Well its been two weeks since I finished the race and I've eventually got round to writing the race report. Like everything in the organization of this trip I'm doing it because my wife wont let me not anymore. Incidentally, without my wifes effort and support, this adventure would would have gone no further than pub talk.
The most important thing I have to say about the run was that it was a real adventure and totally worthwhile. I've got the bug and there will be another adventure not too far in the future.
I started this run a with a friend of mine, James. Unfortunately, James didn't complete the run and was pulled after about 30 miles. James has his own comments to make and its not for me to tell you what he felt. I do feel confident in saying that he may well have felt a fair bit of pain. The sand/gravel and the heat did something unspeakable to the guys feet. I have seen some pretty horrible blisters in my time but this was on another level. Just before checkpoint three we were moving very slowly and he was in a lot of pain. When we stopped by the side of the road and we saw his entire right sock was brown with blood stains we knew it was game over. James pulled himself out earlier rather than later to give me a chance to go on in time to stay in the race. We waited for the medics and I left him by a Quad. I naturally prefer running alone, but James and I had trained together and we'd come along way to do this as a team. I must confess I ran off with a bit of a lump in my throat. I thought he'd take it really badly given the work that we'd put in, but I was slightly taken aback by his utter selflessness. As I arrived at check point three he was there and immediately did everything he could to help me out. I left for the next half Marathon bandaged, fed, re hydrated and encouraged, alone but but still moving because I was in a team. This year half the competitors were pulled from the race, you should be aware that there is a degree of fortune required to finish.
Over the course of 24 hours of running (most of it walking actually) you will naturally feel like some things could have been done better. I feel quite a deep sense of disappointment in myself for my time. I think I have become quite emotionally attached to my memory of the run. Especially the dark hours were I ran alone and worked pretty hard to hit check points on time. I managed to chalk up the miles and get to check point 5 on time. I had 2hrs and 40 mins to do the last half marathon and started well. However, I thought someone was signaling me for help I ran back and on realizing that they were fine I turned and couldn't run again. In a matter of seconds my legs had seized and I just couldn't free them up again. I watched the time tick by and it seemed all that I'd invested over the last 6 hrs was lost. I did what I could and pressed on with a strong walking pace and got in at 25hrs and 7 mins.
For the most part I'm really proud of myself. I did have a few moments were things looked pretty bleak but never considered giving up. I really advise putting the training in. Of course a good training program makes you fitter and the job in Namibia easier but there is more to it than that. I invested a lot in this race, my name, my time and a lot of suffering running up and down hills. When its tough at around 4am, you have so much training behind you and so much of yourself invested that giving up is just unimaginable.
I finished with three other runners Kate, Stuart and Mike. These guys had a plan and had stuck to it. They had grouped together only for the dark hours but seemed to be supporting each other with a great sense of spirit over these last miles. I suppose I learned that I really am no team player when it comes to running! I had fought a real fight all night on my own and had relied on nothing but my will. I really didn't feel like holding hands as we lept across the line. I actually think these three guys each got themselves through the race, none of them really needed each other. Each had everything they needed to finish but helped each other just the same. I cant say I know any of these runners but they were all excellent characters who earned their great achievement. I hope Stuart forgives me for not holding his hand for the Photo finish, I wanted to cross alone, anyway it didn't seem very British. Mike, I forgive you for making me hold your hand in your moment of need. What happens in the desert stays in the desert.
Well, each runner will rock up at the start line and go on to have his or her own experience. There are those who will jog along without any drama at all. For the rest of us there will be ups and downs, you know yourself and bar any show stopping injury you'll get to the end if you want it enough. That's all there is to it. If you're prepping now make sure you do the training you need to. In terms of equipment don't get bogged down in these blogs that advise this and that. Runners are like old women in little sowing circles. Some will tell you this sun cream, for example, is not only the best sun cream mankind has ever known but quite possibly the greatest break-through in science in the last 500 years, another will tell you a story about a time he applied it to his leg in a darkend room and suffered 3rd degree burns. Its all about trying it out yourself and coming to your own conclusions. For those of you who are looking for some practical tips here are a few.
People talk about whether you need gaiters or not. In fact even as we were walking to the start line people were unsure. To my mind its a total no brainer, YES YOU DO. The course starts with 10km of ground covered in high grass, this causes a lot of grass seeds to get into your shoes. In the early stages you can't mess about emptying your shoes just to get them filled again. In the later stages THERE IS a fair bit of sand and grit from dried river beds and dirt tracks. This sand and grit DOES cause problems, in my view people got hellish blisters largely because of this. Sweat and sand turns your socks into sandpaper, the result is obvious. Anything that stops this is obviously a good thing. That said the gaiters would have to be fairly light, close to the heal for easy movement and easily removable so you can treat your feet and change your socks.
DON'T TRY ANYTHING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE DESERT. Really obvious advice, but people do make the mistake.
Ipods or such like are a must for me. I did get busted singing my heart out a couple of times but then cringe is also a powerful impetus to run.
Take it easy for the first 30 miles. You're going to be working away at this distance for a while so just settle in, but don't mess about either. The sun will hurt you and its effects can be race ending. Keep a reputable time during the day and pick up the pace at night. I wish I'd trained just speed walking a marathon at about a 6 hr per marathon pace and then running 18 odd miles as fast as I could afterward.
Ok, If anyone ever reads this as research for their own race preparations then i hope you got something of value out of it. If you are going to Namibia then good luck and if you've read through ALL the waffle I've written in search of a decent tip then you definitely have enough determination to finish.
Never give up...
2 years ago