TOM EVANS – Marathon des Sables #MDS 2017 Part One

Captain Tom Evans, placed third at the 2017 Marathon Des Sables in April, it was a complete surprise. Prior to the race, it’s fair to say, Tom had well and truly kept himself under the radar, a skill no doubt honed whilst in the army. British runners have a long history with the MDS and finally, we have one on the male podium!

I caught up with Tom post MDS to find out a little more about his remarkable story.

Ian: Who’s Tom Evans and tell me how this all came about?

Tom: It’s a very surreal experience. I went out with a few small ambitions. My main goal was to go out unknown and see what I could do. There was no pressure on my running so I could just focus on myself, focus on the race. There were no expectations which I think it’s safe to say I managed to achieve. Absolutely no one had any idea who I was on day one.

Ian: [laughs] Well, you achieved that completely. I remember, on day one, I was scooting around the dunes in a jeep, trying to find the runners because you were ahead of schedule. I saw this shadow in the distance. I told my driver to stop. I’m running through the dunes. Then, you come past me. I look and I think, “Who is this? I don’t know who this is.” Then behind was Rachid and Mohamed, the duo were working together, a little like they do in cycling taking turns to set the pace.

They were holding you at 100, maybe 200-meters which they did to the end of stage one but we’ll come on to the actual race and how it panned out later. I called you Captain, you’re obviously in the army. You were out with a whole bunch of soldiers and Walking with the Wounded. You had Duncan Slater out there with you. Just from that perspective, with your performance, Walking with the Wounded, Duncan Slater – it has been an epic Marathon Des Sables, hasn’t it?

Tom: Yes, it’s been amazing. The support that the whole team has received, not just from Walking with the Wounded and serving members of the British Armed Forces, but from so many across the world. We’ve been incredibly lucky this year; the Walking with the Wounded team had raised a lot of money. Like you say, the likes of Duncan Slater for the first double amputee to complete the race – amazing.

Then also we had Oscar who’s 16 years old, he competed with his father. Everyone helps during the race. That was very encouraging throughout. But then also, everyone back home really got behind the team which then led to the successes that Walking with the Wounded had in the race.

Ian: Let’s go back because there’s got to be a starting point. Let’s start with you and your running and then the MDS prep. To prepare for Marathon Des Sables and be non-Moroccan and do well, it normally requires all sorts of specific types of training, whether that is being really anal about kit, working out what type of food you’re going to eat, heat adaptation, how you handle dehydration, and all those things. I’d like to talk to you about that. But first, when did you start running?

Tom: My sister was a good athlete at school. I got slightly jealous of her so I decided that signing up to the Athletics Club was a good idea. That was when I was 13. I raced on the track all throughout school – anything from 70, 100 meters to 5k on the track. I realized that I was a decent, good English runner so I just got pulled in to the cross-country teams. Since being in the army, I’ve had an incredibly busy career and running took a back seat.

However, during 2015, I was based at a posting in Kenya for 10-months. I was lucky and spent a week training at the high-altitude training centre which really got me focused again on my running. Getting back to the UK, I carried on as much as I could but with work commitments, it’s always been difficult to be able to plan out a couple of months in advance of which races I wanted to do.

I’ve always been keen on my fitness and played as much sport as I can. But my running has only been specific for the last six months. I was squeezing everything in as much as I could – my preparations have been fairly rushed. I still see myself as relatively untrained…

Ian: I’ve got a feeling that there’s a lot of runners around the world saying to themselves, “If Tom’s really untrained, what’s going to happen?”

Tom: I think I have to find my distance and to find my passion, for now ultra-trail, that’s where I’ll stick. Hopefully, specific training will then lead on to more great results.

Ian: Like I said, you were a complete unknown but there was a great deal of conversations at MDS about you being a 2;18 marathon runner, aiming for an England vest, wanting to run at the Olympics – what is the truth in that story though? What are the aspirations outside? What you’d like to achieve in ultra and trail? What is your marathon time? What are your objectives, maybe in terms of a GB or an Olympian vest?

Tom: I think for the time being, I’m really going to focus on ultras. Certainly, the next 18-months. It’s always been my ambition to race in the Olympics. My marathon is currently at 2:20, but that was a while ago. I’m hoping with the experience that I’m going to gain in the next 6, 12 and 18-months, that my running will really start to improve. For the moment, I’m doing it because I love the sport.

It’s more than running, It’s the whole community, the preparation. It’s being self-sufficient throughout the race and then also, mixing with the other competitors. It’s a very competitive sport but on the start line, you’re mixing with other people from all over the world – Rachid and Mohamed for example. It’s just that relationship that you can forge over a week-long period which really draws me into ultras, especially multi-day.

Having said that, my ultra-running experience is so limited and I’m sure a lot of the followers will be fairly surprised to read that the MDS was my first multi-day race, so it was completely uncharted territory for me. The long stage of MDS was the farthest I’d ever run by 12-kilometers, ity was all so new.

Ian: Wow.

Tom: It’s just such a huge learning project. I’m so new to that. I’ve got so much to learn and will just be learning as much and as much as I can in the sport.

Ian: Yes, okay. I’m getting a sense that maybe the multi-day type experience is where you will place an emphasis but obviously single-day ultras are also going to figure. Being in the army and the way that Marathon des Sables is organised, is the race just like another army training exercise – Is it just like another military campaign?

Tom: There are certain similarities, I think that’s why Marathon des Sables attracts a great deal of serving and ex-military personnel not only from the UK but also from all across the world. It’s self-sufficient element is classic military and replicates doing something hard – be it a long insertion march or similar, plus you must carry weight. Post the run, it’s about getting yourself back into your tent and then starting to look after yourself, looking after your body, doing all of that, the basic administrations, sorting out your feet, stretching, making sure you’re fully hydrated again, getting your nutrition on – classic army!

This is what really draws everyone closer together, you’re going through that together. You are living in a confined space in a tent with 7 other people and the camaraderie that’s built up over a very short period of time is very similar to the military, which I think is absolutely amazing.

Ian: The process of working out how you were going to spend the week in the desert in terms of your kit selection, your food choices, were they just extensions of what you’ve experienced as a soldier or did you specifically pool information and speak to people to find out what type of equipment to use? It can be a daunting task when you think about this whole self-sufficiency thing and the fact that you’ve got to carry everything that you need. The only thing that you’re being given is water and a shelter for the night and it’s all basic.

Join Tom Evans, Elisabet Barnes and Sondre Amdahl on our Multi-Day Training Camp in Lanzarote – information HERE.

Tom: Yes, I spent a bit of time speaking to lots of people. I was lucky enough to be around for the MDS Expo in London which was excellent. That was my springboard to start my research really – the kit, the foods, the heat training and the hydration strategy that I was going to implement during the race.

I spent a great deal of time testing different kit, my room at home now is full with different backpacks and different pairs of shorts and socks – it can be expensive!

Ian: [laughs]

Tom: It’s important to be specific, my needs are different to others in the race. For example, I completed the whole race quicker than say someone takes to do just the long stage. That is significant! The demands on ones feet, clothing, time on legs, nutrition and so on can’t be underestimated.

Ian: Absolutely.

Tom: It’s very different. It’s a very, very different experience. I started day one with six and a half kilo pack exactly. I had a few comforts, had a nice a nice warm jacket, a good sleeping bag but no roll mat, my food reserves were weighed out and light weight and I probably didn’t carry as many calories as I would have liked and no stove, all my food was cold. But having said that, because I ended up getting in  early during the days, I was able to warm my water up naturally in the sun. It can be a very daunting process, ask a 100-people they’d probably tell you 100 different answers.

It’s important to find out what works for you, what’s comfortable but also assess the race and your goals. Most will walk far more than they anticipate, I was lucky, I ran pretty much the whole race but it’s a very different story once you move out of the top 10%.

Ian: Yes. I’m impressed for a first-timer with the fact that you got your pack down to 6.5kg, that obviously must mean that you weren’t eating much more than two and a half thousand calories per day. You said that you’d been quite a big guy over 80 kgs, I don’t know what you’re racing weight is now, you’ve lost weight so need less calories. Andy Symonds from the UK, he was looking for top-10 and he achieved that but he did say to me that as the week went on, he was just permanently hungry and he wasn’t getting enough calories to function as he wanted.

He could run but he didn’t have the energy to run the pace that he wanted to run. How did you manage that and how did you sustain the pace? Is there anything that you had done pre-race that taught your body to use fat as a fuel?

Tom: I ended up doing a lot of my training early in the mornings before breakfast because I was incredibly busy at work. If I could get 1-2 hours in the morning, it meant that I had more time during the day. I’d have a good meal the previous evening but then 10 hours later, eight hours later I’d be running on an empty stomach, it just got my body used using my fat stores and supply the energy I needed.

During the race you’ve got to make sure you have the right nutrients, the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in your diet. I’ve got a good friend back home who owns a small supplement company, OG Supplements, who spent a lot of times of going through my diet plan, just looking at the ingredients – I had the right amount of nutrients in my diet.

On the shorter days I would eat 2,300 calories and then on the marathon days, 2,700, and on the long day, 3,100. Lets be clear, you are going to be in a calorie deficit throughout the week but I think it’s being able to space those meal plans out that works. A sizable breakfast in the morning and then throughout the day, every time I got to the checkpoint, I was taking calories on just to try and maintain a level of energy within my body. You need some good calories quickly when you finish, you need to start the repair process asap.

You must make sure that you look after yourself as soon as possible – going back to being serving officer in the British Army, certainly with the Welsh Guard, that is a key lesson that I learned going through my training, it has become second nature.

Ian: I think certainly being in the Army is a huge advantage. It’s that admin, it’s that protocol, it’s that discipline. I often think of a story that a soldier told me of why you make your bed in the morning and you can probably elaborate on this far better than I can but it’s that process of starting the day and having that discipline.

Tom: Yes it is! You can look at it in the short term with the same analogy as making the bed in the morning: Start the day as you mean to go on, exactly the same; start of the week, start of the month. You’ve got to be able to take on that attitude in everything you do. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it properly!”

A lot of people say, “Oh, you were very lucky that you get the chances to do these things.” Funny how people who work hard become lucky! Without hard work, none of this is possible. You must delve into the depth of everything and you’ve got to try and cover all bases, looking into to every possible eventuality. I’m a huge believer of visualization and setting goals – short-term, midterm, and long-term.

That brings it much closer to home and making my dreams a reality rather than something that, “Oh, this might be quite nice to do.” It’s the mentality that I use when I go into anything – work, home, training or racing.

Ian: You mentioned about training in the morning and training fasted and the fact that you have a busy working life. What would a typical training week for you look like in the build-up to Marathon Des Sables?

Tom: I have been lucky enough to be training with a group of guys who are training for London Marathon, all guys planning on running a sub 2:20. The majority of my mileage was high-quality miles. I was of the mind-set that I needed to run quality miles. However, when you’re training for ultras, you are doing longer distances, one needs to be specific. If I tried and maintain the same tempo and the same effort in longer sessions I would crumble – all about balance.

I would average 90-miles per week and then in the month before Marathon des Sables, I added two weeks at 120 miles, which was by far the longest that I’d run. My runs would be a real mixture of longer runs, typically back-to-back. I would do a tempo long run on a Saturday and then a slow long run on the Sunday. During the week I’d be on the track once. I woukd join sessions: 4x 8-minutes 10k pace for example, really focusing on speed work and the power. I really think it helped my form for Marathon des Sables.

A lot of the race is about speed and about strength – if racing at the front. If you imagine going over the dunes, the quicker that you’re able to get off the dune, the less chance there is for gravity to work against you and the sand to hold you back. I needed to perform at a high level, day-in and day-out. I did a lot of work with my heart rate monitor and I’ve spent time in the lab looking at my VO2 and my lactate threshold.

My training was based on a marathon training program. I have a coach at Lewes Athletics Club and we mixed everything together to try to work it around my schedule at work – it worked well!

In the second part of the interview, we bring you Tom’s thoughts about the race and how his 2017 Marathon des Sables unfolded.

Marathon des Sables 2017 Summary on IRUN4ULTRA

The 2017 Marathon des Sables concluded in April and here on IRUN4ULTRA is a summary of the daily action and a selection of images.

“It must be noted that the Marathon des Sables is so much more than elite runners going fast. The finish line is one full of stories, emotion, tears and laughter. The example of Louis from Luxembourg, Duncan Slater from the UK and so many more cannot go unnoticed.”

Go HERE to read the full post.

2017 IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

The Market – Morocco

“To visit Morocco is still like turning the pages of some illuminated Persian manuscript all embroidered with bright shapes and subtle lines.”

– Edith Wharton, 1927

 

It’s about escape, my time in a place. Wandering and looking from within. The rich treasures a place holds. The people about daily life – I sneak in, capture a moment and take it away trapped for ever for others to see.

“… I wish I could tell you the wonder of the souks and marketplaces; the brilliant overflowing of spices, olives, fabrics; the witchcraft stalls; the fishmongers; the piles of mint and thyme scenting the air . . . and even more than this is the wonder of its becoming familiar, the sufficiency and contentment in knowing the names of things, the words to tell the taxi drivers, the sense and reason behind the lives of Moroccans …”

– Melissa Manlove, ‘Letter from Morocco’, Travelers’ Tales

Episode 133 – #MDS2017 Marathon des Sables Special w/ Elisabet Barnes and Tom Evans

Episode 133 of Talk Ultra is all about the 32nd edition of the Marathon des Sables. The show is co-hosted by the 2015 and now 2017 ladies’ champion Elisabet Barnes and we have a full and in-depth interview with top Brit and 3rd overall, Tom Evans.
Talk Ultra is now on Tunein – just another way to make the show available for those who prefer not to use iTunes – HERE  You can download the Tunein APP HERE
Talk Ultra needs your help! 
We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! 
Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON
Donate HERE
Read about the 2017 32nd Marathon des Sables HERE
New races added to the Marathon des Sable brand
Half Marathon des Sables Fuertaventura HERE
Marathon des Sable Peru HERE
Are you dreaming of giant dunes, amazing adventure, sharing, and introspection? Are you fascinated by South America? Do you like feeling the excitement of new adventures? If so, go down in history by being the first to walk or run in the footsteps of the Incas: come and join us at the end of November for the very first MDS PERU!
What: 250 km, 7 days of race, 6 stages, in food self-sufficiency conditions
When: from 24 November to 4 December 2017
Where: in the Ica desert, Peru
Who: YOU!
MDS PERU will be taking place in the Ica desert, 300 km south of Lima. You’ll discover the most beautiful South-American desert and will move about in one of the world’s driest regions, with huge dunes and sandy plateaux perched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes cordillera.
01:09:46 – INTERVIEW with TOM EVANS
UP & COMING RACES

Australia

Queensland

50 km | 50 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website

Victoria

Maroondah Dam 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

Austria

K65 Panorama Ultra Trail | 60 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
K85-SCOTT Heart of the Alps Ultra | 85 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Belgium

Wallonia

57 km | 57 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
La Bouillonnante – 56 km | 56 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Canada

British Columbia

50K | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Ontario

Pick Your Poison 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

China

Dalian 100 | 100 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Dalian 50 | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Denmark

Hovedstaden

Salomon Hammer Trail Bornholm -100 Miles | 100 miles | May 05, 2017 | website

France

Alpes-Maritimes

Ultra Trail des Balcons d’Azur (80+25) | 105 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Ultra Trail des Balcons d’Azur (UTBA) | 80 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Ardèche

57 km | 57 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website
Ultra Trail l’Ardéchois | 98 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

Aveyron

Le Saint-Guiral | 60 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website
Relais x 4 | 105 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Trail du Capuchadou | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Ultra du Pas du Diable | 120 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website
Ultra Trans Aubrac | 105 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Bas-Rhin

Trail du Wurzel | 52 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website

Deux-Sèvres

Course nature | 84 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Dordogne

100 km de Belvès en Périgord Noir | 100 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Finistère

50 km | 50 kilometers | May 01, 2017 | website

Manche

60 km | 60 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

Morbihan

118 km | 118 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
64 km | 64 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
Relais 65 km | 65 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Rhône

Ultra Beaujolais Villages Trail | 62 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Savoie

Nivolet – Revard | 51 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

Seine-et-Marne

Grand Trail du Sonneur | 66 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website
Ultra Trail de la Brie des Morin | 87 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

Seine-Maritime

Le RaDicAtrAil – 110 km | 110 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
Le RaDicAtrAil – 57 km | 57 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

Vaucluse

95km relais x2 | 95 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
95km relais x4 | 95 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
95 km solo | 95 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Vendée

80 km | 80 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

Vosges

Trail des Roches | 73 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

Yvelines

Germany

Baden-Württemberg

Lauf “Rund um Wolfach” | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Lower Saxony

HeXenStieg Ultralauf | 219 kilometers | April 28, 2017 | website
Hexentanz | 104 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Rhineland-Palatinate

53 km | 53 kilometers | May 01, 2017 | website

Saxony

Sächsische Mt. Everest Treppenmarathon | 84390 meters | April 22, 2017 | website

Greece

Doliho Ultra-Marathon | 255 kilometers | April 28, 2017 | website
Olympian Race – 180 km | 180 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
Olympian Race – 62 km | 62 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website

Hungary

Mátrabérc Trail | 55 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Indonesia

100 km | 100 kilometers | May 05, 2017 | website
60 km | 60 kilometers | May 05, 2017 | website

Ireland

Galway

Connemara Ultramarathon | 39 miles | April 23, 2017 | website

Italy

Emilia-Romagna

50 KM di Romagna | 50 kilometers | April 25, 2017 | website

Lombardy

UMS Ultramaratona Milano Sanremo | 280 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Tuscany

Elba Trail “Eleonoraxvincere” | 54 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
The Abbots Way | 125 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Tuscany Crossing Val d’Orcia 100 km | 100 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Tuscany Crossing Val d’Orcia 50 km | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Japan

Challenge Fuji 5 Lakes – 100 km | 100 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
Challenge Fuji 5 Lakes – 112 km | 112 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
Challenge Fuji 5 Lakes – 72 km | 72 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
Fuji Five Lakes 100 km Challenge | 100 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
Fuji Five Lakes 118 km Challenge | 118 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
Fuji Five Lakes 71 km Challenge | 71 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website

Madagascar

Semi Trail des Ô Plateaux | 65 kilometers | May 05, 2017 | website
Ultra Trail des Ô Plateaux | 130 kilometers | May 05, 2017 | website

Martinique

Tchimbé Raid | 91 kilometers | May 05, 2017 | website

Mexico

Carrera de Baja Mexican Trail | 100 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website

Namibia

Sahara Race (Namibia) 2017 | 250 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

Norway

KRSUltra 60k | 60 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Philippines

100 km | 102 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
50 km | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Portugal

Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 | 116 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Madeira Island Ultra Trail 85 | 85 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Slovenia

110 km | 106 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
50 km | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

South Africa

50K | 50 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
Loskop Ultra Marathon | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
The Hobbit Journey 90 km | 100 kilometers | April 28, 2017 | website

Spain

Catalonia

72 km | 72 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
Ultra Trail Muntanyes de la Costa Daurada | 90 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Extremadura

LXVII Milhas Romanas | 100 kilometers | April 21, 2017 | website

Valencian Community

CSP-115 | 118 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
MIM Marató i Mitja | 63 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Sweden

100 miles | 100 miles | April 23, 2017 | website
200 Miles | 200 miles | April 22, 2017 | website
50 miles | 50 miles | April 23, 2017 | website
50 Miles Night | 50 miles | April 24, 2017 | website

Turkey

Iznik 130K Ultramarathon | 130 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Orhangazi Ultra Marathon 80K | 80 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

United Kingdom

Aberdeen City

Great Lakeland 3Day | 90 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

County of Pembrokeshire

East Dunbartonshire

Highland ‘Fling’ | 53 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

Greater London

Thames Path 100 | 100 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

Hampshire

XNRG Pony Express Ultra | 60 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

Isle of Wight

Full Island Challenge | 106 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
Half Island Challenge | 56 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

North Yorkshire

The Fellsman | 60 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

Surrey

58 km | 58 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
58 km Relay | 58 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

USA

Alabama

Grand Viduta Stage Race | 43 miles | April 28, 2017 | website

Arizona

Sinister Night 54K Trail Run | 54 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

California

100K | 100 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
50K | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
50K | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
50K | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
50 Miles | 50 miles | April 22, 2017 | website
Folsom Lake Trail 50K Run | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Run | 50 miles | April 29, 2017 | website
Razorback 100K Endurance Race | 100 kilometers | April 24, 2017 | website
Razorback 100 Mile Endurance Race | 100 miles | April 24, 2017 | website
Razorback 50K Endurance Race | 50 kilometers | April 24, 2017 | website
Razorback 50 Mile Endurance Race | 50 miles | April 24, 2017 | website
Rodeo Beach Rumble 50K | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Colorado

100K | 100 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
50K | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
50 Mile | 50 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

Connecticut

Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug 100k | 100 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website
Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug 50k | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website
Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug 50M | 50 miles | April 30, 2017 | website

Delaware

Trap Pond 50K | 50 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website

Florida

JWCorbett 50K | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
JWCorbett 50M | 50 miles | April 22, 2017 | website

Georgia

100k | 100 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
100M | 100 miles | April 22, 2017 | website
50K | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Double Top 100 km | 100 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Double Top 100 Mile | 100 miles | April 22, 2017 | website
Double Top 50 km | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
SweetH20 50K | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Idaho

Weiser 50k Ultra | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Weiser 50k Ultra Relay | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Indiana

Indiana Trail 100 | 100 miles | April 29, 2017 | website
Indiana Trail 50 | 50 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

Kansas

FlatRock 101K Ultra Trail Race | 101 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
Heartland 50 Mile Spring Race | 50 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

Maryland

BRRC Gunpowder Keg Ultra 50K Trail Race | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
C&O Canal 100 | 100 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

Massachusetts

TARC Spring Classic 50K | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Michigan

Running Fit Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website
Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website
Traverse City Trail Running Festival 50k Run | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Minnesota

Trail Mix Race MN – 50K Ultra | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Missouri

Frisco Railroad Run 50k Ultramarathon | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
Frisco Railroad Run 50 Mile Ultramarathon | 50 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

New York

Sybil Ludington 50K Run | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Pennsylvania

3 Person Relay | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
6 Person Relay | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Hyner Ultra Challenge 50K | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Solo Run | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
The Ironmasters Challenge – 50K Ultra | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2017 | website

South Carolina

Blind Pig 100K Ultra Marathon | 100 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Blind Pig 100 Mile Ultra Marathon | 100 miles | April 22, 2017 | website
Xterra Myrtle Beach 50 km Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Texas

Double Marathon | 52 miles | April 29, 2017 | website

Utah

Salt Flats 100 | 100 miles | April 28, 2017 | website
Salt Flats 50K | 50 kilometers | April 28, 2017 | website
Salt Flats 50 Miles | 50 miles | April 28, 2017 | website

Virginia

50K | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
50 Mile | 50 miles | April 29, 2017 | website
70 Miles | 70 miles | April 29, 2017 | website
Biffledinked 10 x 5k | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Biffledinked 10 x 5k 2 Person Relay | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Colonial200 Relay | 200 miles | April 28, 2017 | website
Promise Land 50K | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website

Washington

50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
Capitol Peak 50 miler | 50 miles | April 29, 2017 | website
Mt. Si 50K Relay & Ultra Runs | 50 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
Mt. Si 50 Mile Relay & Ultra Runs | 50 miles | April 23, 2017 | website
Snake River Island Hop 100K | 100 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Snake River Island Hop 50K | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website
Spokane River Run 50K | 50 kilometers | April 23, 2017 | website
XTERRA Spring Eagle 50K | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2017 | website
Yakima Skyline Rim 50k | 50 kilometers | April 22, 2017 | website

Washington D.C.

Relay | 150 miles | April 29, 2017 | website
02:39:45
We say this every show, but Talk Ultra is nothing without downloads and listeners so please help us spread the word.
Share us on Facebook
Tweet us on Twitter
And use good old word mouth.
Importantly, go to iTunes and subscribe so that you automatically get our show when it’s released we are also available on Stitcher for iOS, Android and Web Player and now Tunein.
Our web page at www.iancorless.comhas all our links and back catalogue.
Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage.
I’m Ian Corless and she is Elisabet Barnes.
Keep running
Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE
Website – talkultra.com

Marathon des Sables 2017 #MDS – Stage Five 42.2km

Rachid El Morabity and Elisabet Barnes are the 2017 Marathon des Sables champions! The displayed consistency, pacing and a strong mental approach to once again top the podium in a race that started multi-day racing an astonishing 32-years ago!

The fifth and final timed stage of the 32nd edition was the ‘classic’ marathon distance. The course started with a short section of rocky plateau and then dunes. At 5.5km a dried Oued with crevasse provided an early challenge and then at11km a small gorge introduced the runners to a stony Oued. From 22km the course alternated dunes and stony plateaus and at 37km the old town of M’fis situated on a hill provided a glimpse of the final bivouac in the distance. It was all downhill from here to close out the 42.2km course.

After a week of pure calm, the winds on the final day arrived causing sandstorms and twisters. Elisabet Barnes lead the early stages of the ladies’ race and then eventually Nathalie Mauclair finally took over the charge, no doubt trying to prove a point on the last day. Barnes kept the French lady in sight and the duo crossed the line in 3:52:17 and 3:54:31 respectively – Elisabet Barnes the champion of 2017.

Fernanda Maciel placed 3rd as she has done for much of the week, her time 4:14:32 and Emilie Lecomte 4th in 4:22:09. Aziza Raji placed 5th and the ladies’ top-5 was complete.

Despite an early charge by Thomas Evans, Rachid El Morabity seized the day as he has done most of the week showing a masterclass of running in the Sahara. He pipped his brother Mohamad (a star of the future) by just 7-seconds, 3:10:08 to 3:10:15.

Aziz El Akad and Abdelaziz Baghazza beat Evans to the line 3:11:19 and 3:14:13 to 3:16:20 – the week confirms Evans as a class act and one who has shown great humility to fellow runners.

Of course, the MDS is so much more than just runners going fast.

The finish line is one full of stories, emotion, tears and laughter – race director Patrick Bauer, stays on the line and experiences every single one with each and every runner. Some of the stories and images will follow in the coming weeks! But for now let me leave you with two magical moments…

Congratulations go to all those who completed the 32nd Marathon des Sables and a huge nod is forwarded to those who attempted a tough, challenging and inspiring MDS and did not cross the line!

Final results and stage results HERE

Marathon des Sables 2017 #MDS – Stage Three 31.6km

Day 2 of the 32nd Marathon des Sables was a tough one. The general mood in bivouac was one of exhaustion, fatigue, tiredness and the question – ‘How will I do it all again tomorrow?’

On the stroke of 0830, the remaining runners were released on a truly spectacular but tough and challenging day 3.

Just 2km out of camp dunes waited and a sandy passage through two mountains, Running through a Oued, the first challenge of the day came at 7.4km with a sandy passage and steep climb to the summit of Joua Baba Ali jebel and then a technical path lead to Cp1 at 10km. From here a small section of flat running preceded arguably one of the highlights of the 32nd Marathon des Sables – the second section of Joua Baba Ali jebel. This section is ‘skyrunning’ in nature – technical, exposed and a real challenge. A sandy descent lead to the flat valley and a long flat run to Cp2 before the tough and challenging climb to the summit of El Oftal jebel. Descending down a stony gulley, dunes followed and then a flat and expansive run to the bivouac concluded the 31.6km day.

The day started with Rachid El Morabity bidding his time and running a little behind his Moroccan friends. However, the early stages saw a charge from Remigio Human, Andy Symonds and Thomas Evans. Was he El Morabity struggling? The simple answer is no! After Cp2 he regained the front of the race and although he didn’t pull away and gain a huge margin, win the day he did! El Morabity crossed the day 3 finish in a ridiculous 2:33:14, his brother Mohamad was 2nd in 2:34:25 and then Abdelaziz Baghazza, Abdelkader El Mouaziz and Thomas Evans took the remaining top-5 placings in 2:34:26, 2:35:59 and 2:38:53 respectively. I think they were all thinking of the ‘long-day’ of 80km tomorrow!

Elisabet Barnes lead from the front once again and it remained that way all the way to the end. However, the technical terrain allowed Nathalie Mauclair to keep her much closer in sight and at times they were just seconds apart. It was in the flatter final stages that Barnes opened a little time crossing in 3:13:07 to Mauclair’s 3:15:14. Fernanda Maciel one again returned to form finishing 3rd in 3:27:11. However, Barnes took a fall today after being distracted on the course. At the finish she has received an injection and stitches… I have no other information at the moment and will report back after chatting in bivouac. Melanie Rousset, Emilie Lecomte and Aziza Raji took the other top-6 places in 3:28:02, 3:33:44, and 3:47:23.

Attention now turns to the much feared ‘long-day!’ At 86.2km and a 35h cut-off, this day will be a challenge for all. There are two starts with the majority of the race leaving at 08:15 and the top-runners departing at 11:15.

Results available HERE

                                Follow on

FACEBOOK.COM/IANCORLESSPHOTOGRAPHY

TWITTER @TALKULTRA

INSTAGRAM @IANCORLESSPHOTOGRAPHY

Marathon des Sables 2017 #MDS – Stage Two 39km

The mood in bivouac on the second morning of the 32nd edition of the Marathon des Sables was one of mixed emotions. Satisfaction on completing day one, a good nights sleep and then the daunting contrast of a ‘tough’ day two and 39km with some significant technical and sandy terrain.

An 0830 start would allow runners a little more time to complete the stage – the cut-off was 11h 30min.

Heading south the early km’s were full of sand, dunes and climbing – Bou Laadam Jebel a significant marker at 5km. A plateau and then a steady sandy climb at 8.5km would lead to Cp1 at 12.8km. The next 12km would follow a southerly direction of sand, hills and dunes. Cp2 would offer some recovery before the push to Cp3. Dunes would sap the runners energy here and then a tough climb would lead to the highest point of the day via a gulley of rock. Elotfal jebel offered stunning views and then a steep sandy descent before the final Cp3 and a flat run to bivouac.

Day 2 was all about Rachid El Morabity and Elisabet Barnes. The duo dominated the day from the front and have well and truly laid a foundation for potential victory in the 32nd edition of the Marathon des Sables. Of course, there is still a long way to go…

El Morabity ran within himself till Cp1 but then opened up a gap leaving the rest to follow. The men’s field was spread throughout the sand, dunes and plateaus of Morocco – El Morabity was having none of the group running of day 1.

Abdelkader El Mouaziz, Mohamed El Morabity and Thomas Evans followed but they were not match for the MDS master. At the line, the gaps were significant. El Morabity crossed in 3:04:52 and then it was 3:12:15, 3:14:31 and 3:14:35 for El Mouaziz, El Morabity (younger brother) and Evans. Aziz Ek Akad placed 5th and Andy Symonds 6th.

In the ladies race, Elisabet Barnes is showing the form that gained her victory in 2015. She looks relaxed, happy and focussed. Last year’s second place Nathalie Mauclair commented on how strong she was running. Barnes lead from the front and never looked back, just as day 1, a way she like to run. She crossed the line in 3:49:04.

Following behind there was a change with Fernanda Maciel returning to form and pipping Mauclair to 2nd, the times 4:00:42 and 4:04:14 respectively. Emilie Lecomte placed 4th, Aziza Jaji 5th and rising star Jennifer Hill 6th.

FULL RESULTS HERE

The third stage will start 0830 and a distance of 31.6km and a 10h 30m cut-off will be applied.

                               Follow on

FACEBOOK.COM/IANCORLESSPHOTOGRAPHY

TWITTER @TALKULTRA

INSTAGRAM @IANCORLESSPHOTOGRAPHY

Marathon des Sables 2017 #MDS – Stage One 30.3km

 

On the stroke of 0900, the 32nd edition of Marathon des Sables began! The roar of the helicopter followed the runners as they were released from the line with a relatively flat, sandy 30.3km of the Sahara ahead.

Pre race nerves suddenly disappeared and months-upon-months of training and preparation could finally be put to use in the sands of Morocco.

As usual, race director Patrick Bauer warned the runners of how heat, dehydration and the desert brings a very unique challenge.

The route travelled south via a stony plateau and the first 6km were inaccessible by vehicle. A line of dunes followed that took the runners all the way to Cp1. From here, the direction of ESE and the east brought more flat but soft sand. A rolling landscape preceded Cp2 and then small rolling dunes, a rocky plateau and a small sand climb introduced the runners to the highpoint of the day and the sight of bivouac in the distance. A following 2.5km stony plateau resulted in the end of day-1.

The ladies’ race was all about 2015 Marathon des Sables champion Elisabet Barnes. Today she ran strong, confident and looked in incredible shape showing all the ladies a clean pair of heels. As she ran past me she shouted, ‘I feel great and I am loving it!’

Even 2016 second placed lady, Nathalie Mauclair could not keep up. Aziza Raji followed and then Fernanda Maciel, Emilie Lecomte and Melanie Rousset.

At the line, Barnes finished in 02:38:13, Mauclair 2nd in 2:44:57 and Raji 2:54:36.

The mens’ race was all about Brit, Thomas Evans. He but the Moroccan quartet of Rachid El Morabity, Mohamed El Morabity, Abdelkader El Mouaziz and Hammou Moudouji under real pressure as they pursued him through the sand and dunes of the 30.3km stage.

Always holding him in sight, it was like a stage of the Tour de France as the Moroccans took it in turns to pace and hold him at 1-200m. It was in the final kilometre they made a move. 2016 MDS champion Rachid was outsprinted by his brother Mohamad, El Mouaziz placed 3rd and Evans held on for 4th. The times, 2:10:36, 2:10:54, 2:11:17 and 2:11:58 respectively.

The 2017 edition for the race is going to be exciting!

Stage 2 is a tough stage of 39km. The start will be at 0830 and the cut-off is 11h 30mins.

IMAGE SELECTION TO FOLLOW

Follow on

FACEBOOK.COM/IANCORLESSPHOTOGRAPHY

TWITTER @TALKULTRA

INSTAGRAM @IANCORLESSPHOTOGRAPHY

Salomon S-Lab Peak 20 Review #Peak20

Packs for a multi-day race or a running multi-day adventure were once the domain of Raidlight. Of course, other brands ventured into the arena but it was only really the arrival of WAA that made everyone start to stop, look and see what else existed.

Packs are personal.

I think a pack becomes even more personal when one requires something to be comfortable for multiple days and also when carrying 6.5kg or more.

Salomon have now extended their ‘vest design’ to the S-LAB PEAK 20 and in doing so, they will turn the head of many a runner and make them question, is this THE pack for them for their next multi-day adventure or race.

Shape, gender, size, height and so many other variables dictate if a pack is comfortable or not and this depends on you, so, when looking at this pack I try to be impartial and when possible I always try to cross reference with a female perspective. The plus of this pack is it comes in S, M, L and XL so no compromising to be made. I am 38/40 chest and I have a medium which fits perfect.

If you are heading to the mountain for an overnight adventure, I am pretty sure the Peak 20 will work for you. However, would the pack work for a race like Marathon des Sables, Grand to Grand, Everest Trail Race or one of the 4 Desert races when one is completely self-sufficient for multiple days?

Let’s look at the packs highlights:

  • 1 main compartment with a full length zip (double slider) that open up allowing easy access and organisation of what is inside.
  • Fabrics that wick and are quick drying.
  • Three sizes – S, M and L.
  • Soft trims so no chafing.
  • Sensifit is a Salomon buzz word that ultimately means it should be the Rolls Royce of bags when coming to fit and comfort.
  • Front hydration pockets x2 (designed for 500ml soft flasks).
  • Adjustable front straps for customized fit.
  • Zipper pockets – It has 2 large pockets on the front, 2 expandable pockets on the shoulder straps and 2 top zipped mesh pockets.
  • Will take a bladder.
  • Ability to carry poles or ice axes.
  • Lightweight at 484g +/-.

THE PACK

This pack will work for an overnight adventure, mountain marathon race or an adventure when an excessive mandatory kit will be required. But, the big question for many will be, can this pack work for a 6-day self-sufficient race?

In a word – Yes!

Simple reasons why:

  • Yes, it can hold 2 x 750ml of liquid at the front
  • Yes, it has 4 pockets on the front that will allow immediate access to anything you will need whilst running a stage.
  • Yes, it can hold another liter to 1.5 liters on the rear in two external pockets.
  • Yes, it can hold everything you need for 6-days self-sufficiency.

OVERVIEW

The pack has a 20L capacity (typical for Marathon des Sables and comparable with the competition from Ultimate Direction, WAA, Raidlight, OMM and others) and has one large external zip on the rear that works two ways so that you can zip down or zip up depending on preference. Once open, it’s possible to access the pack easily and arrange contents. Internally there is a small mesh panel so that you divide the large compartment in two – a good thing for maybe an overnight jaunt but not required for a multi-day adventure.

It’s light, very light! It has a vest style that echoes and follows on from the designs from Salomon’s other models.

The front of the pack has two stretch pockets for soft-flasks or bottles. On top of these pockets sitting a little lower are two large pockets with zips that hold a surprising amount. On top of the shoulder straps are two stretch zip pockets that provide additional storage.

On the sides of the vest are adjustable cords that pull the pack closer to the body or allow the pack to be looser.

On the top of the rear of the pack above the zip, is a central cord pull. Pull this and the yellow cord that wraps around the pack pulls tighter and compresses the contents. Great when the pack is full to make everything tight and secure but especially useful as the days pass when racing and the pack contents become less.

IN DETAIL

The pack tapers and as you can see from this side-view is narrow at the bottom and then opens up wider as one gets closer to the top. On both sides is an open topped stretch pocket that will take a bottle or other items.

The pack has thin blue padding that does not sit inside the pack but on the outside and underneath the mesh back. The is ingenious as it has been designed so that it can be removed.

It is held in place by small metal buckles that attach to web loops. I removed the padding and used my sleeping mat inside the pack as my padding. Ingenious – not only do you save weight but your mat doubles up as protection when running and sleeping.


The two-way external zip is great to allow access to upper items or lower items in the pack without having to un-zip the whole pack. Importantly, when un-zipped it’s easy to access the inside and arrange items. An internal mesh panel can be used to split the pack into two halves. For some this may be useful but if like me you use the sleeping mat inside, you can only have one large compartment. It’s a great space and like any pack, you will want to play around with how you pack your contents to find the correct balance. As a tip I recommend you leave your sleeping bag out when packing. Put all the contents in and then add the sleeping bag filing in all the empty spaces – you will be amazed how a lightweight down bag will compress.

The external cord the wraps around the pack is designed to be pulled tight and compress the contents. This is adjusted on the rear of the pack just above the zip.

Simply hold the buckle and pull the cord. The cords pulls tight and compresses to make the pack smaller and tight – perfect! You can make this even tighter by pulling the cords on the side and then taking up the the slack by the top adjustment. This on days 3, 4, and 5 will be just incredible at making the pack smaller and smaller as contents are used up.
On the shoulder straps, the yellow cord is also present under the two shoulder zip pockets. Pull the cord here and take up the slack and you pull the top of the pack closer to your back.

 On the sides of the pack between the bottom rear and the front lower pockets there is a yellow cord on each side – again this allows you to pull the bottom of the pack as close to your back as you require.

In a nutshell, this level of adjustment is just perfect and is the best of all packs I have tried.

 The front of the pack is classic Salomon vest design but with some differences. Fitting to the torso comes via 3 straps. Two go right to left and one goes left to right. These attach via a black plastic hooks to a yellow cord.

They can be moved up or down and they can also be made tighter or looser. In particular, this will be useful for lady runners who need to adjust the pack to fit around their chest. It’s a method that works and the on-the-go adjustment is welcome.

There are two stretch pockets that are designed for soft-flasks. This for me caused concern as I was under the impression that they would only hold 500ml. Not so! These pockets will take the Hydrapak SF750 soft-flasks and you can drink from these without the need to remove them.

Prefer straws? The Hydrapak 600ml bottles with straws will fit.

Prefer hard bottles? This is where I needed to think outside the box… OMM make very slim 500ml bottles and they fit like a glove.

Have no fears, you can carry enough water up at the front. Also, lets not forget the two external pockets. In my tests, I had 2x 500ml OMM flasks on the rear too. So, at a minimum you could carry 1litre or 2litres with 2 bottles on the rear. At a max you could carry 3litres with 1.5 up front and 1.5 at the rear.

UPDATE on the bottle situation. I finally obtained 2x 750ml Raidlight bottles with straws and they fit like a glove to the front pockets!


The two pockets that sit below the bottles are a real welcome addition. They are easy to get at. They have great capacity, trust me, you need no more additional space up front, especially when one considers the two additional sip pockets on the shoulder straps. These pockets are less spacious but they will take a phone, snacks or other essentials.

 

There is an attachment system for poles that comes over the right shoulder. I personally though would probably attach to bungee cords to the front of the pack so that I can place the poles across my chest when not in use.

Fit is sweet and with all the adjusters you can really get this pack close to your torso. It fits like a piece of clothing and there are no rough edges – all the seams are soft. Salomon actually say that the pack may be worn against the skin and it will feel like apparel.

At 484g it’s light.

INITIAL SUMMARY

This pack is still under test and things such as longevity, strength, weaknesses, durability and so on have not been tested as it’s too early to say.

However, what I can say is that this is the best pack I have tested for running when the contents are heavy and I require 20L capacity.

I have long been a fan of the Ultimate Direction Fastpack as I loved its simplicity and no nonsense approach to the task of carrying many items and weight. The Salomon S-Lab Peak 20 has now become my new favourite.

It’s not without flaws – what pack is? The yellow cord compression works like a dream but it can be a little tricky to set up – it’s a small price to pay though.

The front bottle pockets almost certainly require soft-flask use or using the OMM 500ml bottles. I personally would always caution against soft-flasks for a multi-day, if they puncture, you are screwed. However, the Hydrapak soft-flasks are more durable than much of the competition and they have never let me down. The 600 or 750 versions work with the vest – perfect.

We will follow up with some action shots of the pack and an overall summary from a male and female perspective in the coming weeks, for now, this pack gets an ‘A’ for awesome.

Photo below is copyright Ricky Gates – he’s currently using a prototype Peak 20 with front pack. Interesting!

You can read Ricky’s specs and the contents of the pack on his Facebook page #transamerica 

In use at Everest Trail Race, November 2016

Some comments:

Paul Wilson Used one on the spine race. It was ace. Did most of my training with an ultimate direction fast pack then seen got the Salomon pack. Which proved to be far better.

Jana Studzinska Tested on fully self supported solo running trip across Serra de Tramuntana. Can’t recommend more.

Sito Castello perfecta para la Everest Trail Race.

Robert Kampczyk Cool bag. Like it because my complete Photo Equipment can insert.

What Salomon say:

Ideal for alpine running, superlight mountaineering or fast hiking, the streamlined S-LAB Peak 20 set uses our trail running knowledge to move fast in the mountain, with stretch fit and complete stability. With convenient access to the 20L compartment, both the pack and the load are easily compressed for maximum stability under partial load. It includes front storage solutions for two 500ml soft flasks and essentials and possibility to carry poles, ice axes…

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable fit
  • Breathability

FEATURES:
Back systems
MotionFit Trail
Sensifit (pack)

Load Management
Soft Twin Link
Compression quick lace
Top and bottom sensi load lifter

Pockets & compartments
2 front soft hydration elastic pockets
2 front zipped large pockets
2 shoulder expandable pockets
2 top zipped mesh pocket

Carrying system
4D Pole holder

Opening & closure
Wide front opening with double sliders

Miscellaneous
Soft trims
Apparel sizing
Patent pending

Fabrics
PVC free
Elastic Power mesh
Fast wicking fabrics
70D Nylon Double Ripstop, Waterproof 500mm
70D Nylon Triple Ripstop – Silicone coating, Waterproof 500mm
Elastic Jersey

Pack weight (lb oz) : 17.073
Pack weight (g) : 484
Pack volume (l) : 20
Pack volume (ci) : 1220

Fred Streatfield – The Community Of Running

iancorless-com_lanza2017-03885

Fred Streatfield has been running all his life. You could say that running defines him. However, Fred is so much more than a runner, he’s a husband, a father, a grandfather, great grandfather a builder and in April 2017, he has set himself the challenge of running the Marathon des Sables.

‘MDS’ as it is known within the running community, is for many a dream goal. It’s been billed as the ‘Toughest Race on Earth’ and while we all know that it’s not, the multi-day Saharan adventure does bring its own set of unique problems and difficulties to encounter.

The race is over 30-years old and has without doubt paved the way for all modern day, multi-stage races. It’s format of self-sufficiency has been copied time and time again. In the early days, it was tens of runners who toed the line. Now it’s 100’s of runners and in recent years, with the growth of ultra-running, more than 1000 stand within the dunes of Morocco every April for what will be, for them, the ultimate experience

When you’ve been running for as long as Fred, you’d think this Moroccan adventure would be a walk in the park, or should I say, the dunes for him. But no, despite 49-years of running, Fred is intimidated for this new venture in his life.

A race like this is intimidating, it should be, after all it’s why you do it, no? Fred is no different than any other when signing on the line and paying the deposit. He wanted his run experience to be made whole, with something alien to him, something that would completely take him out of his comfort zone. Little did he know that when he signed up, his challenge would become something so much more than running…

iancorless-com_lanza2017-03570

Niandi Carmont caught up with Fred after a training camp in Lanzarote. It was a camp specifically tailored for those undertaking a multi-day race of any type. Among the 40-participants on the camp, Fred became somewhat of hero.

It’s a simple way to start any conversation about a future race, direct is best sometimes, “Do you feel prepared Fred?’

“Well, yes. Yes and no really. I feel I now need to do more training but in all honesty, I don’t stop – I do need to do more long runs though.”

iancorless-com_lanza2017-03365

Fred had arrived in Lanzarote feeling a little worried that he would be isolated, little did he know that he was leaving one family behind to be joined by another.

“The training camp was absolutely just beyond belief really. The volume of running we did and the guys I ran with… It was amazing, they were all young whippersnappers, and me, I’m an old boy! But I did keep up with them.”

Keep up with them Fred did. He’s an old-school road runner, a little obsessed with running fast. Too fast at times, particularly when you consider his 65-years. We had a phrase when I was younger and you’d see an older runner, ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’ and yes, Fred is as fit as a butcher’s dog. On day 1 it was a shakeout run of just 60-minutes, Fred by his own admission says that he’s not used to technical terrain – too many years running on the road! Forty minutes into the run he hit the deck, it looked a bad fall. His arm was bruised, is elbow bleeding and he was holding his ribs. We imagined the worst. He bounced up, brushed himself off and pushed on. The next day, the first day of the camp was a long run, Fred didn’t hold back and placed himself in the fast group.

iancorless-com_lanza2017-03171

”Yes. I went with the first group, with the fast group. Last year I ran The Great North Run with Mark Scott (also on the camp) and I beat him by about three minutes. We were running for Macmillan charity. In the race, Mark came in after me, we exchanged niceties, shook hands and then we met again on the camp. As I was waiting for the run to start, Mark came and said, “Come on, Fred. Come on. Come on. You belong in this group.” which was the fast group. I said, “No, no, Mark, I’ll go with a slower group”. He went, “No, no. You go into this fast group.” Anyway, I stuck with him for 40-minutes, the run was going to be about a 20 to 23 plus miles. I thought to myself, if I continued at this pace I may not finish. It would have done me in. Ian was with me at the time so we eased off with another runner, Paul Allum and then joined your group Niandi.”

Niandi was of course flattered, it was just 1-day into the camp and already Fred was getting a fan club. Niandi’s group was pretty much running all the time but it was a slightly slower pace than the group up front lead by Elisabet Barnes, 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies champion.

Fascinated by stories and people, Niandi knew Fred had a story, we all have a story, but Niandi had that intuition, that sixth sense that told her that there was more than meets the eye. It started simply, ”Tell us a little about what motivated and inspired you to decide to do MDS and how it all started?”

iancorless-com_lanza2017-03060

“Well, it goes back quite a way. There is a nice little story attached to this. I saw the race on the internet and how it posed the question of challenging one’s self. I was attracted to it but I dismissed it and moved on. Then a few weeks later, I went on to a website and it popped up again. My initial thoughts were about it looking really tough and I wondered if I could do it, after all, I am getting on!”

Niandi laughed, she’d heard rumors that there was more to the story. She probed, “Tell my how your wife was involved the entry process?”

“I went off into town with my wife. I left her and went to get some information on the desert running. I hadn’t told her though. I bumped into a friend of mine and he said, “What are you doing?”  I was on the spot so I told him that I was thinking that I may be tempted to run in the Sahara and I was getting some information. I told him though, whatever you do, don’t tell the wife!”

I am sure you can fill the gaps but the inevitable happened. The following day they bumped into each other once again and how did the friend great Fred?

“How’s the desert coming on?”

“Have you entered?” my wife said. “No, but I’ve been considering it”

The ice was broken. Fred entered the race and never looked back. His wife supported him every step of the way. But elation and excitement turned to loss, sadness and questions if the race would ever happen.

iancorless-com_lanza2017-05200

“I think it was December 10th, it was the registration day. That was 2015. We waited for the entry for 2017 to open. I am not computer savvy and she had offered to help me fill out the forms. Technology and me don’t go together. Anyway, we checked in and we paid the deposit and that was the start. At the same time, we were in the process of moving house, always a big thing. The move happened and then 5-weeks later she passed away.”

It’s a moment like this that a life can fall apart, imagine it, married for so many years and then suddenly a void. Fred was all set for throwing in the towel but this is the power of running and the community connected with the sport.

”There was a closed website group just for the people who are running the MDS in 2017,” Fred continued. “They all said, “No, no, no. Don’t give up. She wouldn’t want you to.” So, I decided to carry on. It’s been difficult and it’s still difficult now. That’s one of the reasons I’m running. II am also running for Macmillan Cancer Charity. It’s important to help the charity too.”

No words needed. What feels like minutes is only seconds and Niandi picks up the conversation. “That’s a very noble cause, Fred. You’ve had a lot of support from the running community and from the people at the Lanzarote Training Camp, but it’s also due to your personality because you’re very outgoing. You’re very positive. You’re very bubbly. You’re very communicative and you’re really fun to be around.”

There’s silence and then a, “Thank you.”

******

iancorless-com_lanza2017-05235

“I can’t remember my first race. But I was running at school. That’s where it all started but a key moment was when I had started work. Some guy just walked up to me. He went, “You look fit. In the car park, over here, every Saturday morning, be there. You will want to bring some running stuff.” I didn’t get any backing from my parents or anything like that and I really appreciated it so I started to go, I still have those old plimsoles.”

Simple beginnings and picture starts to form of Fred, his background, his history, his dedication to work hard and graft.

“I got some old shoes and some old shorts and then just went running. It just went from strength-to-strength really. I was about 15 or 16 and I have never looked back – I have met some amazing people. Obviously, they were not with us anymore, but they kept me going and helped me and nurtured me through. Even in the early days, the running community helped me.”

Community, bonds, friendship, values, Fred found all these in Lanzarote and it confirmed to him all that is good about running and although the decision to continue after the passing of his wife was a tough one, he now knows it was the correct one.

”Words fail me really, everyone on the training camp has been so incredible. It’s been tough. they’re so nice. It was really tough, II didn’t say anything on the camp but while I was there it coincided with the anniversary of my wife’s funeral.”

“I think there was a very strong bond between everybody and people knew what you’d gone through and I think that they felt the vibes,” Niandi responded. “Family is also very important to you. I also got that impression because you come from a very close family. Well, maybe you could tell about your family, about your daughters.”

”Yes, my daughters have been strong for me. Also, I don’t know how they’ve coped losing their mom. But anything I want, anything, they are there for me. They cook me my food and they take turns to have me as a guest at weekends – just so that I don’t starve. I’ve got four children myself and each of my four children have got four children.”

”That is 16 grandchildren?”

”Yes, 16 grandchildren and one of my granddaughters who is now 20, she’s not the oldest, she’s just had a little baby girl, six months ago!”

“You’re a great-grandfather?”

“I think that shocked some of the guys in Lanzarote. They looked at me and said, “How many grandchildren you got?” I said, “I’ve got one great-granddaughter.” I don’t think they could believe it.”

iancorless-com_lanza2017-2-20

Married for 44-years, his wife was 18 and he 19. Through thick and thin, as Fred quite rightly says, “It wasn’t all roses.” But who’s story is. They battled the tough times, enjoyed the good times. “She was my best friend. She helped me, she made me who I was and she was a very strong person and a really nice person as well.”

Part man, part robot, Fred has held back some other vital information. “You also have to keep a check on your health,” Niandi asks. “Because you’ve had a few health issues?”

“Yes. I’ve got a pacemaker. It’s all checked, it’s all monitored, and it’s good to go. In 2012, when I had a problem, they said I would never run again. At the time, I was looking at the MDS and I thought my chance had gone. But since then, everything is working out and I am fine. I’ve done just over 200 runs and races. I’m pretty fit.”

The finish line of the 2017 Marathon des Sables will be a special one. Red ribbon will pass through the fingers of race director Patrick Bauer. Attached to the ribbon will be a large disc of gold. As Fred crosses the line and the prize is placed around his neck, I have a real feeling that there will be more than just Fred’s tears shed on the finish line. This simple man embodies the race. He is a personification of the values the race holds true.

iancorless-com_lanza2017-03910

*****

 

Fred’s typical training week:

  • Monday – Swimming
  • Tuesday – Run club night which is usually a sat 8km-10km.
  • Wednesday – Cycling 2-hours indoors.
  • Thursday – Run club hill sessions or fartlek. Followed by 1-hour swimming.
  • Friday – Rest.
  • Saturday – Park Run in the morning and then a 10km to half-marathon run.
  • Sunday – Usually 9 to 15-miles.

On MDS:

I’m sure I’ve got everything that I need. The Lanzarote trip helped with this, there might be a couple of little bits that I need, but nothing really. I think I need to slow down a little bit when running, think about the long game. I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be tough. Believe it or not, I’ve joined a sauna club. I’m hoping to spend a few hours in the sauna. I don’t know if I’ll be able to take my running stuff, though. I run in Lanzarote with my pack and that worked, I didn’t have full weight in it but it was good. I need to test out my food now and I am good to go.

Would you like to join our 2018 Multi-Day Training Camp, if so, go HERE

iancorless-com_lanza2017-2-25a