Marathon des Sables 2015 (30th Edition) – RACE PREVIEW

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MDS, Marathon des Sables, The Toughest Race in the World… whatever you want to call it, the 30th edition is just around the corner. Think about it, 30-years. It’s quite incredible how this race has grown and has become ‘the’ multiday race to do irrespective of experience. It was the first and arguably is still the best offering an ultimate adventure for novice and experienced runner.

Many a runner has started a passion for running at MDS and as such; the race will always be an important landmark for many. But it’s more than a race. It’s an experience, it’s escape and it’s a challenge.

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The combination of self-sufficiency, life in bivouac and running 250-km’s through the heat of the Sahara is something that those that have experienced it will never forget. It is the story of life, a story of men and women who have come to the heart of the desert to rid themselves of the superficial to keep only the essentials and get in touch with their true selves.

For the past three decades, some 18,000 runners have signed up for this experience, so, with the imminent running of the 2015 edition, it’s fair to say that race will see a great number of participants returning to ‘celebrate’ a very important birthday.

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Lasting six days participants must be self-sufficient carrying everything they need in a pack. Water is provided but rationed and a tent (bivouac) is provided each evening that must be shared with seven other participants.

The 2015 edition of the race will be 250-km’s offering a series of challenges that will test the mind and body in equal measure. Dunes, djebels, ergs and dried-up lakes offer a stunning backdrop that must be traversed. Battling against sand, heat and above all the mind completing the 30th edition of the Marathon des Sables will be a dream come true for those who toe the line.

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THE ROUTE for 2015

Stage 1 – Sunday 5th April

Here we have a very uneven playing field and a sufficient number of kilometers to make their presence felt. Competitors will have to run, avoid the obstacles and climb the surrounding uphill sections. The first dunes are between CP1 and CP2. It is fair to say that day-1 of the 30th MARATHON DES SABLES will be a long one.

Stage 2 – Monday 6th April

Those who imagine the desert to be flat are in for a surprise. Three steep little climbs form this second leg, with gradients reaching 30%… A new kind of roller-coaster ride which will open up landscapes that will be a sight to behold.

Stage 3 – Tuesday 7th April

Sand will be omnipresent today with some stony sections and some dried-up lakes. There will be a little something for everyone with some uphill sections here and there.

Stage 4 – Wednesday 8 / Thursday 9 April

A tough initial climb will hurt the legs, especially as it’s going to be a long day. Indeed this particular day will be the longest leg in the history of the MDS. And if that wasn’t enough, a climb of nearly a kilometer up a djebel awaits. At the summit runners will have 360° panoramic views. As for the descent, well it’s steep! After that, runners then traverse dunes, dried-up lakes and more dunes!

Stage 5 – Friday 10 April

Today’s route has a mixture of terrain that are hallmarks of the MDS, it’s a classic day!

Stage 6 -Saturday 11 April – SOLIDARITY UNICEF legs

For the majority of the participants, this leg is
a time for reflecting on the experience of this fine human adventure and is a united show of awareness before returning to civilization.

RUNNERS TO WATCH

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Antoine Guillon was second three times, third once and fourth three times in the Diagonale des Fous in addition, he is always well placed in the UTMB. Offered a place by the UTWT, Antoine will try his luck in the 30th MDS for the first time. Antoine just placed 3rd at Transgrancanaria, so his form is good. Can he recover in time?

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Christophe Le Saux never seazes to amaze me with his relentless racing calendar, he was 10th in 2014, 9th in 2013, 6th in 2012.

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Carlos Sà is a regular at MDS and has a wealth of talent and experience to excel. He was 4th last year’s, 7th in 2013. 4th in 2012 and 8th in 2011.

Dave Mackey has been one of the top American ultra runners for many years and he has excelled at the 100-km distance. His participation at MDS marks a new departure for him and it will be interesting to see how he handles racing over multiple days.

Javier Teixido Marti-Ventosa is the 2014 winner of the Andorra Ultra-Trail Ultra-Mitic (112km).

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Danny Kendall gets a nod from a UK perspective. He placed 5th last year and we can only hope that he moves up the rankings with a podium place. He knows the race, he knows the conditions and he understands survival in the Sahara; he just needs to bring it all together once again.

All six will be attempting to topple the Moroccan and Jordanian supremacy by keeping a close eye on the following:

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Mohamad Ahansal like his brother, Lahcen needs no introduction. He has 15 participations in the MDS, which includes 5 victories. He has been 2nd no less than 9 times and 3rd in 2014.

Abdelkader El Mouaziz placed 7th in 2014 on his first participation, he will be looking to improve in 2015.

Samir Akhdar has had several participations at MDS placing 6th in 2011 and 7th in 2009. 
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Salameh Al Aqra is always smiling and a great presence in the race, he was 1st in 2012, 2nd in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2014 and placed 3rd in 2009 and 2011.

In the female contingent:

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Laurence Klein targets her 4th victory after making the podium in 2014 and 2013.

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Meghan Hicks champion in 2013, missed 2014 through injury and will be setting her sights on a 2nd win.

Liza Howard is the holder of a number of 100-mile race records and American champion over 100km and 50 miles in 2011, should have what it takes to treat the United States to a third crown in a row after Nikki Kimball and Meghan Hicks.

INSPIRING STORIES:

Moroccan Lahcen Ahansal, ten-time winner of the
MDS between 1997 and 2007 is
making a comeback this year after six years
absence. “I wanted to hook back up with this race through
a goal that isn’t purely competitive, but also human”, admits
the athlete who has agreed to act as a guide to the partially
sighted German runner, Harald Lange. “After pulling off the
challenge of securing 10 victories, I now want to rack up 20
participations. And why not be around for the 40th and 50th
editions too?” It should be said that Lahcen has not forgotten
his encounter with this legendary race, which has transformed his life. “I looked on with curiosity and amazement as the 23 athletes took the start of the first edition in 1986. From then on, I constantly dreamt that I, a nomadic child, would participate in this race. It has spurred on my life and created in me such a strong desire for sporting and human emancipation that I moved mountains to make my dream a reality some seven years later. It’s thanks to this race that I’ve become the man I am today.” Also of note, is the fact that another blind runner will participate in this edition as Didier Benguigui is returning with his guide, Gilles Clain, to celebrate his 11th edition.

The “4 Dinosaurs MDS” team comprises two French runners, Christian Ginter and François Cresci, one Moroccan, Karim Mosta and one Italian, Paolo Zubani, none of whom wanted to miss the 30th anniversary of the SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES. Between them, these four passionate runners already boast a total of 105 participations, which amounts to 27 out of 29 editions for the restaurant owner-chef Christian Ginter and 26 for the other three. “The idea of creating a team of veterans came about in the tent last year”, beams Karim Mosta, the cheerful leader of this group of friends, who wouldn’t miss this key stage

The famous British explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, is embarking on a new adventure at 71 years of age. After earning the title of first man to reach the North and South Poles via land, the first person to traverse the Antarctic entirely on foot and the oldest Briton to climb Everest at 65 years of age, he now wants to become the oldest Briton to etch his name on the list of SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES 2015’ medalists.

At 83 years of age, Joseph Le Louarn will be the most senior participant in this 30th edition. “I said that I’d stop in 2012, at 80, but with the energy drummed up by this anniversary, I couldn’t resist,” smiles the runner who has always loved ‘ambitious projects’. Indeed some three years ago he was quoted as saying “Card games and meals for retired people aren’t for me. I need to move; I need goals. I want to stay fit for as long as possible.”

A native of Luxembourg, Simone Kayser Diederich, 3-time champion of the MARATHON DES SABLES (2002, 2004 and 2005), will take the start of this 30th edition to celebrate her 60th birthday and her 14th participation. It’s a similar scenario for Moroccan Nadia Dadoun, 56, who will celebrate her 16th participation in this SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES 2015, which is a record number of entries among the event’s female contingent.

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CRAZY STATS:

  • 150 volunteers to supervise the race,
  • 450 general support staff,
  • 120,000 liters of bottled mineral water,
  • 300 Berber and Saharan tents,
  • 120 all-terrain vehicles and trucks,
  • 2 Squirrel helicopters and 1 Cessna plane,
  • 8 Transavia ‘MDS special’ commercial planes,
  • 30 buses,
  • 4 dromedaries,
  • 1 incinerator lorry for burning waste,
  • 5 quad bikes to monitor race environment and safety,
  • 72 medical staff,
  • 2.3kms of Elastoplast,
  • 12,200 compresses,
  • 6,000 painkillers,
  • 150 liters of disinfectant,
  • 1 editing bus,
  • 5 cameras,
  • 1 satellite image station,
  • 10 satellite telephones,
  • 30 computers, fax and internet,
  • 18,000 competitors since 1986
  • 30% returning competitors, 70% international, 30% French, 
17% women, 45% veterans, 
30% in teams, 
10% walkers, 
90% alternate walking and running,
  • 14 km/hr.: average maximum speed, 3 km/hr.: average minimum speed,
  • 15 years of age for the youngest competitor and the oldest, 83!

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QUOTES

  • “The MARATHON DES SABLES is the United Nations. The runners come from all over the world, share the same emotions and help one another. All the boundaries are erased. We should take inspiration from it.” - Kirk McCall (United States)
  • “This event isn’t just a sporting activity. It’s a mental and philosophical process. In the desert, nature puts us back in our place at the heart of this environment. The MARATHON DES SABLES opens up new perspectives to us. People often think we’re crazy, but maybe they’re the crazy ones!” – Fernando Jose Castro Cabral (Brazil)
  • “The MARATHON DES SABLES represents Mecca. I come here for an annual pilgrimage. It purifies me.” – Amine Kabbaj (Morocco)
  • “Running in the desert purges me and enables me to empty my mind. I want to discover the desert by experiencing it from the inside. Each day, I recite a poem along the course. To think about poetry whilst running is a fantastic mental luxury. To run and be elsewhere through your thoughts… The sobriety of the desert is a source of inspiration.” - Duc Le Quang (Vietnam)
  • “In the MARATHON DES SABLES, you learn to rediscover and appreciate the simple pleasures. On top of that there is this solidarity between the runners. You run and you come across someone from Colombia, Portugal or China. You don’t know them but you share a moment with them. These encounters are worth all the money in the world.” – Nicolas Esterhazy (Belgium)

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Twenty-Nine years of victories.

Here is a who’s who of those 29-years.

1986 – Michel GALLIEZ (FRANCE) – Christiane PLUMERE (FRANCE)

1987 – Bernard GAUDIN (FRANCE) – Marie-Ange MALCUIT (FRANCE)

1988 – Bernard GAUDIN (FRANCE) – Marie-Ange MALCUIT (FRANCE)

1989 – Hassan SEBTAOUI (FRANCE) – Marie-Claude BATTISTELLI (FRANCE)

1990 – Hassan SEBTAOUI (FRANCE) – Claire GARNIER (FRANCE)

1991 – Hassan SEBTAOUI (FRANCE) – Monique FRUSSOTE (FRANCE)

1992 – Mohamed BENSALAH (MOROCCO) – Monique FRUSSOTE (FRANCE)

1993 – Mohamed BENSALAH (MOROCCO) – Irina PETROVNA (RUSSIA)

1994 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Valentina LIAKHOVA (RUSSIA)

1995 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Béatrice REYMANN (FRANCE)

1996 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Anke MOLKENTHIN (GERMANY)

1997 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Rosanna PELLIZZARI (ITALY)

1998 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Rosanna PELLIZZARI (ITALY)

1999 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Lisa SMITH (USA)

2000 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Pascale MARTIN (FRANCE)

2001 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Franca FIACCONI (ITALY)

2002 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUXEMBOURG)

2003 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Magali JUVENAL (FRANCE)

2004 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUXEMBOURG)

2005 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUX)

2006 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Géraldine COURDESSE (FRANCE)

2007 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)

2008 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Touda DIDI (MOROCCO)

2009 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Touda DIDI (MOROCCO)

2010 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Monica AGUILERA (SPAIN)

2011 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)

2012 – Salameh AL AQRA (JORDAN) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)

2013 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Meghan HICKS (USA)

2014 – Rachid ELMORABITY (MOROCCO) – Nikki KIMBALL (USA)

 

RACE SCHEDULE 2015

 

  • 3 April 2015 – Leave country of residence/Morocco – Arrival in Ouarzazate, bus transfer to 1st bivouac
  • 4 April 2015 – Administrative, technical and medical checks – Day to acclimatize 
  • From 5 to 10 April 2015 – Race in progress (The self-sufficiency begins from breakfast on the 1st leg)
  • 11 April 2015 – Solidarity UNICEF leg – (end of dietary self-sufficiency) – Transfer to Ouarzazate
  • 12 April 2015  – Day of relaxation
  • 13 April 2015 – Return to country of residence

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Marathon des Sables – A history in brief

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1984: At 28 years of age, Patrick Bauer decided to make for the Sahara to try to traverse a 350km expanse of uninhabited desert, on foot, alone, where he wouldn’t come into contact with a single village, oasis or watering place. Totally self-sufficient, with a rucksack weighing 35kg and containing water and food, he set off on a journey that was to last 12 days. It was the starting point of what was to become the MARATHON DES SABLES.

1986: The creation of the first MDS in the Moroccan Sahara. The 23 pioneers who took the start never imagined that their footprints would mark the start of a legendary event, which has today become a must among the major adventure sport meets. The creation of a non-mechanical competition in the Moroccan sands offers adventure runners a wealth of new prospects.

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1987: Creation of the MDS logo: the face of a runner covered by a keffiyeh, the eyes protected by a pair of sunglasses and the pipette from the runner’s water container clenched between the teeth.

1989: 170 competitors take the start of the race.

1991: The gulf drama puts the MDS at a disadvantage and the financial partners withdraw. Fortunately some runners answer the call. For these competitors, the true victory lies in meeting athletes from different backgrounds and their communion in the desert around the same goal. Sport proves once again that it can bring people together and create bonds.

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1992: One and the same regulation for everyone. This year sees the establishing of unexpected draconian tests, to ensure that each participant properly transports all his or her gear from one end of the course to the other. A 30-point charter is drawn up.

First participation by the Moroccan Lahcen Ahansal

1994: Arrival of the Doc Trotters at the event.

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1995: 10th anniversary. Since the start, over 1,500 men and women have left their footprint and their passion in the desert. Installation of water-pump for the inhabitants of the village of Ighef n’rifi (South of Er-Rachidia) – an idea by competitor Gilles Flamant and backed by Rolland Barthes and Patrick Bauer. Its success is to be repeated again and again

1996: First participation by Mohamed, a younger sibling of Ahansal. The two Moroccan brothers set off together and rank 4th and 5th respectively.

1997: This year heralds the start of the Ahansal saga. Morocco is honored with Lahcen’s first victory. He beats his two pursuers by nearly 30 minutes, despite them being international long-distance running champions.

1999: A mobile hospital on the MDS comes into being. There are around thirty practitioners on the ground, with doctors and nurses joining the caravan. A dedicated helicopter and ten all-terrain vehicles track the competitors each day. On- board these vehicles there are doctors of course, as well as high-tech equipment. The village boasts a genuine field hospital.

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2000: Internet puts in an appearance in the large MDS village. The organization decides to broadcast the texts and photos of the race live, day after day. The competitors can communicate with their nearest and dearest and receive messages of encouragement.

2001: For the first time the long leg, traditionally called “The 70”, exceeds the 80km barrier to reach 82km. The threshold of 240km is also surpassed since the 16th MARATHON DES SABLES spans 243km. Another first relates to the fact that there are no Moroccans on the podium this year.

2002: This edition is punctuated by a sandstorm, involving headwinds, which lasts the entire week. The doctors invent a machine for ‘low pressure cleansing’ to rinse out the runners’ eyes. Despite the difficult conditions, there are few retirements to report as the wind considerably reduces the temperature.

2005: The Luxembourg runner Simone Kayser is the first woman to win 3 MARATHON DES SABLES. For this 20th edition, the total number of runners exceeds 700 for the first time, with no fewer than 777 runners taking the start.

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2006: A drying wind and very high humidity levels cause damage to the runners’ bodies. Despite additional allocations of water, a whole series of retirements ensues. There are a total of 146 retirements ultimately, which equates to double that of the previous record… Race management decides to shorten the long leg by over 10km given how tired the runners seem.

2008: The Solidarité MDS association is created. The aim: to develop projects to assist children and disadvantaged populations in the domains of health, education and sustainable development in Morocco. 

2009: MDS is disrupted by flooding and the 1st and 6th stages are not able to take place. To avoid the flood zones, the organization is obliged to improvise new legs on a day-to-day basis. In this way, the edition goes down in legend for its 3rd leg, which is the longest ever contested: 92km of sand, loose stones and rocks… The leg even sees the retirement of Lahcen Ahansal… At the prize giving the 2 winners admit to having competed in their hardest MDS. However, it was also the shortest: 202km.

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2010: For its 25th edition, the number of participations reaches a record high of 1,013 participants. It is to be the longest MARATHON DES SABLES. It spans 250 kilometers with a course considered by former entrants to be the most difficult ever organized.

2012: A dramatic turn of events on the longest leg as the then leader in the overall standing, Rachid El Morabity (MAR) injures himself one kilometer from the finish. Medical examinations reveal a serious muscular lesion in the quadriceps. After over five years on the 2nd or 3rd step of the podium, Jordanian Salameh Al Aqra secures the title.

2013: 1,027 competitors on the start line make this a new participation record. New feature: a final “Charity” stage sponsored by UNICEF and traversing the Merzouga dunes round off the race. Sportswise, Mohamad Ahansal and Megan Hicks are the champions of the 231.5km event. On a human level, all of the finishers pull off their crazy bet.

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2014: 2011 winner, Moroccan Rachid El Morabity (MAR) wins the overall ranking and takes Mohamad Ahansal’s crown. In the women’s category, another American stamps her mark, Nikki Kimball. The French revelation is one Michaël Gras, 22 years of age, 8th overall and top Frenchman. A major athletics star, Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj lines up to take the start of Saturday’s Unicef Charity leg.

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FOLLOW THE 2015, 30th EDITION on this WEBSITE in words and images.

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Sir Ranulph Fiennes to run the 2015 Marathon des Sables – Interview

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Ranulph Fiennes (March 7th 1944)

 Sir Ranulph Fiennes has been called, ‘The World’s Greatest Living Explorer.’ It’s a difficult statement to argue. Sir Ranulph’s list of achievements is quite incredible. 

Born in ‘44’ he was educated at Eton, served in the Royal Scots Greys for eight years and progressed to the Special Air Service (SAS) where he specialized in demolitions. In 68’ he joined the Army of the Sultan of Oman where he was decorated for bravery after leading several raids deep into rebel territory.

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Sir Ranulph married his first wife, Virginia (Ginny) in 1970 and between them they lead expeditions all over the world. Ginny was awarded the Polar Medal in ’87.’ Sir Ranulph has raised incredible sums of money for Marie Curie Cancer Charity as his wife, mother and sister all died from the disease within 18 months of each other (2004.)

Currently, Sir Ranulph is the only person alive to have to have travelled around the Earth’s circumpolar surface. Continually a pioneer, Sir Ranulph is ever present at pushing boundaries.

The first explorer to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported, Sir Ranulph has come a long way since leading a British Expedition on the White Nile in ’69.’

Ran, as he likes to be known, may perhaps be best known after travelling to the North Pole unaided. Dr Mike Stroud has figured heavily in Ran’s career and amongst many expeditions, two stand out! A 97-day trek across Antarctica in ‘93’ and running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents (2003.) The latter was undertaken just four months after a triple heart bypass.

In 2000, Ran attempted to walk solo to the North Pole but his sled fell through thin ice. Exposure to the ice-cold water resulted in severe frostbite and some months later, the famous ‘finger’ incident.

Having been to both Poles and participated in over 30 major expeditions, Ran summited the Eiger in 2007 and at the age of 65 (2009) he pushed the boundaries once more to be the oldest Briton ever to climb Everest after two failed attempts in 2005 (he had a heart attack) and in 2008 when he ‘went a little too quickly’ and exhaustion foiled his attempt.

After 5 years of planning, in 2012, Sir Ranulph set off on his latest expedition, ‘The Coldest Journey’ leading the first team on foot, across Antarctica during the southern winter. The expedition was brought to a sudden halt for Ran when in training he removed a glove to attend to a ski binding. Ran was evacuated for frostbite and treatment but the expedition continued without him.

In 2015, Ran will attempt the 2015 Marathon des Sables.

*****

Ranulph Fiennes Interview undertaken by Niandi Carmont at ‘The Druid Challenge’ 2-day race in November 2014. An event both Niandi and Sir Ranulph were using as preparation for Marathon des Sables in 2015.

NC: Welcome Sir Ranulph

RF: Many thanks for the invite and showing an interest.

NC: You hold multiple records, I am a little overwhelmed. You were in the army for many years, did that ignite a passion for adventure?

RF: Well when I was in Germany it was the Cold War. We had 60 70-ton tanks facing the German border waiting for the Soviets to attack… but they never did attack. So the soldiers got bored. So, we were made to run, canoe or whatever it may be. I was told I would be the running officer. I wasn’t asked, I was told! I became an expert in a week. I started to train 600 soldiers. We got to be 5th best regiment out of about 80 regiments after 4-years. All the races were 6miles though.

NC: Wow an interesting beginning and somewhat unique. What was it like to be the first person to visit both poles?

RF: Well, it was my late wife Ginny (married 38-years) who motivated me. Before we married we had done various hot expeditions in the Sahara, the Nile and Arabia. In the 70’s the British press were no longer interested in media for hot expeditions. So, no sponsorship equals no expeditions. Ginny decided we should go to cold environments. We looked at a globe and we decided that nobody had gone vertically between the poles. There was only one route!

NC: How long did this take?

RF: It took 7 years to get sponsorship. We had 1900 sponsors and raised 29 million pounds. This was in the 70’s! Nobody paid us to get sponsors so we had to work at weekends in pubs to make a living. Eventually Jennies dream was ready to go… we had a team of 52-people who had given up everything. Engineers and so on… we got a 40-year old Norwegian vessel and set off from Greenwich and arrived back 2.5 years later. We were the first to go around the earth surface vertically around the world ever and nobody else has repeated this. More people have been on the moon! So in all, 10 years!

NC: Amazing that the record still stands. So remarkable! You were the first person to cross Antarctica on foot?

RF: That was the Antarctic Continent? Antarctica changes all the time… I did coastline to coastline: Atlantic to Pacific. We completed the first crossing in ‘79’ but we used skidoos, nonetheless the first crossing side-to-side. But when we crossed the Continent that was 20-years later and that was unsupported. So, what we carried on day-1 was enough for 2000 miles without resupply. That was somewhat problematic but we did do it and we were in a bad way at the end!

NC: Problematic?

RF: We ran out of food! I started at 15.5 stone, at halfway I was 9-stone despite eating 5000 calories a day. So we had a daily deficiency of 3500 calories per day. So, we were officially starving. Mike Stroud thought this was fascinating… he is Europe’s top physiologist studying in starvation and muscle cannibalisation, so he was able to study this first hand. It had only been possible to study something like this previously at Auschwitz!

NC: You had frostbite. Many have heard the stories about you cutting your fingers off. Are they true?

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RF: I got frostbite on a solo expedition to the Arctic Ocean. If I had had a doctor with me he would have pulled me out and got the tent out with a cooker on and avoided the frostbite. As it was, because I was alone by the time I had got out of the water… the damage was done. I was too cold too pitch a tent, start a cooker and so on. It was -48. Think about it, it was pitch black on a semi frozen sea, so I went back to the start to find land again and sent a radio message. An amazing Canadian ski pilot landed in the dark on the edge of the coast and he saved me. I was taken to hospital. I had special pressure treatment for 60-hours to lengthen the living part of the fingers on one hand. They cut off about 2-inches of the five fingers on one hand. The other hand recovered. My insurers refused to pay unless the operation was in the UK. I tried to find someone in the UK who knew something about frostbite. Navy divers are susceptible to the bends and apparently they can lose fingers. Apparently they don’t amputate until after 5-months to allow for some recovery. Five months is a long time. Every time you touch something with mummified fingers it hurts… after 2 months my wife and I decided to cut them off. We went to the garden shed. We got a Black & Decker workbench and micro saw. It took 2 days and lots of tea. Apparently a physio in Bristol said I did a great job but my surgeon was less pleased.

NC: Did it take courage and did it hurt?

RF: No, if it hurt or started to bleed I just moved further away and just made sure the bit I was cutting off was dead. It doesn’t hurt!

NC: In 2009 you summited Everest at the age of 65-years; what impact did age have on you if any?

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RF: This was my 3rd Everest attempt. My 1st attempt had been somewhat risky from the Tibet side and I had a heart attack on the last night after 2-months of acclimatizing. Bad timing eh but I survived! I said I would never go back… but I was told that was a rubbish idea and that I should go from the other side.

So my 2nd attempt was from the Nepal side; which is easier. But we still failed as we passed a load of bodies including the father of my Sherpa. We passed a Swiss climber too who had summited without Oxygen but died on the way down with hypoxia.

In 2009 it was easy… I guess I understand why I had failed the first and second times. I had been trying to catch up with my British guide the second time. Competitiveness can be a bad thing. When you have had a heart attack you must obey your surgeons advice and not exceed 130bpm. So, in 2009 I took it easy and it all came together.

NC: You are obviously endurant and resilient?

RF: When I was in my 50’s I enjoyed running a great deal and I had success. In my 60’s running was no longer an option… I was jogging until about 69-years of age and that was okay, not that I ever went in for races in that decade. Jogging became shuffling and that is very annoying! Avoid geriatric status at all costs.

NC: I agree 100%. You have a great collaboration with Mike Stroud – 26-years?

RF: Mike comes up with all the ideas. For the last 5-years we have been working on an idea that involved Antarctica. Mike unfortunately had a hip problem. In the last couple of years his other hip went, it wasn’t as easy as the first one so Mike took on all the scientific side. In many ways this is more difficult and that is what he is in charge of now. We are still doing things. There was a time when Mike and I didn’t do expeditions; this was after the Antarctic crossing. We did running races. Mike led an Eco-Challenge team, which must have been one of the first in British Columbia in the Whistler Mountains. That was very enjoyable… it was a team of five and it included Rebecca Stephens the first the British lady to summit Everest, his Father who was over 70-years, the editor of Runners World and an SAS man, David Smith. Mike put the team together and introduced all of us back to running in 1995. We have also done many events as a pair such as the 7-marathons on 7-continents.

NC: He is also a friend, It’s more than running surely?

RF: You don’t choose people for expeditions because they are friends. We chose Mike Stroud in the very beginning because I was already in the Arctic. The man I was with was recalled to London and I was left with nobody. I rang my wife in England and said, ‘I need someone in 3-days who is completely ‘polar’ trained.’ Dr Mike Stroud had been a reserve on another expedition and had only just returned from Antarctica after 1-year away. Somehow he pulled it off… he managed to come away on a 3-day turnaround.

NC: You obviously relied on your wife a great deal.

RF: Absolutely! Since my wife has passed away, Mike has taken on the ‘idea’ role.

NC: Can we discuss the 7-marathons in 7-days on 7-continents?

RF: Mikes’ idea again! The New York marathon club considered themselves the best marathon club in the world. The only non New Yorker as part of this group was Dr Mike Stroud. They swore him to silence that they thought it may be possible to run 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days. Mike kept his word and 2-years later, Mike approached American Airlines and they said they couldn’t schedule the flights. (You need jumbo jets and 5-hours in each continent.) Delta said they couldn’t do it. United said they couldn’t do it and now 6-years had passed. It was 2003 and Mike had still kept the secret. I called Mike in 2003 about another expedition. He said great, I’ll ask the boss. They told him he could only have 1-week’s holiday as he taken so much time already. Mike phoned me and said, I can’t do your expedition but I want you to do mine! So, Mike asked me to contact British Airways and within 2-months they phoned back and said they had cracked it! They said we had to finish with New York and not Asia. Asia would need to be in the middle. Also, if we were a minute late ever they would fly without us. They wouldn’t keep passengers waiting. So, they provided 2 free first class beds and food (this was our only opportunity to rest) and yes, it was all systems go! It all went well to Argentina. We were suppose to be running on King George Island (Shetland), the night before we were due to run the ‘Argies’ blocked the landing on King George with their own planes. So we had a team meeting, Mike and myself, BBC news, a reporter from The Times and a photographer: 6-people in total. When we suddenly arrived the whole thing had been cocked up, the BBC bloke said, “I’ve got a very good friend in Santiago, I will ring him now and get him here and he will fly us to one of the other Antarctic Islands.” So we had to run one of the South American marathons locally. That night we ran a marathon and we had officials to make sure we ran an official marathon in 3:45, which was extremely stupid. The next morning we get on this plane without a worry of which island we would go to. Apparently the only island to run on would be the Falklands. You may know, but you are not supposed to fly from Argentina to the Falklands without 6-months notice. So we slept on the plane. Mike woke me up and we looked out of the plane window. We had two Tornado jets on either side of us… they made us do a force landing on a military airstrip on the Falklands. We were marched to the CO who was furious. He told us we had no permission and that we could all face prison. At this point, one of the reporters went forward and said, “Did they realise that the news and the papers would make this not look good for the army!” There was a fairly quick turnaround…

“You can run your 26. something miles locally and we will watch them every step of the way,” The CO said.

They never saw us off. Funny really.

NC: This seems extremely stressful. Running, logistics, last min changes and so on.

RF: The BBC and The Times did all that for us.

NC: Yes, but it must have been stressful.

RF: The 7x7x7 challenge was sponsored by Land Rover and they did everything for us. It was incredible. They did all the work for us and they had cars waiting for us at anytime. Land Rover and British Airways made this all possible. They had the contacts.

NC: Before the 7-challenge you had a heart attack and a double bypass. It’s amazing that you would undertake this.

RF: I was on a drip for 3-days and nights, they decided to cut me open and do a double bypass. They just decided to do this! It took 13 attempts to revive me after they sewed me up. When I woke up my late wife said, “Ran you had a heart attack 3-days ago” but I still can’t remember anything!

NC: You aborted your most recent expedition, is that the end of cold journeys for you now?

RF: We aborted the crossing but we kept the team (all 5 of them) not Mike and not me through frostbite, but we kept all the team for 8-months at 11,000 feet above sea level doing scientific work on each other. It has delighted the Royal Society and all the scientists, we raised 2.3 million dollars for blindness in Bangladesh and I went with Joanna Lumley to Bangladesh to see what they were doing with the money. For £19 they could remove cataracts from babies. Quite remarkable! For £9 they could provide spectacles to children. This means they can go to school and have opportunities in the future. We really need charity PR people to get behind us, the more money we make, the more people we can benefit.

NC: What does the future hold for you?

RF: Well, I am not allowed to talk about this until I get the nod, but I will be going to Marathon des Sables in 2015. And I am also writing another book. One book actually came out last week.

Marie Curie Logo

Get involved and support Sir Ranulph! Text RUN and a message of support to 70007 to donate £5, or you can visit his Just Giving page here:http://bit.ly/1xUB298

Find out more about Sir Ranulph and his Marathon des Sables challenge:http://bit.ly/1wvffi8

NC: Can you tell me about Agincourt, your most recent book?

Agincourt

 

Book on Amazon HERE

RF: A historian would normally write a book like Agincourt… but it turns out that I am related to Robert Fiennes from the village of Fiennes in the Pas de Calais.

NC: What an amazing story?

Niandi speaks French to Sir Ranulph and he is taken aback. He also speaks French and they enter into a short dialogue. 

Sir Ranulph comments that he could hear an accent in Niandi’s voice but not French! Niandi explains that she is South African born…

NC: So you lived in South Africa?

RF: Yes, my relatives live in South Africa. I spent the first 12-years of my life in SA.

Anyway, we digress. I decided to go to Fiennes and find my French cousins. They were wiped out at the battle of Agencourt and I found out how. One of them was part of an 18-strong commando group with the specific aim of killing King Henry V in the battle. One of them, maybe not Robert Fiennes, got to knocking the crown of his head… Two of King Henry V’s generals, one was a sheriff of Kent in Sussex. He was corrupt man; so corrupt that Henry V1 made him into the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When soldiers came back from France, 20,000 of them attacked London. The King gave the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the mob and they killed him… nasty business!

NC: I guess we are going to have to read the book. Sounds like a fascinating story. Looking at modern day adventurers, what are your thoughts on Uli Steck and Kilian Jornet?

RF: Uli is amazing, incredible… I do not understand how you can go up the Eiger in 2-hours or something ridiculous like that. He is unbelievably amazing. Both of them are just incredible.

NC: And what about your new book, what is it called?

RF: My new book will be called HEAT. Nice contrast to my other book, COLD.

“Physically I’m going to be a wreck pretty quickly.” But these challenges are fought in the mind, he says. “There’ll be a voice in my head saying I’ll have a heart attack, I’ll get hyperthermia, I’ve got a family, it’s stupid to carry on. That sort of wimpish voice tries to appear logical, finding reasons for stopping. You have to fight it. I’ve had it so many times.”

-BBC News, Tom de Castella

 

Cold

On Amazon HERE

Sir Ranulph Fiennes will participate at the 2015 Marathon des Sables. An announcememt will be made on January 8th. We hope to have follow up interviews with Sir Ranulph to help document this exciting journey.

*****

AWARDS

In 1970, Fiennes received the Sultan’s Bravery Medal.

He has also been awarded a number of honorary doctorates, in 1986, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2011

Fiennes received the Royal Geographical Society’s Founder’s Medal.

Fiennes was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1993 for “human endeavour and for charitable services”

In 1986 Fiennes was awarded the Polar Medal for “outstanding service to British Polar exploration and research.”

In 1994 he was awarded a second clasp to the Polar Medal, having visited both poles.

In 2010 Justgiving named Fiennes as the UK’s top celebrity fundraiser, after raising more than £2.5 million for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

In September 2011 Fiennes was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Science from Plymouth University and

In July 2012 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Glamorgan.

In October 2014 it was announced that Fiennes would receive an honorary Doctorate of Science, from the University of Chester, in recognition of “outstanding and inspirational contribution to the field of exploration”. 

*****

Links and credits:

‘I am not a madman’

http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/oct/05/features11.g21

Fiennes climbs to Everest summit

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8060649.stm

Ranulph Fiennes pulls out of Antarctic journey

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/02/25/ranulph-fiennes-antarctic-journey/1946571/?AID=10709313&PID=6156889&SID=w7wk81lnnmpn

The world’s greatest living explorer

http://www.militaryspeakers.co.uk/speakers/sir-ranulph-fiennes.aspx

Interview with TIME

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1900969,00.html?imw=Y

Ranulph Fiennes – Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranulph_Fiennes

Who, What, Why: Is it harder to run in the Sahara Desert or the North Pole?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-30716727

100km del Sahara, April 2014

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An adventure, an experience, a stepping stone to something else… the 100km Sahara is multi-day race that will introduce you to a whole new world. Join the journey in April, 2014. 

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Irrespective of your experience, the 100km of the Sahara will provide every participant a definitive sporting accomplishment. For some it may well provide the ultimate challenge, while for others, it may become a launching pad for continued participation in highly demanding extreme running races. The spirit of the race combines many elements; travel, adventure, excitement and ultimately a challenge.
 Pursue your dreams, pursue your passions and let the 100km of the Sahara provide you with a gateway to a new world.

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An annual race taking place over multiple days, participants test themselves against the challenge of running against the desert, while accepting the minimal assistance that is needed. The Sahara is fascinating, however it is one of the least suitable environments for running. If it was easy, anyone would do it… take yourself to a new level, add a new stimulus to your running. The Sahara will not only test your physical parameters but your capacity to control your mind.

Achieve your finish line!

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DETAILS:

The “100 km of Sahara” maintains a departure from the oasis of Ksar Ghilane, in the great Eastern Erg for the 2014, 16th edition of the race. The arrival; the mythical oasis of Douz will be achieved after travelling 100 km’s in 4-stages with 3-nights undertaken in a tented camp.

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The race itinerary is 7 days 6 nights. This competition is designed to bring out the spirit of challenge for those who create their own adventure. The race will have all the necessary ingredients of the extreme, but provides a race structure and format that is accessible to all. It’s a tough race but a race that is possible for all levels of ability!

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The 100 km of Sahara is a qualifying race for the UTMB Race and will count for 2 points.

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Capacity, 150-people.

  • Program flight included € 1.840 Milan or Rome
  • Program without flight € 1.640 
  • Single supplement (3 nights in hotel) € 100

The participation fee includes:

  • Flight to and from Djerba from Italy (only in the program with flight),
  • Transfers by bus and by 4×4 cars,
  • Full board for the whole week,
  • 3 nights in hotel and 3 nights in tents (6 people each),
  • Medical assistance during the race,
  • Tourist assistance,
  • Insurance.

During the race, a catering service provides food for all participants. All produce comes from Italy with the exception of fresh fruits and vegetables; they will be sourced locally in Tunisia. The menu will be balanced and based around runner’s needs and requirements.

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  • Breakfast: 
Coffee, tea, milk, cookies, cakes, fresh bread, jam, honey, muesli, cereals, eggs, cooked ham, cheese, fruits
  • Light lunch: 
Pasta or rice, hot or cold dish of meet, hot or cold side dish, salami and cold pork meat, Parmesan cheese, tuna, tomato salad, fruits
  • Dinner: 
Appetizers, pasta, rice, vegetable soup and broth, hot dishes of meet, hot or cold side dishes, tomato salad, Parmesan cheese, fruits, dessert, wine on the table.

What is not included?

  • Drinks and beverages at the hotel and in the oasis of Ksar Ghilane.
  • Airport tax.

WALKERS

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Max number of participants: 20

A new addition to the race is a walking category. Just 20-places are available, allowing an opportunity to explore the emotions and landscape of the Sahara in a more relaxed way. A special program has been arranged and will be independent of the running race but will run in parallel.

Walkers will be accompanied with a guide, dromedaries and 4×4 vehicles. Dromedaries will carry small personal luggage and the vehicles will provide security and reassurance for all walkers.

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The treatment for walkers will be the same as for the runners; night accommodation will be nomadic tents with personal sleeping bags; breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided in the camp with the entire group of participants.

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ITINERARY

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

  • Flight Milan or Rome-Djerba
  • Transfer to the Hotel ****, dinner and overnight in hotel
  • It will be possible to leave the extra baggage in the hotel; it’s MANDATORY for all the participants to put everything you need in just one bag. Exceptions will not be allowed.

Monday, April 28th, 2014

  • Wake up at 7.30 am, breakfast in the Hotel and transfer to Ksar Ghilane by bus for the opening ceremony
  • Arrival in the oasis, accommodation in the tent camp equipped with common
  • Rest rooms and showers
  • Lunch at the camp with local food specialties
  • 3.00 pm opening of the shop “merchandising 100 km del Sahara”
  • 5.00 pm designation of race bib numbers and assignment of tent
  • groups.
  • 6 people per tent
  • Dinner made by the Zitoway staff and overnight stay in the tent of the oasis

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 – 2nd and 3rd stage 26km + 9km (night stage)

  • 7.00 am breakfast and baggage delivery
  • 7.30 am start of walkers
  • 8.30 am start of the 2nd leg
  • Arrival at the camp, open lunch, relax in the afternoon
  • 7.00 pm dinner at the camp
  • 9.00 pm start of the night leg
  • Overnight at the camp

Thursday, May 1, 2014 – 4th stage marathon 42km

  • 6.00 am breakfast and baggage delivery
  • 6.30 am start of walkers
  • 7.00 am start of the 1st group
  • 8.00 am start of the 2nd group
  • 9.00 am start of the 3rd group
  • Arrival at the Hotel****Sahara Douz, end of the race
  • Lunch by the hotel restaurant
  • Relax in the afternoon

Friday, May 2, 2014

  • Wake up and breakfast
  • Transfer to Djerba, lunch at the hotel
  • Afternoon in relax by the pool
  • 8.00 pm dinner in the hotel and slide show of the race/li>
  • Overnight in hotel

Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • Wake up and breakfast
  • Transfer to the Airport of Djerba, on the way free lunch
  • After lunch transfer in airport for the flight back
THE FOLLOWING PROGRAM MAY CHANGE AND IS SUBJECT TO FINAL CONFIRMATION

PRACTICALITIES:

BAGGAGE

The backpack will be the only hand luggage on the plane, which should contain just what is necessary for the race – running shoes, shorts, t-shirt, and survival kitWe have already had an incident where someone’s personal luggage was in delay and they were at risk for not being able to participate in the race. If you have the necessary items in your backpack, you can run with no problem until your baggage arrives.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS

  • I.D. is required to go in Tunisia for Italian people.
  • A valid passport is required and no vaccinations are needed at this time. It’s always recommended to check with your Embassy for any travel advisories.
  • A medical certificate issued by a sports medical center facility with a test of physical efforts confirming that the athlete is physically fit for this race is absolutely MANDATORY. Without this certificate, you will not be allowed to participate.
  • No certificate is required for walkers.

RACE CLOTHES

  • Shoes should be suitable for off road running, and should be a little oversized to allow for sore and swollen feet.
  • It is advisable to use gaiters for the sand, but make sure they are good quality and don’t impede performance.
  • If you tend to burn easily in the sun, it is not advisable to wear a singlet or tank top during the race.
  • T-shirts should be made of a suitable anti-sweat material like dryfit, etc.
  • It’s strongly recommended  to bring a Saharan scarf, called a “cechès”, that can be useful to protect nose and mouth in case of wind or sand storm as well as motorcycle glasses.

RACE BACKPACK

For safety reasons it is MANDATORY that participants have a race backpack that contains the following items:

  • A minimum of 1-litre of water (inside the backpack or in flasks around the waist), salt tablets, survival blanket, whistle, lighter and chemical light .
  • A hat, sunglasses, protective sun lotion, a small knife and some Compeed plasters are also recommended.
  • The mandatory equipment may be verified at any moment and if an item is missing a penalty will be immediately applied per regulations.
  • The survival kit can be purchased from the Organisation.

MEDICAL CERTIFICATE

  • A medical certificate issued by a sports medical center facility with a test on physical efforts confirming that the athlete is physically fit for this race is absolutely MANDATORY.
  • No certificate is required for walkers.

SAFETY KIT

For safety reasons it is MANDATORY that participants have a race backpack

that must contain the following items:

  • A minimum of 1-litre of water
  • Salt tablets
  • Survival blanket
  • Whistle and lighter
  • Chemical light
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Protective sun lotion
  • Small knife
  • Compeed plasters

The mandatory equipment may be verified at any moment and if an item is missing a penalty will be immediately applied per regulations.

Test yourself!

If it was easy, anyone would do it… take yourself to a new level, add a new stimulus to your running. The Sahara will not only test your physical parameters but your capacity to control your mind.

Achieve your finish line!

More information or booking here:

GALLERY:

Organisation:

ZITOWAY Sport & Adventure
P.I. 02510760362
Tel. +39 059 359813
Fax +39 059 2920013
Port. + 39 337 573662
Skype: Adrizito

Epic Marathon Camps – Morocco

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Another year will soon be over, it will be January and you will be feeling the effects of all those extra calories and you will realize that you are way behind with your training… yes, Spring is just around the corner and irrespective of your 2014 events distance, your are going to need to kick start your training and get in shape! What better way to get the ball rolling or should I say, the legs running than a week in Morocco.

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Epic Marathon Camps are ideal for runners of all ability and provide the opportunity to train and learn with like-minded individuals in a fantastic location, close to Marrakesh, Morocco.

The foothills of the Atlas Mountains will become your playground. Alice Morrison and Charlie Shepherd will be your hosts for the week along with coaches, Holly Rush and Karl Zeiner.

rsz_prvenuerun3 Combining excellent facilities with superb views and a high level of comfort. The hotel for the week has two swimming pools, a spa, and numerous different areas in which to exercise or relax. The venue’s style and philosophy fits perfectly; to offer a traditional Moroccan experience in comfort and style and with access to some superb scenery that is perfectly suited to physical training.

‘It’s quite simple, both Charlie and myself have entered the Marathon des Sables for 2014. Charlie has great experience of Morocco and has already coordinated multiple camps in the area, it seemed logical that we should extend our portfolio to a run specific camp,’ explained Alice.

Holly Rush is a TeamGB athlete and in 2013 placed 7th lady at the highly competitive Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa. In addition to this, Holly won a Bronze medal at the World Mountain Marathon Championships.

Karl Zeiner recently placed 16th overall at the ‘Ring of Fire’ in the UK and brings an extensive knowledge of marathon and ultra marathon training to the camp.

I asked Holly about her expectations of the camp and what participants can expect…

‘We are specifically targeting runners who want to get away from the January blues at home and get stuck into some focused, specific endurance training with like minded people in beautiful surroundings.’ Holly said with a look of eagerness on her face, ‘The January camps will be a great way to kick start the New Year with a possible eye on a spring marathon or ultra.’

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Morocco is the ideal place to enjoy some winter sun without a long haul flight and yet once you arrive it will feel like you could be in another world. Participants will have the opportunity to train on a variety of surfaces, road, trail, sand and of course hills so every run can be different.

The camp can be as involved as each individual person requires. The team will offer plenty of easy running, all guided of course so that it’s possible to investigate the surroundings. Specific session will be mixed in to the week, threshold, marathon race pace, reps and hill repeats will keep everyone literally on there toes.

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A unique selling point of EMC (Epic Marathon Camps) will be the magnificent location, high-end accommodation and facilities and of course the knowledgeable staff with quality training.

‘The camp will provide the perfect running experience allowing each and every person with one-to-one sessions with Holly and Karl.’ Explained Charlie. ‘It doesn’t stop there… days are based around running, core building, stretching and in the evenings lectures will be available about specific subjects to help progress each participants individual progression in the sport they love. Tired and aching bodies will be eased with in-house massage as required.’

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Running is not only about miles, it is also about the food we eat and how we can enhance food choices so that we become efficient in every aspect of the sport. To that end, a nutritionist will be available for the whole week (a keen runner and cyclist herself) inspirational, balanced and incredible cuisine will be provided. You know you are on to a winner when the chef says, ‘I would never sacrifice taste for calories’.

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Places are limited for the January training camps, January 11th to 18th/ January 19th to 26th.

The price for the all-inclusive week (transfers to-and-from the airport in Morocco, food, soft drinks, laundry and all services from the coaches) will be £1,495 for seven days (excl flights)

Please use the enquiry form below to receive a special £50 discount from the Epic Marathon Camps team.

LINKS

  • Training Camp Dates HERE
  • You can view the website HERE
  • Follow on Twitter @EpicMCamps
  • And ‘Like’ on Facebook ‘Epic Marathon Camps’

*This is an advetorial post on behalf of Epic Marathon Camps

MDS to TCC – Jo Meek Interview

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Who would have thought it, the 2013 Marathon des Sables turned out to be a great year for British performances. Danny Kendall placed the highest ever overall placing with 10th and Jo Meek placed 2nd lady overall. It was a stunning performance by a relatively unknown. Armed with a new belief in her ability, Jo will has now planned to switch from the heat of the Sahara and test herself in the heat and humidity of a Costa Rican rainforest at The Coastal Challenge. I caught up with Jo at the end of August and we had a chat about MDS and her expectations for TCC.

IC I bet April and the Marathon des Sable (MDS) seems such a long time ago?

JM Yes, it does seem ages ago. Considering I am walking now in late August in the pouring rain. It’s wet and miserable… it doesn’t seem that long ago in regard to memories. I just watched the video that was available for download and it brought it all back.

IC So sitting at home, watching everyone running in the sand with a tear in your eye?

JM Definitely no tear, I think I am happy not be running in the sand. I am still surprised how I adapted especially considering I am now at home running on the road again.

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IC Amazing eh that you can be in that environment, the sand, the wind, the bivouac, no washing, you are eating dried food and you adapt and then post race when we got in a luxury hotel, you said, you wished you could go back, you loved it didn’t you! You loved being in that environment. It was preferable to the clean hotel.

JM I did. Yes, I actually think I could be quite a ‘skanky’ person really. I am far happier roughing it than in luxury. I guess it sounds romantic but I like being at one with nature, eating, running and sleeping. Perfect. But I guess the other memory is the one from those clean white cotton sheets; that was quite special.

IC I have to say, the first shower, all that fresh hot water and then all the sand starts to escape from all the nooks and crannies. As you say, no more sleeping bags and a lovely comfy bed, it is quite a pleasure.

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JM My roll matt was about the size of A4 to keep it light and small, so my hip was pretty sore after a week in the bivouac. I have to say the cushioning of a bed was welcome.

IC The Bristh performed really well at MDS. No disrespect to you but we had no idea who Jo Meek was before MDS. We knew Laurence Klein was outright favorite and we knew Meghan Hicks was back, she had performed well previously but outside of that it was all unknown. On the first day you were up at the front and then continued to perform at the front of the race for the whole race. You had this great battle with Meghan. Laurence had a convincing lead but it all fell apart on the long day when she had to drop with dehydration. This opened it up for you and Meghan. Meghan had a great long day but I remember standing on the finish of the final day, it was the marathon distance, you nailed it. You said the marathon was your distance and you wanted to stamp your authority on it. You placed second overall, many look at MDS as one of those iconic mult- day races, how did you go from a relatively unknown to getting second. What was it in you that enabled you to focus and become so efficient in the sand?

JM A few things really. I am very good at setting a training plan and sticking to it. When I race, I always race. I don’t just enter to complete it. So, looking at the conditions I set myself up in a heat chamber and did training that was specific. I didn’t want heat to be an issue so I acclimatized. What was interesting over the six days was that I became less scared of what the heat could do. On the last day I thought, what have I got to loose. I do think back now and wonder could I have gone harder but it was an unknown. I didn’t know what would happen so I played cautious. Meghan taught me a lot without her realizing it. I followed her on a couple of stages and I watched how she tracked across the sand looking for the hard sand, even if it was out of the way. She would deviate and look for the harder and faster sand. Also her style, it’s a definite technique to sand running. You don’t want to be a toe runner.

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IC For sure, you need a flat foot.

JM Yes, you also want to shuffle. You don’t want big strides. A little like being in the army again. I learnt lots. I learnt also from training. I had done some awful ultras that were definitely worse than MDS. One race, a 40-mile race across Exmoor and the weather was awful… they said 40 but it was 43-miles I am sure. The last 3-miles were awful.

IC That can be good, a bad training experience. If you have had some tough and hard training and the race works out easier then that has to be a good thing. It’s a real positive.

JM I had no doubt that I wouldn’t finish the race. I had said that I wanted the podium at MDS but I had no idea what I based that on.

IC To put things in perspective you are a 2:46 marathon runner. Ability and speed are there. Many would die for a 2:46 marathon but also you are in the army. Does the combination of those two things make a good MDS runner?

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JM I think the marathon pace and training was key in terms of the speed. I didn’t have the same endurance as Meghan over the ultra distance. Many of the days were shorter in terms of ultra distance so I knew I had that potential. In terms of tent life and conditions, maybe the army helped but that is me… I like that. The army helped with discipline; eating, drinking and so on… it was feet first, food and then wash. You need to look after yourself.

IC Give us an insight into your background, you are a roadrunner really?

JM Yes, but I do like cross-country. I came second in the Nationals. Essentially I have done road running. I started in my teens to loose weight and then just kept going. I wouldn’t say I have natural talent in terms of speed but I have something that works, particularly over distance.

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IC How long have you been running?

JM 18 years, maybe 20!

IC So you have a great base of running and plenty of experience?

JM Yes. I always thought that maybe I should do ultra earlier and I thought, no rush! Particularly with how you develop with age and aerobic capacity. It seemed like the correct time for MDS. As you know, you don’t just enter MDS you have to enter years in advance.

IC Post MDS you really wanted to improve your marathon time. You put yourself on that path and recently you run a half marathon but you were disappointed with the performance. Many factors can affect a race, a conclusion you have arrived at is that you are now going to pursue trail and ultra running. So, you are going to another multi stage in early 2014 but this time you are going to a Rainforest. It’s a race that I was at earlier in 2013, The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. Also known as the Rainforest Run. What’s the attraction?

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

JM I am always very attracted to a country that is hotter than the UK. That is a no brainer! It’s the challenge, the opportunity to compete in something so different. This race I don’t need to carry all my kit, so, unlike the MDS I will be able to just run but admittedly for repeated days. It will be interesting and it should mean I can go faster.

IC The race is very different to MDS. Some things carry over such as the multi day. As you say, you don’t need to carry all your kit but you do need safety kit, food, water and just essentials. But you are correct, all your clothing, tent etc is moved for you and then food is provided. It’s a hot and very humid environment and even when it rains it is not a problem, it is so warm. All the daily campsites are in beautiful idyllic places. It’s such a wonderful environment. It’s a great combination of providing daily challenging runs but with just a touch of comfort. It’s perfect for those who may want an introduction to multi day racing.

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JM In some ways it will feel easier but in an evening you will be able to eat as much as you like and so will the competition, in theory you are all the same come the following day. But at MDS it is about survival and balance. It is more about balancing and economy and how you ration your food and water.

IC The race has so much more elevation than MDS and in particular, the terrain is much more varied. You have single track, double track, rocky sections, forest, dense forest, beautiful beaches and then some tough climbs and descents. The next edition of the TCC celebrates its tenth year so it may have a little more climbing than normal, we shall see? The variety is amazing. If you are lucky, you’ll see wildlife. You hear it but don’t always get to see it.

Costa Rica, The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

JM I’m so excited. I can’t wait. I have some road races to do in the coming months and then I will start my TCC training three months out. I will use a heat chamber again. The heat chamber I used for MDS prep was stuck on 80% humidity so I have an idea of what conditions will feel like and I know what my sweat rate is like.

IC Costa Rica is very humid. It is almost 100% but it is not unpleasant. You really do sweat all the time, particularly when running. You need to be on the ball and balance your hydration.

JM I like it harsh and hard conditions. In some ways, the harder the better.

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IC How do you prepare for a multi day race? In some ways you had to guess for MDS and that worked! So, what do you take away from that experience and what will you do in preparation for TCC. The longest stage is around 50k and not 80k so that will make a difference. As we have said humidity and terrain are the key differences and you won’t need to carry a heavy pack.

JM I will do far hillier off road training. For MDS I had to train with the weight too, however for TCC I will just use essential kit and I will do plenty of back-to-back training at a faster pace. I will try to replicate the race really. In some respects it won’t be too different from my marathon training. The key will be the back-to-back runs..

IC We have so many different ways to look at training. Some runner’s just head out of the door and run on feel. No time set, no distance set. It all goes on feel. Are you like this or do you have a plan that has everything planned out?

JM I work full time so I must have a plan. I don’t have the luxury to say go out and run for three hours when I feel like it. I have commitments. I get up at 05:30 and I do what I can and then I add to this at lunchtime or the evening if required. I make every session count so I fit in threshold running, speed work and so on. I need to be very specific. At weekends I have more time and if I need three days consecutive I take a day off work.

IC Do you do core stability, stretching, strength and core.

JM Oh yes, I am a proper geek when it comes to this. I am a physio too so I have no excuse. I stretch everyday, I do two strength sessions and I do two core sessions per week.

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IC Wow, you are the perfect example for all of us. So often I ask this question and I get a blank answer. We all know we should do it but few of us apply it!

JM I am disciplined and I see the benefits. You have to be disciplined but it still doesn’t stop me getting injuries.

IC Ah well, injury can be caused with so many factors.

JM For me it is usually over doing it or being tired.

IC Yes, distance and speed increase injury risk. Slower and longer has more impact but you don’t overstretch muscles or tendons. Listen to your body and all will be good.

JM I never listen to my own advice… I am lucky, we have a gym at work so it makes strength work easy. If I didn’t have that available it would maybe be harder. I have been strict with this for four to five months and I can feel the difference.

IC TCC is still months away, are you planning on doing any trail races for late season in the build up?

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JM Yes, I love to race. I will enter races, from experience, if I enter races too far in advance I get injured, so I have entered a couple of marathons on the road for training and speed. In December and January I will look for options. Of course, options are reduced and conditions will be a little different to Costa Rica.

IC Late and early season events do crop up specifically designed to help people get ready for MDS so you will have some choice. Final question, many may be reading this and they are going to MDS or they may be tempted by TCC. What advice would you give to these people?

JM It very much depends on what you want to get out of it? I shared a tent at MDS with people who wanted to just complete, they wanted to enjoy the race and that is what they did. Set an objective and train accordingly. Ultimately it is all about fun and enjoyment.

IC If you had to give three tips. Three lessons you learnt at MDS that you would take to any race.

JM Good question. I learnt specifics like running in the sand but I guess the need to watch and keep on top of nutrition. Start eating early and don’t wait. Also, keep any eye on hydration and drink to thirst and then finally enjoyment is key! You must enjoy it.

IC I am sure you’re going to really enjoy TCC and Costa Rica. Many thanks for the time and insight into your progression and have fun in the Rainforest.

JM Thanks, as you say, really looking forward to it. It will be a real adventure.

 Links and information:

  • Marathon Des Sables images available HERE
  • The Coastal Challenge images HERE
  • Entry for the Marathon des Sables is available through the UK agent HERE
  • The Coastal Challenge website HERE

WANT TO RUN THE 2014 COASTAL CHALLENGE?

5% discount available using the form below for followers of iancorless.com

*Please note I will be at the 2014 TCC reporting on the race and capturing images at the invite of the race organisation.

What is Trail Running – ITRA conclusions

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Press release n° 2 July 9th 2013

First conclusions from the ITRA’s five working groups

After the first International Trail-running conference (September 3rd 2012 – Courmayeur – Italy) five working groups were set up to study the five key themes, with the aim of trying to determine, in the long or short term, the convergent lines of conduct between the players of trail-running. Fifty volunteers, manufacturers, race organisers, journalists, trainers, athletes, federations… from thirteen countries and five continents answered present and positioned themselves around the virtual internet table.

After working for two months, each group, uniting their cultures and their points of view to accompany this discipline in full evolution, drafted the first conclusions of their exchanges. The first fundamental points were based of an ethics of the practice of the trail-running with the objective of federating the players
The comprehensive texts are posted on the ITRA web-site: http://www.trail-running-association.org/focus-groups/

• A definition of trail-running: above all « an open country race »

At the end of long discussions where the diversity of points of view of the different countries were expressed, all the members of the working group formed a definition of trail-running and its categories. The Trail-running is defined as a running race, open to everybody, in a natural environment (mountains, desert, forest, on the plain…). Ideally but not necessarily, it takes place on a minimum of tarred roads (20% of the race) and in semi or total autonomy. It must be correctly way-marked and organised respecting the rules of sport: ethics, loyalty, solidarity and conservation of the environment.

A classification of trail-running races is given:

• Less than 42 kilometres: Trail
• Above 42 kilometres: Trail Ultra

Trail Ultra Medium (M): 42 km to 69 km
Trail Ultra Long (L): 70 km to 99 km
Trail Ultra XLong (XL): superior or equal to 100 km

• An ethical charter based on simple and powerful rules

This group is committed to forming the values common to all the players of a same discipline. On no account is this a call to uniformity, this charter leaves everybody the freedom to express their attachment to the spirit of trail-running in agreement with their culture and their sensibilities and it proposes:
« Surpassing oneself and investigating one’s physical and mental abilities in contact with a beautiful and sometimes rough nature.

The pleasure of running, without necessarily focussing on the search for performance, even if this does not prevent one being proud of one’s final position.
To share one’s passion and emotions with runners and volunteers.
To experience the pride of being a finisher.

Mutual aid to finish, and to share the emotion of crossing the finish line together at the end of several hours of effort.
Sharing a great moment of conviviality with all the players of an event.
Feeling united…

To hear the great champions’ testimonies of respect for the performances of the anonymous runners… » This charter identifies five fundamental values which are authenticity, humility, fair-play, equity and respect: it specifies their sense in the context of trail-running and the rules which ensue from them for all the players.

• A balanced relationship to be protected for the Management of the top athletes

This group worked on the framework of the relationship between organisers, high level athletes and equipment manufacturers regarding commitment premiums, payment of expenses, podium premiums and their parity and the services offered to the runners. If trail-running attracts an increasingly important economy, it defends a spirit of humility, fraternity and equity, an ethic far from the excesses seen in certain sports, which must be maintained.

So, even if the debate is still open, a number of recommendations were developed and proposed:
– The race revenue must in priority be invested in the improvement of the race organisation from the point of view of security and first-aid/rescue, the routes and way-marking, refreshments…
Additional funds have to allow for the development of other services connected to communication and possibly to assigning a budget to the reception of and rewarding the best runners.
– Commitment premiums met with opposition from the members of this group.
– The wish, was aired, to limit the podium premiums and the bearing of travel and lodging costs to 10% of the registration budget without exceeding the sum of 15 000 €. It does not however seem possible to propose such a rule because, due to its character, it is difficult to control.
– On the other hand the group is in agreement on the strict respect of parity of the amount of the premiums men/women while admitting that a different number of men and women may be rewarded according to their relative representation in the race.
– It is proposed that the agreement of a premium is correlated to performance and is given to the athletes having a difference in time less than 10 % of that of the winner.
– In the assistance zones, the conditions must be the same for all, elite and non-elite.
– As for authorisation of « pacers* », it is left to the decision of the organisers depending on their culture and particular difficulties of the terrain, notably if this helps to improve security.
* Person who accompanies the runner on part of the race.

• Common interior rules for better health policy and anti-doping fight

With the objective of proposing a «Health Policy» for the main part to guarantee the good physical health of the participants in trail-running events, the members of this group suggest to event organisers who are members of the ITRA, an interior regulation of twelve points which, in the view of transparency in the transmission of information, has the ambition of reinforcing the existent medical supervision.

This text plans, on behalf of the organisers, the commitment to inform the participants about the current national and international regulations regarding health matters and regarding the anti-doping fight, to establish a medical Counsel and to make it compulsory for the competitors to declare, to the medical Counsel, all prescriptions which are subject to a TUE* and to agree to accept to give any urinary, blood or capillary samples and associated analyses requested by the medical counsel. The latter can summon an athlete to discuss with them their ability, or not, to participate in the competition, and may after the interview, propose that the race jury exclude them from the competition.
One point suggests the creation of a personal page for runners who are referenced by the ITRA where they invited to post their TUEs and analysis results
The ITRA makes a commitment to put at organisers’ disposal the technical assistance and the necessary know-how to apply this regulation, with financial coverage.
* Therapeutic usage exemption.

• An international ITRA ranking in trial phase

It will not be until the International Trail-Running Association and its board are formed, that a commission responsible for international ranking is created to define the precise rules. In the mean time, the working group has compiled an annual international ranking based, at present, on more than 2 500 races and around 300 000 runners world-wide. In the internal trial phase, this ranking has been established for each of the 4 categories

defined (Trail, Trail Ultra M, L, XL) and is available by gender and/or country.

The principal of the ranking

A calculation of points for each race is established according to time taken compared with the distance and to the height gain, with the possibility of a coefficient for difficulty.
This calculation Time-Distance-Height gain, called Maximum Theoretic Performance (MTP), has a maximal value of 1000 points.

According to their results the runner will be attributed a proportion of the 1000. So their best results of the year are retained and added, for each of the trail categories, and give a championship style ranking.
For each runner, a performance index is also calculated from the results of their best 5 races, by category or all distances together, with the results of the current year and the two previous years. In the case where there are not a sufficient number of races, a statistical calculation is then made from the known results to estimate their value.

This performance index reflects the value of a runner over the last 36 months and it has already been published.

• The next stage: creation of the International Trail-Running Association

The International Trail-Running Association is at present pursuing the study and the establishment of its statutes and will be officially created by the end of July.
Open to all players in the field of trail-running it aims:

  • -  to develop and promote trail-running as a complete sport, accessible to all;
  • -  to promote its sporting ethic;
  • -  to represent its members at an international level;
  • -  to maintain constructive relationships and to collaborate with national trail-running associations, and

    national and international federations;

  • -  to promote the organisation of continental or world trail-running championships;
  • -  to contribute to the improvement of security and the health of the participants.

     

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Protected: Darkness to light – Marathon des Sables

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The Brits are coming…! Marathon des Sables 2013

You can read the full article and see images of Danny and Jo on RUN247 HERE

Marathon des Sables – a race in images

A portfolio of selected imagery from the 28th edition of the Sultan Marathon des Sables is now on line in individual galleries for each day.

Please follow the links for each gallery.

Before the race – link HERE

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Stage one – Link HERE

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Stage Two – Link HERE

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Stage Three – Link HERE

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Stage Four – Link HERE

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Stage Five – Link HERE

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Stage Six (non-competitive charity stage) – Link HERE

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