April 6th – 15th 2006
Jim and I set off from Balham with a poor nights sleep no curtains in my room. Have to wear trainers with gaiters to Balham Station where we get the overground to Gatwick. Check in with lots of other strange looking footwear. Mcmuffins at airport. Bought water bottle. Wait in departures for an hour. Rob from BOMFunk introduces himself. Get on charter plane. Sat next to Phil from Singapore, CEO of multinational insurance firm seems nervous, Has done a lot of trekking around foothills. Jim sat behind. Off at Ouazazarte first and get on the bus. Rab Lundie gets a cab. Already looks like he knows best. Five mins to hotel. Check in to nice room, unpack stuff everywhere. Go for dinner sit with army boys who have been training in the Ascension islands. Chaz and Brummie.
Up to get breakfast an hour earlier than we needed to because the pilot had said the wrong time on the flight in. Sat next to Phil the goat on the bus. Stopped after four hours for packed lunch. Kids took all of our unwanted food. Some guys had bought pens for them. Two more hours then we are shipped onto army trucks for the final twenty minutes into camp. Goggles on as it is dusty. Make our way to tent where we are later joined by Simon and Nigel, then Esher and Katherine Sweeney Reed. Get fuel and see Jack Osbourne with his trainer and his trainers bird all in another tent with the army boys from dinner. Get in the dinner queue early. Good food then back to tent and have to sleep early because its lights out when the sun goes down around 7: 30pm. Bogs pretty disgusting over behind us.
Breakfast then back to tent for more sitting around. Sandstorm kicks up and spend most of the day trying to pin down the fragile berber constructed cloth tent. Everything filled with sand. In the afternoon we register. Guy doesn’t check any of my stuff because of the storm. Give in my ECG and get asked all questions on my training by the medics. Passed ready to go and get back to the tent. Dinner and try to sleep early again.
April 9th: 28 km
Berbers take down the tents at 6am. Left out in the open to deal with all of our kit. Learn quickly to keep the Thermarest inflated. Two shits, a powerbar and some jerky to kick off the day. Feel good and ready. Already holding back extra water back in the camelbak on top of the 1.5l morning ration. Head over to the startline and Jim takes his time. Pissing all the time so super hydrated. Next to Osbourne on the startline. Playing Jumping Jack Flash as we kick off. Chopper heading back and forth over our heads low and angled to get footage. Running ten minutes on and ten minutes off for the first hour and a half. Sand thick in places. Pass Osbourne looking like his kit doesn’t fit his body. Talk to guy who has cycled and canoed down through France and Spain. Took him 5 weeks. Dried river beds etc also. Not too many coming past but feeling pretty competitive from the off. Get to CP1 in about 1h 50 and stick the water into PSP bottle and camelbak and bolt off in a hurry. To CP@ takes us up a high Jebel (Mountain) which stops a lot of people. Still running in patches but Jim not keen on blowing it too early. Head up the mountain quitre easily and Jim behind by a couple of minutes. Press straight on and there is another pass to work up and some dunes. Down the other side quite steeply to CP2. Jim comes in 5 mins later and looks woozey, says he should have laid off of the Stella the night before. Don’t want to leave him bnut keen to press on. Nigel turns up and so leave Jim with him while he tends to his feet. Run for a couple of minutes and then power walk over the next hill. Onl;y 7km to the end of the day but when you see the End you realise how far you have left to go. Seeing it is agonising. Hard walk through the flats. One guy goes down on an IV drip. German guy 305 keeps running past then slowing down and going backwards in his green gaiters. See Nicky in the fluorescent top going off ahead again. Finish well. Pick up 4.5l of water. Time is 4:45. Not bad. 364th which I am pleasantly surprised with. Go back to tent and it isn’t up. Check feet and gaiters and all seems in order. Jim comes through twenty minutes later. Can see the finish line from the tent and the final 3km. Tent not up for three hours. Esher looks whacked and comes in last. Nige and her asleep on outside of tent. Rob comes over and asks if we put the tent like that on purpose. Idiot. Three hours later it goes up. Enduralytes still going in and banana rego clearly going to be a challenge to drink. Have a Cod dinner which is ok but only a bit of the second meal. Clear I am not going to get through all of the food I have with me. Feel ok as we go to sleep but people still coming in right through the 10 hour cut off point in the dark. Shocking that it has taken them that long. Osbourne makes it in over 6 hours. His trainer had blisters at CP1.
April 10th : 35km
Tents down at 6am again. Sit out and air feet. Fill bottle and camelback with 1.5l again. Across to startline for day. Find out one of the guys at the hotel who wanted to finish top 100 and walked around all day in his camelback bag finished 71st and then collapsed on the startline through dehydration. Fucking idiot. Set off and Jim doesn’t want to run but I am keen as it is only 0.8km to the start of a big climb up a mine path. On the path get caught in queues but go round the outside up and over past the mine shaft and down the other side. Running and walking across plane all the way to CP1 and feel quite strong. Enduralytes still doing the job. Only on PSP though and no food. Over some small dunes and onto a flat plane where the wind whips up into a sandstorm. Sand coming in the side of the parachute goggles. Everyone is overtaking me towards CP2 as I am walking slower than they. Break into a jog about 2km out and take them all back. Some guys sitting down already under and shade they can find. At CP2 it is really busy but I am unawares as to the reasons. Rab is there so assume he has finished and got on a jeep back to help out some of his team (ie Nicky). Turns out he has abandoned. Feet and Knees are fucked. People filled in tents and under tree. Sandstorm kicking up and the next section is dunes so presume people are scared off by getting lost. Bolt straight through the CP but leave my hat behind by accident. Drop my thermarest and roadbook and some guy calls out. Dunes are difficult but not impossible. Over them within an hour then up the otherside. Still haven’t learnt to judge things on time by this stage and just hoping not far to go. Completely desolate plain. Few people out there with me. Sandstorm is heavy and there is nothing to be seen anywhere. Stop taking Enduralytes because I have run out of those in my shorts pocket. Still only drinking PSP for energy. Begin to go through it. Feel like I could break down as it is so fucking hard. Grit my teeth and sing through the Foo Fighters One By One album to stay sane. Times Like These features heavily. Struggling not to cry. See in the distance a camelfarm and a big tent and assume it is the end. Push on and realise it is simply a farmers tent. Push on another km or so and some people starting to jog by so must be close. Jeeps around and that. Guy in fluorescent gaiters nails it past so must be close. See the finishline but am not happy. Am not even happy 10 feet from it. Problem of not believing I can reach it until I am over it. Feel fucked but get my water and head over to tent. Have finished 232nd in just over 6 hours which is obviously better than I should be achieving. Few people seem to be back. Phil the hoof invites me to his tent whilst they put mine up. Dave Proud comes in collapses and his muscles are in spasm in his legs. Looks like there are eels under the surface of his skin fighting to get out. Have to take his shoes off for him and he can’t move. Back to my tent. Jim comes in as was waiting outside 92 wondering where I was and why the tent wasn’t up. Looks and sounds terrible. Tells me has cried when he came over the line. The others make it back hours later. I start to feel really sick. Try to eat but feels awful. Push down some nuts and makes me chunder almost pure PSP/ Water right by tent. Get it all over me and my sandsuit. Some guy asks me if Im ok and I tell him fucking great thanks. Back to tent and try to eat agaiu. Throw up halfway through the meal. Selof diagnose myself as rejecting everything because I have taken on no solid calories since 7 in the morning. Lie down and collapse. Katherine banging on about how much shes eaten drives me mad. Jim has a go at her. Sleep pretty much right through however wake up and pass out on side of tent when I try to piss. 99 people dropped out today.
April 11th: 38km
Get up at 5am go to the toilet. Nearly chunder. Know that if I do it could be over for me. Hold down half a meal and a tiny bit of power bar but struggle. Get ready and feel really weak on the startline. Try to fight through the first flat 10km and make it. Take on a tiny bit of power bar but it is enough. Across the salt flat to big dune/ mountain. All the way up it. See Brummie collapsed on rock on the way up. Just as we get to top sharp turn left up a 25% slope which ios horrendous. Power up and get to the top where loads of people are crashed out at CP2. Not feeling good but have enough water. Plough on down the otherside of the slope and through the valley. No one passing us and guys looking like they are in trouble. People collapsing and flare goes off ahead between two big dunes. At top of second one we see CP3 maybe 3 – 4km off. I expected this but a lot didn’t, are out of water and can’t believe how far it is. Many start to scramble down the hill to get there asap. Jim storms off but realises we arwe no where near and reigns it in. Pass some guy who looks fucked. He says he has a little water and can make it. Get to check point and agree with Jim to rest 15 mins. Have to as I am knackered. The same guy comes in collapses next to the jeep dry retching and passes out. Drag him to Doctors where they put him on an IV. Both pissed off that he wouldn’t let us help him. Jim gives me his dried apple rings which he hates. I love them as they are the only things I haven’t yet been sick on. Press on to the end and the route is quiet. Make it to a solar powered well which one of the competitors has raised money to build. Damp our heads and carry on to plane. Can see the end but know it is a long way off. Both feel a bit emotional I think but together it is easier. Reach it less than an hour later. Seems very desolate where we are. Esher and Simon make it back announcing they have both pulled out. Esher is pissing and shitting blood and Simon has blown his knee (cartilage). Both upset but take it well. Esher gives me her lucotape and Melonin and Simon his loo roll. Sleep better tonight.
April 12th: 57km
Get to the startline and Patrick Bauer announces that as a result of 124 people already dropping out he will be giving out extra water at all check points and cutting this long day down from 72km to 57km removing the beginning loop up a Jebel and sending us instead straight through a pass in the mountain. Looks to me like this has been set up and always potentially on the cards as a point to cut the race back if it was getting out of hand. It is. I am relieved but Katherine says she is annoyed and feels cheated. Jim and I now know we can nail the route in a day rather than having to plan to stay overnight on route and not get a day off the next day. Set off and walk the whole way but at good pace. Have a stick from one of the Berbers tents today and feels helpful. CP1 is fine. To CP2 becomes a challenge over big dunes. The top 50 including the goat have started two hours behind us and come past between these two. Jordanian guy winning is out of control fast and looking behind him for the Ahansals. They follow shortly after. So does the goat and then two other Brit lads that look strong asking some Korean guy if he is ok. Stop at CP2 for ten minutes near Myles Mcnulty then press on over a massive plane with dunes and areas of flat. It is 12km however we don’t know this until we eventually reach CP£ which they call CP4 on a dune side. Get interviewed by some guy and tell him the hardest thing is not the conditions but being able to see the CP or startline and being so far away still. Next from here is 10km, then 9.5km, then 4km. The next 10km take fucking ages as we go over dunes, I have a dump, get the glowstickss and headtorches out and head on into the night. Big lazer at CP5 which I am convinced is the end but isn’t. Jim starts to power walk but I don’t feel like it. Do it anyway and then break into a jog. Collpase at checkpoint onto back and have feet in the air to get blood away from feet and legs. Can stay here tonight if we want as the cut off is 16 hours. Here in 11. Decide to push on after some English guy comes in and asks stupid fucking questions about the tents at the end. Nail the next 9.5km in an hour and a half as we power walk past runners and walkers on a mission. Some guy collapses in front lets off his flare and gets rescued. Wonder it he has lost his mind and doesn’t realise how close he is to the end. See a camel spider running between us. It looks big in the torchlight. Feel like I could go down between during the last 3km as I hit a weak patch but make it in and collapse in the tent again. Guy giving out water takes his time and nearly smack him as I can hardly stand up. Freezing cold and wonder if I’ve fucked it but then realise it is actually freezing cold outside. Now have all my clothing on. Get up for the last 4km. Head over the dunes at a horribly slow pace. Struggling to walk at all. After 2km realise we are close. See a Touareg sitting out on his own in the dark. Make it over the last few dunes in a small sand storm and onto the path. Following the glowsticks at night should be beautiful and enjoyable but only becomes so when I know we are close. Pass a guy forty feet from the line who is throwing up everywhere and looks like he maybe cannot walk another yard. Two guys with him so carry on. 14 hours it took us. It is midnight. Back to the tent where I manage to consume a little rego before I pass out. Wake up in the night delusional and looking to piss anywhere I can. Get up at 6 for the toilet and then sleep on and off till 7.30 ish. Eat, sleep, eat, sleep. Turn tent round and then slowly wake up to the day off. Never really fully awake all day. Get some e mails, backlog of all the previous days as mine have been going to tent 98 not 88. Make me laugh as there is a lot of hero chat. I think Jim and I both now thinking we have broken the back of this thing. Get some sleep before marathon day.
April 13th: 42.2km
Set off over the dunes. 146 have now dropped out. We are walking all day no matter what. It isn’ worth going out over running. Loads are running and we overtake them again. CP1 ok. Trek to CP2 we meet Jerry from Ireland who takes my mind off things for a while. CP3 the other side of some really serious but beautiful dunes. Tired but ok. Press on to CP4 and during this 1 hour 40 minute section I get close to the edge again. Don’t know why as we are nearly there are I have been eating properly. Leave Jim behind as I just need to get there. Cross CP4 and stop for Jim. Press on over the last 3.5km to the end. Feel good as we do it in 8 hours. Slow but don’t care today. Nige has beaten us. First time I am not the first one back. Oh well. Concert in the evening but I sleep through it and couldn’t care less. No one dropped out today.
April 14th: 11.8km
Final morning and everyone knows it. As the start kicks off we run and we run for 50 minutes and 8km until we reach the dunes. The biggest in North Africa. 3.8km later and some time spent with the guy we met right at the start who cycled and canoed down and it looks like things have come full circle. Jog the last km or so and make it in in 1 hour 20. Doesn’t sink in yet. Still hasn’t as I write this I don’t think. Queue on finish. Coming across Pat Bauer is on the phone so don’t hug him. Get a medal and some lunch. Get on the bus. 7 hours to Ouarzazarte. Guy is sick on the bus on the way back. Driver is a mentalist. Amazing Casablanca beer when we get there. Two more later on then collapse.
Spend day not up to much. Get t shirt and some pizzas. Don’t last long in the evening either. Finish 366th overall. The goat finishes 29th. Legend.
Up at 5am for flight. Get back to reality.