 ( the long day), a distance of 91.7 Km (57 miles). As it was getting late into the race and wanting to give ourselves the best chance of finishing, Jon and myself made a pact to stick together and pull each other through if required. This stage had everything from the previous 3 stages, jebels,dunes, salt flats. We went through the night and at the half weigh point, I ate the heaviest item in my pack....a tin of fruit cocktail...oh my god that was heaven.
As we went in the pitch black following our head torches and day glow markers we had sand storms going on. I dont mind admitting that at about 1am, I sat at the top of a sand dune that had gone on and on and on and had abit of a melt down...I got myself together and carried on... At the next checkpoint, Jon was ready to stop, so we made a decision to rest up till daylight (about 4 hours) and then carry on to the finish (about 17km). I must have been shattered because i decided to have a wee before getting into my sleeping bag, i closed my eyes, opened them again because i wanted a wee, which i couldnt believe, I looked at my watch and about 4 hours had gone and it was getting light... Jon, however wasn't in great shape...his feet were blistered badly and was unable to weight bare. He was going to have to have treatment, this could threaten the cut offs that had been put in place... because of this threat, Jon told me to crack on, on my own....I surprisingly covered the ground really quickly and got to the finish line at about 8.30am. This gave me the rest of the day to eat, sleep and sleep some more... and wait for Jon to put his head around the tent doorway, but it never happened, and we later found out that he had been pulled out and was already on his way back to a hotel 5 hours away.. This put abit of a dampened spirit into the tent.This said, I dont think that anything was going to stop any of tent 135 inhabitants finishing the last days marathon not even a fractured foot (James Tuffnell)

later pics of Jons feet

Felt good, waking up for the last stage was great. Nothing was going to stop me now...The last few miles went on for ages and ages, but i think it was actually my fastest marathon in the desert. Id carried a union jack umbrella all week and I thought that i would open it with 200metres to go and went across the finish line like Mary Poppins...
what a fantastic feeling but not as emotional as i thought I would get. I actually got more emotional in the subsequent hours as I watched people hobble, stagger and drag themselves over the finish line.

Only one bit left to do before getting the bus back to the hotel......The charity stage, an 11 mile walk out of the desert..

Back to normality out of the MDS Bubble

Trip back the hotel in Ouzazate...Berber Palace
I slept on floor for some of the first night in the hotel as i couldnt get to sleep in the bed, it took a good few showers to get the ingrained sand out of my skin. 

Summary of things that Ive taken from my MDS Journey

  •   Fantastic experience with people from 50 different nationalities
  • Ive made some fantastic friends 
  • Found out i am mentally stronger than I thought
  • Life wouldnt be so bad without our mobile phones
  • if I put my mind to it, i can achieve things
  • learnt to get things sorted before they get out of hand
  • I really do hate drinking warm water
To End this Blog heres a video