Tom Evans burst on the ultra running scene when he placed 3rd at the iconic Marathon des Sables in 2017. An unknown runner, what followed was a meteoric rise in the sport.
Tom joined me at our Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp in 2018 and his presence was a great success. I knew then, one day that we’d have him back…!
January 2023 and Tom returns to Lanzarote amongst a stellar line-up that included 8x Marathon des Sables champion, Rachid El Morabity and the amazing and inspirational, ‘Dead Man Running,’ Kevin Webber.
MDS opened the door for Tom. He followed up with a win and course record at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica.
A 3rd place at the IAU World Trail Championships, a foray in the world of skyrunning and suddenly top was on the start line of the CCC, one of the key races of UTMB week. Running a perfect race, Tom closed on the lead in the latter stages of the race, forged ahead and won the biggest race of his life. A sponsorship deal with adidas Terrex followed and the dream of Western States started to fall in to place.
Western States, the iconic 100-miler in the USA is a ‘bucket list’ dream for any trail and mountain runner. For Tom, it would be his first time racing such a long distance in one day. Taking a unique training approach, Tom moved to Ethiopia to prepare. Race day was a dream scenario with a podium finish and a time that dipped under 15-hours.
Victory at Tarawera Ultra in New Zealand at the start of 2020, whet the appetite for what was to come.
A certain pandemic got in the way of racing plans and Tom decided to have surgery to fix a persistent injury problem. 2021 was very much a year of rehabilitation gaining strength and fitness.
With the arrival of 2022, Tom is back and it is now a great pleasure to confirm his attendance at the 2023 Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp.
With some new routes, new talks and workshops, new guests, the 2023 Multi-Day Training Camp will take what is already a special and unique formula and take it up several notches.
We are well aware that we get many repeat customers for our Lanzarote Training Camp and in 2020 we spiced things up and it was a huge success. We actually think it may well have been our best ever camp….!
We are not going to lose sight of what makes the camp a success, so rest assured we will be providing the same experience as in previous years and developing what we have learned in 2020.
The core coaching team will be Ian Corless, Elisabet Barnes and Sondre Amdahl.
Our camp will start with a nice easy run of 1-hour and then followed with a specific group welcome in the Timanfaya meeting room at Club La Santa, here we will introduce you to the coaches and outline the week ahead. This will help ease those nerves.
Our welcome dinner will be in the El Lago restaurant which provides a great experience both in terms of ambiance and food.
In 2020 we started the camp on the 7th January, we were well aware that many of our clients are now expanding their multi-day running to other races, in particular The Coastal Challenge and Everest Trail Race. We therefore wanted to reflect that in the training camp. The earlier start of 7th January allows for more time between our camp ending and the start of TCC which is early February. As in all previous editions, the training is geared very much towards the Marathon des Sables.
TCC is a technical race at times with water crossings and coasteering – In 2020 we incorporated more technical running and the ability to be guided on technical coastal paths. This is of course optional – we fully appreciate that for some clients this may not appeal or be required.
ETR requires great strength, a real requirement to use poles correctly and an ability to climb with confidence and descend with confidence. We will work on specific sessions to get you ready for a race like this.
Night running is a skill and we will therefore add a specific night run in groups so that you all feel comfortable with the dark and running in a beam of light.
Lanzarote has some amazing trails and because we run, it is often difficult to explore more of the island. In 2020 we arranged a ‘point-to-point’ run. This required us to leave Club La Santa early morning, be driven to the Uga and we then ran/ jog/ walked back to CLS exploring new trails and gaining new experiences. This was a real highlight and it will be repeated in 2021.
Our bivouac still proves popular and for 2021 we will still have this on the camp – we are looking for ways to add a little spice and make it appealing for those who have camped before.
Talks are a key element of the camp and we are going to tweak them all for 2021 with the addition of some new talks.
Finally, Shane Benzie of Running Reborn will return in 2021 (tbc). He will provide a group talk and presentation followed by two break out groups on the track for analysis. He will then be available for private bookings either on a one-to-one basis or in small groups, for example 2-4 people.
2021 is going to be an exciting year for the Lanzarote Training Camp, we are looking forward to welcoming back past participants and new participants for the ultimate multi-day training camp.
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The penultimate day of our training camp was a cracker and one that many of the camp attendees have called a highlight.
Our first run was between 8-10 miles and included a climb, traverse and descent of the Montana Soo. It’s a great route and one that pushes many out of their comfort zone as the terrain is often steep, technical and challenging with loose stones.
At the summit it provides a great photo opportunity with Club La Santa off to the right in the distance.
For the more experienced runners, they move fast over the terrain embracing the challenge that it brings. Others move slower, more deliberate and thoughtful. We include it in the camp as it closely replicates the feeling and exposure that one can get at the large Djebel at Marathon des Sables.
After the mountain loop, we all returned back to CLS for a 3 hour break before a self-sufficient run. This is our mini multi-day experience that allows all our clients to run to a bivouac location in ability based groups with packs carrying sleeping bag, essential, dehydrated food for dinner and breakfast and a minimum of 1.5ltr of water. Most packs weigh around the 5kg mark.
We transport tents to the bivouac, rationed water and two gas burners to provide hot water for cooking. Once the runners leave CLS, they are self sufficient.
At the bivouac, they put up tents.
As the sun disappears they test out dehydrated food and simulate a bivouac experience. They understand the weather, the need for warmth and then they sleep under the stars.
Our night started perfectly with beautiful clear skies. Amazing star views and warm temperatures. As the night progressed, the wind increased and very much simulated a stormy night in the Sahara. For many, it was a sleepless night with shaking tents and sand being blown everywhere.
An early breakfast call, self-sufficient breakfast, water rations given and they were then off for another 13-miles of soft-sand and dune training before returning back to CLS.
Our final day has one final talk by Elisabet Barnes and Sondre Amdahl and then a group dinner to say farewell…
The next time we will all meet will be in Morocco for the 35th Marathon des Sables.
Our 2021 Training Camp will be announced soon HERE
The sun quite literally has been shining on the camp providing us with perfect training days to replicate scenarios that one would find in the Sahara at MDS or technical situations that one would find in races like The Coastal Challenge or Everest Trail Race.
We did a long Coastal Run of 24km on Thursday morning in a self-sufficient manner, the camp attendees broken down in to 4-groups, Gemma Game, Sondre Amdahl, Elisabet Barnes and Ian Corless each leading 4-8 participants at a pace relevant to the group ability.
The coastline here is stunning offering a wonderful views with the smell of the sea in the nose and a wind blowing in from Africa.
There was plenty of climbing too and tough, technical and hard terrain. Of course what goes up, must come down.
In the afternoon, after a relaxing lunch, Jodie Moss who placed 8th at the 2019 MDS did a talk on heat acclimation and how one should prepare for specifically MDS and the differences one needs to consider if going to a humid race like TCC.
The day concluded with a night-skills session with Sondre and Elisabet leading. All about the skills needed and required to run at night and they then did a short 5km run.
Friday was all about the ‘Long Day!’ For the first time on our camp, we did a point-to-point route of almost marathon distance that crossed the island from Uga and back to Club La Santa.
Ironically, the day started with a little light rain as we were transferred to Uga. It soon left us though leaving us with a perfect, if not windy day.
The terrain is constantly mixed in Lanzarote and the volcanic landscape at all times exciting. We managed 1800m vertical in constantly challenging terrain that replicated a day at MDS perfectly.
Many got an opportunity to use poles and test them, vital if they plan to use them in a race. There is a real technique and once mastered, a real benefit can be gained especially if walking will make a up a bulk of your multi-day pace.
We had just one aid station at 22km (Thanks John and Carmen), so, for much of the day, everyone was carrying a pack of 4-5kg, ideal preparation for self-sufficient multi-day.
The ‘Long Day’ proved to be stunning with the fastest group completing in around 4h 15m and the walkers in 6h 40m. They all now have a real confidence boost knowing that a day at MDS, TCC or ETR is completely doable.
The day concluded with Elisabet Barnes leading a talk and practical session on foot care.
It has been a great couple of days!
Info the 2021 Training Camp will be updated soon HERE
It was a double run day today in Lanzarote starting at 0800 with a really great 9-miles with sunrise with trails along the coast leading to the volcanoes around the village of Soo and then a re-route back down to Club La Santa.
We then had a very quick turnaround to a 2-hour presentation by Running Reborn coach, Shanne Benzie. Shane is a the forefront of discussing and analysing run technique to increase performance and reduce injury, as usual it was fascinating.
A break for lunch and then the afternoon was split in to two 2-hour sessions.
Groups 1 and 2 remained on the run track and had analysis with Shane Benzie while groups 2 and 4 ran along the coast to play on one of the volcanoes climbing to the summit and descending.
You can move around the video image by using the toggle button that appears on the left of the video screen.
And then coasteering one of the technical paths returning back to Club La Santa.
Back at Club La Santa, the groups swapped with 3/4 remaining on the track with Shane and 1/2 heading out on the trails.
The day concluded at 7pm with everyone exhausted and exhilarated after a very full day.
Dates for our 2021 Camp will be announced soon HERE
A year soon passes and once again I am in Lanzarote for our annual Lanzarote Training Camp which is geared towards providing 7-days intensive training for ultra-runners and multi-day runners.
I arrived 3-days a go so that I could check out routes and in particular test a ‘long day’ route which would be a new addition to the camp.
It was a real pleasure to travel from almost one side of Lanzarote to the other on foot. The new route is a point-to-point covering approximately marathon distance with 1800m of vertical gain.
Taking in the best of Lanzarote, the route is extremely varied with a mixture of terrain and gladly has very little road. Some sections cover little used paths and offer a real sense of adventure.
One again the base for the training camp is the sports complex of Club La Santa which is the perfect environment for an intensive week of training with a plethora of facilities on hand.
The camp takes place from Tuesday to Tuesday for 2020 and a full week of activity is planned with routes of varying distance and difficulty.
We have typically 4-5 groups guided and this allows for runners/ walkers to work at a pace that is comfortable for them. Our core team is myself, Elisabet Barnes who has won MDS twice and ranked highly in multi-day races all over the world. Sondre Amdahl who is an experienced single-stage and multi-day ultra-runner with an impressive list of results from all over the world.
Last year we had Running Reborn specialist, Shane Banzie join us and he is back in 2020.
Our additional guides for 2020 are Gemma Game (multiple times top-10 at MDS and 3rd in 2018 and 2019) and Jodie Moss who placed top-10 at the 2019 MDS and who has just completed a PHD and who will provide a talk on heat acclimation.
All the preparation is now done and we patiently await the clients arrival on January 7th. We ease them in to the camp with an easy 1-hour run, a welcome talk and then a group dinner.
Day 1 starts with an 0800 call and 9-mile volcano run. Note news to follow as the days progress.
You can view images from the 2019 Training Camp below and HERE
Dates will be announced soon for the 2021 camp HERE
Day 1 on the Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp and the usual sunny and warm Canaria weather deserted us with some strong winds and the occasional rain shower. It’s all about perspective though and as one runner said, “It’s considerably better than being at home or at work!”
The morning session was a 22km out and back run to the coastal town of Famara. Groups were split into 4 ability based groups:
Sondre Amdahl leading the ‘speedy runners.
Elisabet Barnes leading a mixed group of runners.
Inge Nijkamp leading group 3.
Ian Corless leading a walk / run group.
The camp is all about finding a natural balance that provides the participants with a comfortable and solid group that provides the perfect stimulus from which to progress.
A break for lunch and then the afternoon kicked off with a stunning talk by Running Reborn Coach, Shane Benzie. He discussed all the aspects, through practical demonstration, that make us better runners.
Groups were then split into 2.
Group 1 went to the run track with Shane for a practical workshop. Shane individually filmed runner and gave guidance on improving technique.
Group 2 had an easy 8km run.
As always, the evening RnR process is all about getting together for a social drink and evening meal.
Marathon des Sables is an iconic race. For over 30-years it has been the leading example of multi-day racing all over the world. It has often been copied, but never bettered. In its incredible history, runners from all over the world have toed the line for the experience of a lifetime.
In 2018, for the first time ever, a Malaysian lady toed the line in the hope to be the first Malaysian lady ever to complete the race.
Sue Ding has been living in the UK for over 20-years. She came from Kuala Lumpur to study law at Liverpool University and then stayed successfully building her own legal practice in London. She is an entrepreneur, business woman and is extremely successful.
Running became an escape from the everyday stress of work. Like many, Sue built to the marathon distance and has successfully completed London, Berlin and Tokyo. But Marathon des Sables was something very different – a new challenge.
I first met Sue when she joined our Lanzarote Training Camp (HERE) in January 2018.
I was fortunate to follow her journey as she prepared for the 2018 MDS, both in training and then day-by-day throughout the race.
It turned out to be quite a story and shows that the mental aspect of ultra-running is often far more important than fitness.
You can listen to a full and in-depth interview with Sue on Talk Ultra podcast HERE
What initially made you decide to take part in MDS?
I had heard about the Marathon des Sables from friends and I had seen images on Instagram. It enticed me, I was looking for a new challenge and although I thought the race was beyond my ability I took the plunge and entered. I told nobody for two weeks as I couldn’t decide if I had done the right thing. When I did finally disclose my intentions, some friends and relatives were negative saying I was crazy and that I couldn’t do it… I needed no better motivation to prove them wrong!
You have run several marathons such as London and Tokyo. How does the MDS compare?
Other than running or walking, there is no comparison really. A road marathon is a challenge but it is safe, you have aid stations, there is always help at hand. MDS is just so much more than just running. It brings in elements of survival, it plays games with your mind and it pushes the individual to depths that they maybe never even realised they could reach.MDS is truly a transformational experience and although I will always remember my first road marathon, I now think, ‘it is only a marathon!’
What was your training and preparation like for the MDS? What are the differences in comparison to a road marathon?
In all honesty, marathon training is actually good preparation for MDS as the individual stages are marathon distance or below. Of course, the exception is the ‘long day’ which in 2018 was 86.4km (around 53 miles, so two marathons). Marathon training works well but of course one needs to build up strength and stamina for the challenge ahead. Therefore, most people allow 12-months to get ready for MDS. Time on feet is important and also including some specific ‘training’ races that provide a similar scenario to MDS. For example. Several races in the UK last 2 or 3 days therefore providing a mini MDS scenario.
I also signed up for a specific desert training camp in Lanzarote, 3-months ahead of the race. This proved to be essential as I met other competitions, we trained on terrain specific and comparable to Morocco and I was able to test equipment. We even spent one night sleeping inside a volcano to simulate camp conditions in the Sahara.
Finally, two points. 1. Many runners think they will run MDS – the reality is that they will not! Walking is an essential and integral part of completing MDS for most participants and I can’t stress enough to walk, walk and walk in training. 2. Prepare the mind for the challenge. If you get the mind in the right place it will take the body to the line.
What was the biggest challenges out in the Sahara?
The challenges change daily. For example, just starting on day 1 seemed like a huge challenge as I was so anxious and nervous.
Then on day 2 I was silly and neglected taking my salt tablets, this impacted on my hydration and caused me to be dizzy. It was touch and go but I rallied and achieved the finish line.
That night we were hit by a sand storm which wiped out our tent and reduced sleep to a minimum. So, as you see, the challenges change daily, by the hour or even by the minute at times. This is what makes MDS so special, it is how you adapt both physically and more importantly, mentally at times.
How did you cope with the challenges, did you feel prepared?
One can only prepare so much. I really dedicated myself to the task and prepared methodically for the challenge. But after Tokyo Marathon I picked up a stress fracture.
This resulted in no running for three weeks and then a slow return to training. Ironically, my final preparation to MDS was terrible and that worried me. Friends were always positive, they told me, ‘You can do this!’ I trusted them and despite my reservations, I achieved the start line.
Equipment is equipment but it is essential. I took advice from the training camp and honed my equipment for my needs. I made last minute changes to the pack I would use and I also changed my down jacket. It all worked well. During the race you must be flexible and adapt to conditions – tiredness, dehydration, sore legs, snoring tent mates, sharing a space with 7 others – you can’t really prepare for that, it is this that makes MDS such an experience, it is a journey into the unknown.
What did you enjoy most about the whole experience?
I was so anxious before the race but I feel like I blossomed as the race progressed. I embraced the challenge and got the race done – I did that and nobody can take that away. But my tent mates, Tent 95 were incredible and they will be friends for life. You were also at the race and shared my journey, that was so special and something that I will never forget. The race is a life changer, I was told this before I went to Morocco, it’s only now, afterwards, that I realised that this is true.
What were some of the most memorable or unforgettable moments for you, explain why?
1. Tent 95 – Gary, Daniel, Mark, James, Brian, Taka and Denise were just the best. We laughed, we shared our stories in the morning and the evening and we rallied and encouraged each other. We all finished – what an experience!
2. On the long day it was dark, I was walking through large sand dunes and I was listening to Craig Armstrong music, I looked up to the sky and saw thousands of stars… I was lost in my mind and thoughts and it was truly magical.
3. I had low points throughout the race, times of despair and worries if I could push on through. They were my lowest moments but each time they became the most memorable – you would always arrive, just at the right time.
4. I got some really bad blisters which needed medical treatment and caused great pain – I had to continue on, ignore the negative and fight each day to achieve my goals.
How did you manage the conditions – heat, survival, rationed food etc?
In all honesty, I was expecting the worst and the reality was not as bad. We had cold nights, sand storms and hot days but I managed. I wore the same clothes for ten days with no showering or proper washing, it was unpleasant but I survived. I craved fresh food and had to eat dehydrated food.
I wanted so much a different drink other than water but water is the only thing available. I keep saying it but this is MDS. It is meant to test you mentally as much as physically and you need to embrace it. If you fight it, your week will be miserable. It’s best to laugh and soak up the experience.
A Coke after the long day was so magical – simple pleasure! Going to the toilet is also somewhat an experience… you will need to use your imagination for that one!
What went through your mind during the race?
Ha! What didn’t I think about…? I put the world to rights, thought about my past, thought about my future. I concentrated on one foot ahead of the other and I escaped with music.
You have a great deal of time to think and I think this is why, for many, MDS has such an impact. You suddenly realise what is important. I have realised it. Experiences and memories are far greater than things and possessions – the Sahara and the MDS made me feel truly alive, pushed me to the limit and beyond.
Did you doubt yourself at any time, elaborate?
I had huge doubts and anxiety before the race but did as much specific preparation as possible and I listened to you and Elisabet Barnes, you both told me I could do it. I was so nervous on day 1 and of course on day 2 I was extremely worried.
However, as the race progressed the stronger mentally I became. I was more tired, my body ached, my feet hurt but my mind was strong, there was no way I was giving up or not finishing – I had to prove all the doubters before the race wrong.
One lady had said, ‘If you finish the race, I will eat my hat!’ Guess what? I bought a hat in Morocco after the race…
What was crossing the finish line like?
On the marathon stage I had a moment early on when I cried but I got over it and pushed on despite the pain.
The miles ticked by and then as the finish line came, you were waiting as were all my tent 95 teammates.
I had no more tears left, just smiles and gratitude. I was flying the Malaysian flag, I kissed my cross which was around my neck and I gave thanks for the opportunity to complete a truly magical, life changing journey.
What are the biggest takeaways from the race?
We are too protected, too comfortable in the world and we shy away from tough times. A little tough, some challenge, some hardship and some pain makes you realise you are truly alive.
I went to so many low points during the race and overcame them, I made new friends and I triumphed over arguably the toughest challenge I have ever undertaken.
I now feel invincible, I feel alive!
If you did MDS again, what would you change in preparation and why?
Well, I would definitely try not to get a stress fracture just 8 weeks before the race. In general though, I feel everything clicked into place. I would make sure my shoes did not give me blisters, I made a mistake there going with a shoe size too large.
What advice would you give to future MDS runners?
Prepare the mind and the legs and lungs will follow. I also had a ‘special’ bag with me ‘Not Gonna Happen’ it contained daily inspiration to keep me going… It was invaluable.
MDS is described as the toughest race on earth, on a scale of 1-10 give it a rating and explain why?
Tough question as I have done nothing like it to compare, so, for me it would be a 8, or 9. But the daily cut off times are generous and it is possible to complete the race walking, so, like I said previously, get the mind right and anything is possible.
Certainly, no change of clothes, carrying everything one needs on ones back and having rationed food and water takes things to another level and therefore it’s a combination of all those elements that makes the race so tough.
MDS is not cheap, can you elaborate on how much the whole process cost?
I don’t really want to think about it… The race costs so much more than just the entry fee. For example, entry fee, flights and hotels around £4000. But I started to prepare 12 moths in advance. I did training races, I did the Lanzarote training camp, I purchased all my equipment and then changed my equipment. I added some extras such as staying in Morocco afterwards. I have not tallied up the total cost but it would easily be £10.000.
You are the first Malaysian woman to complete the race, how does that make you feel?
I am proud to be Malaysian and cross the line flying the flag – it is a real honour.
You ran for charities, Make A Wish Malaysia and Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better, how much did you raise?
The total goes up daily as donations come in, but currently it is over £25.000.
“We all have our stories, we got together, encouraged each other, were there for each other, we went on a 250km MDS journey together… We are friends forever Tent 95! I was also privileged to have the additional support of a truly dear friend who documented our journey. Friendship and love completed the journey.”
No pain, no gain – well, that is what they say! Today, was ‘pain’ morning at the Lanzarote Training Camp when all the participants did at least 6 reps of a volcano.
It’s a challenging morning and the vertical gain is designed to replicate the largest jebel that has appeared in all the latest editions of Marathon des Sables.
Steep with lose gravel for the climb and the descent is a mixture of stone, lose rocks and sharp lava – a gravel road section allows some recovery before a repeating.
It was a hot day and although the session was tough – everyone loved it!
A break for lunch and then Elisabet Barnes did a practical workshop of foot care. It’s an essential session that prepares everyone with all the relevant skills to allow them the flexibility to be self-sufficient when racing. Elisabet also showed and demonstrated foot taping as a preventive measure against blisters.
At 6pm, the day concluded with an easy 5 or 10km shake-outrun to loosen the legs!
It was day 5 of the Lanzarote 2016 multi-day training camp and what a day…
Leaving the resort at 0830, three groups covered 4-hours to 5hours 30-minutes on the challenging trails of Lanzarote in three groups: walking, walk/ running and running.
It was a tough day, the clouds cleared, the sky came a deep blue and the heat started to slowly rise but all the time it was masked by the ever present winds coming from Morocco.
Starting at Club La Santa, the groups moved along the coastline, moved inland to Soo and then re-navigated back to the coast and the village of La Santa before heading out on new coastline. Lanzarote’s mixed terrain provides the perfect environment for a multi-day camp and today, camp attendees enjoyed a real mix os sandy access roads, volcano trails, climbing, coasteering, volcano climbing and then out-and-out technical dried lava.
Elisabet Barnes from MyRaceKit and sponsored Raidlight athlete guided the ‘fast’ group over 5-hours and 15-minutes and although it’s her first time on the Canarian island, she is taken back by its unique beauty and its specific trails.
“Lanzarote is just amazing. The climate and the trails are just perfect for Marathon des Sables training. La Santa and the surrounding area manages to throw everything at you that you will experience in a typical edition of the iconic Moroccan race, even down to the strong winds, variable heat and especially the mixed terrain. Soft sand, stoney ground, hard trails, tough climbs and beautiful views; what more could you ask for?”
Like any training camp, mixed abilities are catered for and Niandi Carmont has guided a run/ walk group and Marie-Paule Pierson (who recently competed Atacama) has guided and paced the walkers.
After a midday break, the afternoon had a foot care seminar hosted by Elisabet Barnes where she clearly explained the pros and cons of specific foot treatments and she also provided some very clear and highly informative ‘taping’ workshops.
Tomorrow is another long day with a 2-hour run at 0700, a seminar late morning and then in the afternoon a 2 to 3-hour run will be followed with an overnight bivouac.
If you would like to join our 2017 training camp, please go HERE.
Many thanks to Raidlight, OMM, inov-8, Scott Running, Berghaus, PHD and MyRaceKit of the support of this camp.