Probably best to start the story with the abject terror i felt in the week leading up to the Marathon des Sables, there’s more amusing stories to tell about training for the event, but they’ll wait for later. I’m not sure why i felt so terrified by the event when it came close, but it’s possibly the thought of running 155 miles across the Sahara with a massive rucksack on your back in 40 degree heat (although that was to be a conservative guess!). What follows may be subject to gross exaggeration and may differ mildly from what actually happened – think this is called artistic licence?! On the other hand, most of it as you’ll see, will be graphically truthful (there’s an apology there)

In the end, the event came round incredibly quickly, and the days flew by as i undertook final preparations in blind panic, and tried to ignore last minute ‘advice’ from people on facebook, twitter and friends in person. At this stage, i think that the blind part of blind panic is the best to focus on – ignore everyone and stick with your plan. Unless your plan involves taking debris gaiters to the Sahara rather than sand gaiters of course, in which case (as i did), you’re best to get them sorted pretty sharpish.

The cycle of pack, panic at weight, unpack, try to lose some weight, then repack, went on for a little bit in that final week. Then had to decide which bits of the pack to take as cabin luggage, just in case, as the helpful advice said “hold luggage does go missing”! What? Our luggage might go missing?! Again, best not to think of that.

Thursday 12th April

On the first day i managed to get from the Lakes to Gatwick without a great deal of incident, but then arrived at the check-in desk. ‘sorry sir, we don’t have your details’, says the check-in clerk. ‘Err… what? How’s that possible? I’ve got confirmation details here’ says and panic-stricken Wayne ‘is there another name you could be under’ says he, ‘nope, i’m called Karl Wayne Singleton’ says I, ‘ah, says he, you’re in as Wayne Singleton, not Karl Singleton’ and abruptly beckons me off…. This was to be the start of a bad experience at Gatwick…

Off i trotted to security, and unload my rucksack into one of the trays, along with my belt, money etc, feeling like a good boy. I walked through the gate and went to wait for my rucksack to come through the conveyor, and i waited, and waited, and waited, then a supervisor arrived to speak to the man checking the screen… Then aforementioned supervisor looked round and said ‘who’s this jacket belong to?’, holding up my green berghaus jacket. I could hardly leg it, so i stuck my hand up and said it’s mine. Supervisor said, can you tell me what you think this might be about? With a deep breath i said ‘is it my titanium kettle, that has batteries and shoe laces and my stove inside, and might look a bit bomb-like?’, ‘yes, that might be it’ said supervisor, a few more runners walked past me and shouted ‘you’d best get ready for rubber gloves and lube mate’, to which the security guard responded with ‘we don’t use lube down south mate, it’s only you northerners that get that pleasure’. Good bit of banter from the security team i thought, all things considered. Anyway, they checked my bag with a swab thing, informed me that three other runners had been pulled for carrying knives, checked my medical kit for scissors (rounded ends, so ok), and then let me re-pack my bag.

Shortly after, met the first of my to-be-tent brothers – Mark D from Cornwall. We wandered aimlessly for an age, sat down for an age, had some scoff, wandered around, sat down, wandered around and finally headed for the departure gate after an age of nervous waiting, as well as finding out a fair bit about each other and agreeing to be roomies at the hotel in Ouarzazete. On the way to departure gate, met Ian, that i’d got in touch with through facebook – and his mate Dave – both of whom looked (and turned out to be) ‘fastys’. Eventually we made it on to the plane, and i was sat in the window seat, with the middle seat unoccupied (hurrah shouted my long legs), and the aisle seat occupied by Richard. Over the course of the flight, i snoozed and had some great chat with Richard about his experiences trekking to both Poles, amongst many many other things. The banter on the plane in general was pretty good, and the mood was really positive, as you’d expect when it was full of ultra-fit, ultra-athletes who, after three years of preparing, were off for their adventure. Finally arrived in Morocco, to be met by the awesome (heavy sarcasm) border control. Thankfully i spotted that Richard had a pen, so nicked it in order to fill in the forms, and managed to get through to the baggage carousel really quickly, grabbed my bag which has just appeared, then went to sit on the coach and wait for it to fill before going to the hotel. I later found that my moves had been very well executed as some of the runners had gone on to spend almost three hours at the airport before getting to the hotel!

Arriving at hotel, i nicked a pen (pen’s are very valuable in Morocco, particularly during the MdS it seemed) off the concierge, filled something in, then demanded a room of the harassed staff “where is your room mate” was the response “he’s coming” was mine, “what is his surname”, “good question, i don’t know, he’ll be here in a minute, can i take the key and he’ll be here”, exasperated look from the receptionist and he threw the key at me. He got his own back though, as there appear to have been 575 rooms, and ours was 574, which was around three miles away from reception.

I legged it to the room, dumped my kit, and ran back to Reception to find Mark who walked in two minutes after i got there, out of breath (athlete, good start). ‘What’s your surname mate’, ‘Dymond, with a y’ said my roomy, and off we trotted again to the room. Arriving in the room, we realised that there’d be some discussion over who slept in what bed, one was a camp bed, the other was one of the largest beds i think i’ve ever seen (and subsequently slept in!). ‘Well, you arrived first, so you have the big bed’ said Mark valiantly, ‘cool mate, i’ll take the small bed when we get back, as i’m sure we won’t be arsed about what we sleep in by then’ was my response, and how right i would be!

Mark had found a couple of people to share tent with, and Paul and I had been in touch through Twitter, so that made another two (his room-mate Tony, being the other part of the pair), and i’m not sure how we managed to acquire the final two layabouts, but by the end of the evening, we had a tentful. Paul and Tony popped to our room for a quick chat, which proved one of the first linguistic challenges of the week as they are both from the Midlands and have incredibly strong accents (sorry gents, but you do), and Tony in particular was aware of how misunderstood he was. We eventually went off for dinner, and had to restrain ourselves at the dessert table, as well as avoiding some of the ‘hot’ meat dishes on display as the thought of dodgy guts was too much to bear with an 8-hour coach journey to follow the next day. Quite a few of the athletes made the most of the final night in the bar, but i decided to go and move my kit from suitcase to my Aarn rucksack, which was bulging by the time i’d finished. A restless nights sleep followed, with more terror facing me, and a mid-night awakening of sheer panic again.

Enjoyed reading this? Make sure you follow this blog by clicking above, and please do leave a comment

20130213-204439.jpg

20130213-204428.jpg

Advertisements