Brett battles with the Sahara in the Marathon des Sables
By Brett Raynes • 25 Apr 2014
More is in you
~ Brett Raynes, CEO, Cloud Direct
I believe more is in you. Last week I tested this under the scorching Moroccan sun in what the Discovery Channel describes as ‘the toughest footrace on earth’. 156 miles across the Sahara Desert in up to 50 degrees centigrade – exhausted, beyond myself, I said hello to my edge… and pushed on.
Feelin’ hot hot hot
They said it was five marathons in six days. It’s not, It’s four marathons in three days. A day off, then one more. Then a fun-run.
To say I was prepared for this ultrathon would be like saying the desert is deliciously cool at midday and sublimely cosy at night. It isn’t. I wasn’t. Injury dictated extensive rest periods in the weeks approaching the Mds, but my twingeries were not to control my determination to square up to the Moroccan triangle.
Day one and all was well. I finished 280th or so. Not bad for a 50-year old.
The downhill race
Then it went rapidly downhill. I’d never actually contemplated heat stroke. Blisters, yes. But this is something else. I have to race and yet my body is starting to shut down. Can’t eat. Can’t drink. Spiralling through the sands of nausea. Started the next day with negative calories. Took in two Kcals and expended 5-10 Kcals. Savoury food, I could do. Sweet, and I was gagging. Runs became walks. Walks, staggers. Staggers, stops. Stops. Tears.
The checkpoints? They never came. Clear air made for good visibility, but everything was always further away than I thought. Usually they were uphill; up a mighty sandy hill.
The longest day
The longest day started at 9am. The first marathon part took 12 hours. 12 hours. And I was only half way. The sun was setting and I was walking. And walking. And walking. In the dark, my head torch proved useless, as I fell and stumbled through the dunes. Eventually, night released its slippery grip and the sun began to fire. I had a five k visual straight to hell. To the finish. The end. But I had no choice but to find a tent and lie in it. All day, in the nauseating heat. I barely managed to take in two Kcals that day.
A rock in the sands
The last marathon was pure agony. I started on empty and continued to drain. My body forced me into multiple breaks just to continue at all. When finally I saw the finishing point at less than a kilometre away, my legs buckled beneath me. I couldn’t get up the dune. For 30 minutes I lay there until, finally, I gathered the energy to stagger over the finishing line. In tears.
I went to the edge. And it looked back. It wasn’t the one I was expecting, but I said hello anyway.
There was more in me… just!
Plan for the worst, hope for the best and prepare to be surprised
Looking back from rainy, sunny England, I reflect on the coulda, woulda, shouldas. Mainly, I shoulda planned more. But really, I was expecting the unexpected. And I did live the belief; I now know, really know, that unwavering faith and brutal reality can walk hand-in-hand through anything. And more is in me.
Channel swim, anyone?
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