I lost a good friend at the weekend, Mark Gillett.
Taken away from us way to early in life, it was Mark who I experienced my first Marathon des Sables with. It was such a laugh, such a great moment in time. We hit it off immediately. We had similar humour, a mutual respect for each others work and we somehow managed to verbally abuse each other without upsetting each other.
As Steve Diederich and Kirsten Kortebein can confirm, the 2013 Marathon des Sables was such a great experience.
“Today we lost a friend, some of you may have met Mark Gillett at previous MdS’s and recently at the MdS Expo a few weeks ago. He was a great supporter of the MdS, as a competitor, as a photographer / videographer and most of all as a great guy. Ian Corless and I have spent many a night with Mark crying with laughter – his humour was brutal and funny which contrasted his love for his daughter and life. He was hugely talented as a tennis player and a photographer, however it was his courage and zest for life that stood him apart. We will miss you Mark – Ian and I will drink a mug of shit brandy to your memory in April. – See you mate” – Steve Diederich
I think back to 2013, I shared a 4×4 with Mark, we worked from 5am to midnight everyday. We walked in the dunes, we chewed the fat discussing everything and anything. But most of all, Mark talked about Emily, his daughter. Jeez was he so proud.
Life is way to unfair. Beyond unfair, I can’t even to begin to explain how life chews us up and spits us out. My Dad left this world way to young, I have had several other family members and close friends leave us too.
Mark embraced everyday as his last and if he had one message it was about living life to the full. Something that I have embraced 100%. But Mark will live on in his work, his daughter and the people he has influenced.
Kirsten came to MDS wide eyed and a blank canvas. Both Mark and myself helped her (and took the piss). We had a great bond that has continued through the years but Mark took her under his wing, something that Kirsten has acknowledged:
“Mark, you piece of work. You beautiful, life-changing piece of work. You are so loved and will be so missed. There are no words. Thank you for everything.”
I have often wondered about Talk Ultra my podcast, and what value it will bring in future years. Yesterday I realised to a small extent its worth and value. I interviewed Mark in 2012 about Marathon des Sables as I was putting a special show together. With the approval of Emily, Mark’s daughter, you can hear that interview here, it is 15-minutes long.
Rest in peace Mark. You will be missed buddy.
Daddy, my absolute hero.
I have watched you do so much. You were my tennis player, coach, photographer, explorer, writer, runner, cyclist, counsellor and father. You have taught me so many valuable lessons, and given me experiences that i will take through my life with me to help me become the best person that i can. You have inspired me, loved me and comforted me and i feel at peace with your love.
You tell me that when i was born, you held me and told me you wanted to show me the world. You have shown me the world and more than i could have ever asked. You have taken me to beautiful places and shown me the people that you loved, and that loved you dearly back. You always showed me your love, and did anything and everything for me. You showed me how to be a photographer and a tennis player, how to love myself and those around me, and most of all, you taught me that no challenge is too hard and that anything is possible. That i have no limits.
My precious father, i am lost for words. I cannot describe the pain i am feeling of losing you. But really, you will always be here. People like you never leave. You will never know how proud i am of you and what you have achieved, and to say i am the daughter of Mark Gillett is a blessing from God in itself. You will live on through me, my dear daddy. I just wish more than anything that we had more time.
Birdy is with me, and i know she loves and misses you dearly. She is a part of you that i now have to cherish and love, the same way you loved me.
Daddy i hope you know how much i love you. Rest up, and may your beautiful, kind soul rest in peace.
You can download the MP3 interview HERE if you would like to keep a copy