Tag Archive: morocco


Instalment 5 – where it goes a LITTLE bit wrong…

Tuesday 10th April – Stage 3, 35 km or 21.7 miles

Same ritual, up at 5ish, try and slumber for another hour while Ash and Paul get their breakfast.  Wake up, sort breakfast.  Big difference today though, i feel that i can do this.  We’ve only got 22 miles to do today, nice easy day in advance of the long one.  I had some blistering on my feet, that i hadn’t had time to sort the evening before due to my late arrival.  I decided i’d make a visit to Doc Trotter at CP1, as it was only 12k and was pretty easy terrain to there, although the words ‘false flat ascent’ in the route book were to become apparent and a bit of an understatement.  Mark D and I said we’d walk together to start off with and did this to CP1.  I popped to Doc Trotter and got my socks off.  Medic asked me to wash my feet with a mix of water and TCP (or similar), which i did, then i showed him what i had – a blister on my right big toe and another on my left big toe.  While he was looking at my feet, he pointed out that i had blisters on both little toes too, as well as one under the ankle of my left foot.  Standard procedure for Doc Trotter with blisters mid-stage – slit blisters with razor blade, drain, inject zinc oxide after looking in your eyes and stating ‘this might burn’, then dress, then nod to runner and said ‘bonne chance’ or ‘bon courage’ or similar.  Runner says thanks, puts socks on, grimaces when putting shoes on, then off you trot.  Mark and I made our way from CP1 to the top of Zireg and saw a dune field ahead or, as the route book describes ‘succession of sandy rises and dips to Km 17’.  We descended from Zireg and down to the dune field and started crossing.  The heat rose as we made our way through the sand.  Mark turned to me and said ‘OK Wayne? I can’t f***ing hear you, as I’ve got my ipod in’, and off he went.  I whispered ‘no mate, i don’t feel well’, and tried desperately to catch up. Five minutes later, Mark turned and shouted ‘Ok Wayne?’ then turned and went on. ‘No mate’ i said to myself, and watched him slowly disappear into the distance.  I didn’t feel right.  And i remembered Rose’s face the previous day on the dried up lake.  It didn’t sink in at the time what was wrong but i knew i needed help.  In the distance was a 4×4 with the medic stood outside, watching competitors go past.  I put some effort into getting to them in order to ask for help.  I got within 100 meters or so, and the medic turned, opened the door, hopped in the truck, and they drove off.  Marvellous.  They stopped again about a half mile away, so i gritted my teeth and dug in, and trudged on.  As i was approaching, the medic turned again, to get into the vehicle, crap. ‘STOP!’, the medic turned round and walked towards me.  ‘are you ok’? she said, ‘no, i don’t feel well’ i said.  She led me round to the sheltered side of the truck and sat me down, taking hold of my arm to support me.  What’s the matter, she asked.  I just don’t feel very well was my response.  She took my water bottle from my hand (one of the 1.5 litre ones, from the last CP), and tipped some diarolyte in it.  Drink, she said as she handed it back.  So i drank a little. Quicker, she said. So i drank a little, and a little more, then retched. More, she said. More i drank, then i retched.  Here, she said, and gave me a little pill.  For the nausea, said another medic that had just arrived.  I took the pill, and drank a little, then retched. More, said medic number two, you need to drink quicker she said. So i took a good glug, then retched again.  One medic under each arm, and i was being marched/dragged towards the only tree visible in the sahara (that’s my story and i’m sticking to it).  By this time, another vehicle had arrived, and the medic (a dentist?!) was attending to the tree, moving bits out of the way, as these ones were bristly, spiky beasts that could do some injury. My two escorts asked me to lie under the tree, then one of them said ‘this will scratch and sting’. What will dammit?!  Ah, the needle in your hand, that’s now in my arm…

Then needle was in arm, bag hung in tree, tube from bag to needle, and i was having an intravenous drip.  I decided it might be a good time for a snooze…

When i opened my eyes, the angel that is Steve was stood there, with a halo (sun behind his head) ‘what the f**k’s happened Wayne’ (not sure he swore, but it adds to the story).

‘I dunno Steve, i just feel ill, can i go home?’.

‘you’ll feel better after this mate’ (exchange in French) ‘you’re having three bags of salt and two of sugar, after that you’ll feel better, you’ll probably start feeling better on bag number four, you’re on three now, when we’re done you’ll probably want to pee a lot as it’s five bags straight where it counts, and you need to think about what you want to eat, you wont want to eat at the moment, but you need to, when you’re done here, you’ll feel great, you’ll fly to the finish’, and, sleep….

‘how you feeling mate’, says Angel Steve

‘well i don’t want to home anymore, so i suppose i’m better’

‘you’re on bag number four now, one more to go’

I looked up and saw the drip hanging in the tree by a contraption cobbled together by some paracord and what looked like a carabiner.  I thought it looked pretty cool, so out came the camera, and i snapped a pic.  Steve asked if i wanted a pic of me, and then Doc Trotter picked the camera from my hand and snapped a couple.  Steve and I were laughing ‘bloody Doc Trotter, stuck needle in my arm, then nicked my camera and took pics of me to add insult to injury’

Then Pablo arrived, the crazy Italian that’s done the Marathon des Sables about 23 times and was very popular with the medics it seemed.  He was trying to get rid of an empty can of Heineken, as he’d just drunk it on top of the jebel.  He asked the medics if they had anything to drink and they began joking about having wine and cheese especially for him.  Bizarrely i think this conversation happened in French and i understood it all.  Then Pablo went and i phased out….

When i woke up, some guy was standing there saying ‘you know it’s a two-hour penalty for having a drip mate’, and Steve responded bluntly with ‘yeah but it’s better than the alternative isn’t it’.  The staff didn’t appear to like this guy much, and i was to find out why a short while later on.  I can’t say i liked him much either, but that story’s to come.

Five minutes later, and my bladder was bursting

‘i need to pee’

‘now?’ said medic

‘no, i can wait until you’re finished’ – bad idea, my bladder nearly exploded by the time the fifth bag had gone in!  Medic took needle out my arm, and strapped some cotton wool on to stop the bleeding.  ‘stand’ said medic #2.  ‘how do you feel’ said Steve.  ‘dizzy. And in dire need of a pee’ i said as i wandered off towards a bush. ‘No’, shouted the medic, ‘other way’.  Then exchange in French, which presumably indicated i was going to urinate, which i promptly did, for about fifteen minutes.  Then i wandered back towards towards the vehicles.  ‘off you go, 18k’, said medic – and pointed down the track. So off i went…

I felt INCREDIBLE, and was rocking along the track.  I caught up with two guys that i found out were called Aaron and Dave and said hi.  I walked alongside them for a while and realised that Aaron was the guy that had helpfully reminded me about the time penalty for the drip.  They were both discussing how, with 18k to go, we couldn’t finish before the cut-off.  I felt really disheartened and disappointed, i couldn’t believe that i would be pulled for being so slow, particularly after having just spent 1.5 hours under a tree with a drip.  But shit happens, nothing i could do about it except trudge on to the next CP.  Then a 4×4 drove up fast behind and slowed down alongside.  The window came down and a head popped out ‘4k guys, we got it wrong, it’s only 4k until the next CP’.  That meant 4k to the next CP, and another 10k to the finish.  I did some quick maths, which is never my strong point, and i figured i could make it, and live to fight another day.  AWESOME!  Aaron said that it didn’t matter, he was going slowly and would wait around at the next checkpoint so they would be pulled/disqualified from the race.  I decided that i couldn’t be bothered with their losing, negative attitude and i got my head down and walked a load quicker, gradually pulling away from them.  I decided that i would put everything into finishing as fast as i could, bearing in mind that the terrain and pack weight mixed with the continued heat, meant that i was doing some fast walking.  I couldn’t bear the thought of being pulled from the race having not put all of my energy and motivation into finishing.  So off i went, with Steve’s words ringing in my ears ‘you’ll fly to the finish’…

Trotting along down the track, then up a mini-jebel, then launching myself off down the sand, i spotted the next CP in the distance.  Then i heard cheering and shouts of ‘Courage’, and ‘Bonne chance’ from above, and looked to see a bunch of staff from the CP cheering me on.  Having a little blub, and feeling incredibly proud, i trotted on to the CP and grabbed my water.  It was across another dried up lake bed then, which was difficult due to the sand being blown across.  Part-way across was Blue, and the pilot was shouting and gesturing ‘gauche, gauche’, so i looked up to see the route markers some way to my left.  I whistled to Pablo, who was around 200m ahead of me.  When he turned his head, i gestured, and he waved to acknowledge me, before moving across to pick up the route.  Shortly after, i passed Pablo and he muttered his thanks.  Next to reel in, were the two guys ahead in pink gaiters – hereafter known as the Pink Gaiter Brigade, who i passed just before the end of the lake.  Then we were onto a ‘road’, and i use the term lightly, which led to an incredible oasis, and an auberge, where the darbaroud staff appeared to be congregating for beers and ice cream (or so i dreamed).

I knew that it wasn’t far to go now, only probably a matter of about three miles, and at least there was plenty of scenery to keep me occupied as i trogged along.  I passed a dilapidated building, with a teddy sat on a ruined wall, and a load of abandoned clothes on the wall.  I wondered what had happened to the people who had once lived there, and stopped to take a couple of pictures before carrying on.  Then i heard a noise behind me and turned to see a three or four year old girl stood in the doorway of the ‘house’.  This was one of the many times that i was struck by the poverty (or apparent poverty) that existed in Morocco, and many of us talked about how people managed to survive or scrape a living in the landscape we were running through.

I carried on along the track and saw the camp in the distance through a sand haze and wondered whether we would be experiencing a sand storm later.  I made it to the end, to rapturous applause (or maybe that’s part of my exaggeration again), and went through the usual processing.  Grabbed my cardboard cup of Sultan tea, have a bit of a drink, wander to the truck for my issue of 4.5 litres water, but this time, i asked them to put two bottles into my rucksack for me – such a genius!.  This left me to carry my tea, and another bottle of water back to the tent.  Wandering back, i got a bit overwhelmed again by everyone congratulating me for being such a slow coach, and felt so proud about what i’d achieved despite a rough day.

Back at the tent, and everyone said they’d be concerned again, which was worsened by the story i then told.  I was really unfair about telling everyone that Mark deserted me, and i hope that he’s seen the jest in what has now become my standard story of events!  I think that this was also the day that Mark R had ended up collapsing at the finish line and ended up in the doc trotter tent for a bit.  The start of the “have you ever had a drip, under a tree, in the sahara? No? Then don’t talk to me about hardcore!” story commenced.

Feed time and i had an awesome chicken korma with rice, followed by rice pudding with cinnamon, and a peperami (not together).  Rich started what was to become a long running joke, by complaining that he had spag bol again, and he hated spag bol.  It seemed that he’d not packed much other than spag bol though!

After scoff, we were having a bit of banter and i started to get worried again about the event, and the next day that was looming.  I got a bit overwhelmed by the distance again, and after i’d fucked up so royally by getting dehydrated, everything was bothering me about drinking enough water, and taking enough salt tablets.

As expected when i’d been coming into the finish, the wind started increasing, and the air started filling with sand.  We tucked into our sleeping bags and tried to cover our exposed skin, which included buffs up over our faces.  I tried to take a few pics of the guys in the tent lying there with eyes closed while we got whipped with the sand.  As i was taking the pics, i could see that we were slowly getting covered with a layer of sand, and i could taste it in my mouth,  We hadn’t quite figured out how to pull the tent front and back down by this stage, so the wind was still blasting through

(In the pic shown with us all tucked up, it’s still daytime, and the flecks in the air are sand, as we were slowly coated)

After a while the wind calmed down, and the sand slowly sank, covering us even more, and the taste of sand and dryness in the mouth was incredible.  I needed to drink if only to wash out some of the sand, but it was SO cold it was unreal.  I could see my breath and reckon it was probably down to about 2 degrees C.  During the night i woke up many times feeling really really cold and shivering almost uncontrollably.  The buff now came in useful to try and keep me warm, rather than just protect me from the sand.  Wriggling down into the sleeping bag, i slept fitfully until the sun came up….

As I write this, I am referring to all the stages of the route book as I go along.  As i opened this stage, a small, perfectly pressed and incredibly dead fly fell out of the pages! ImageImageImage

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Marathon des Sables – Instalment 4 – Stage 2

strapping the 'injury'

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'I can't do this'

‘I can’t do this’

strapping the 'injury'Quick word of thanks before the blog entry. Devinder Bains has corrected my dates (unsure how i messed up on it!), so they don’t follow on from the last blog entry – cheers Dee!

Monday 9th April – Stage 2, 38.5km or 24 miles
Same routine as previous day, but with added complications. Running through my head all night was doubt. I can’t do this. It’s too far. It’s too hot. The rucksack is too heavy. I feel sick. Is my leg sore? Ash awoke around 5:10 and started making his breakfast. Paul did the same shortly after. Tony was still asleep in the corner, expecting to go. I committed to myself that if he left, I was going with him. I got up, got my breakfast on, and started packing my kit into my bag, sorting feet and shoes out, got water from the centre of the camp, filled water bottles, all the time with the thought running round my head ‘I’m going to quit, I’m going to quit’. Bit of light relief when Mark R decided to ‘enjoy’ the Bodyglide experience and I was well amused by him for long enough to get a great picture which is unpublishable!
Mark D took a picture of me that morning that demonstrates perfectly the way I was feeling. It looks like I’m having an argument with my rucksack. I’ve posted it onto facebook with the following words ‘What misery looks like – morning of Day 2, i want to go home, i can’t do this, it’s too hot, my bag’s too heavy, why am I doing this, I’ve got another SIX days of this, what am I doing, repeat (close to tears). Stand up, grit teeth, rucksack on, get to start, only 22 miles today. At least I don’t have cancer….’. It’s probably not far from what happened with the conversation going over and over in my head, all the time I was preparing myself and making my way to the start line. After the event, the guys in the tent were to say to me that they had no idea how I did this, how I got up on Day 2, let alone start, let alone finish the day. I think it’s testament to what people are actually capable of, albeit in a small way I think I’ve demonstrated what we can each achieve. Liz and Mum were due to fly out on Thursday to see me, and I was rehearsing the phone call I would make to them from the hotel. All the while, I was stood on the start line, half listening to The Pope talking about standings after day 1, the route ahead, cut off times, those who had birthdays that day… and then Highway to Hell started, and I moved my feet, and I crossed the start line for Stage 2. Only 12.3km until CP1…. One foot in front of the other….
I don’t remember much of that morning between the start and CP2, apart from the next paragraph, but i think i was alone for much of it. I think even if i was accompanied, i would have been alone with selfish thoughts of quitting, all the while plodding away. Anyway, i got to CP1, then only another 7km to CP2. Easy.
Part way to CP2, the front of my leg started hurting. Last year in the Lakeland 50, I’d tied my shoe laces too tight and had done some damage to tendons/ligaments. My not-so-little sister Kerry had given me treatment and told me what it was (didn’t pay much attention sorry Kez) at the time, but this felt like the same thing again. It got progressively worse and was all i could focus on which was bad news. There was a 4×4 going past when i pulled up – and an English voice (i think it was Steve, soon to become my guardian angel) asked if i was ok. Not really, was my response, and the medic hopped out. I explained my story, Steve translated, and the medic pulled my Skins up to look at my leg while saying something like “je veux strapper?” – “shall i strap it?”. Translation happened with me saying yes, and her getting some tape out. The tape wouldn’t stick to my extremely sweaty leg, so medic said to get it done at CP2. She then gave me a pill the size of a baby’s head, stamped my medical card and then looked at me. I looked back at her. Steve said, ‘go on then’. And i stood up. And moved on. To this day, i’m not sure there was anything wrong with my leg, but think i was looking for an excuse to give up. Except Doc Trotter and the Commissaires don’t allow you the luxury (escape/easy way out?) of an excuse, unless you’re really in trouble. I trogged on to CP2 and went to the Doc Trotter tent. I rolled my Skins up, and got strapped up, ready to go.

A voice shouted ‘Hi Wayne, fancy joining us’ and i looked up to see Mia there, along with Rose. I nodded my acknowledgement and we made ready to move after sorting water, electrolyte, and taking salt. It was just short of 10km from CP2 to CP3. Across a dried up lake bed. With no cover. And plenty of wind and heat. We were later to discover that the temperature in the camp/bivouac had got up to 52 centigrade. Just about the time i was moving across the lake bed then!
Mia, Rose, and I moved out of CP2 and started the long, straight trek across to CP3. I felt like a desert version of Shackleton – goggles on, buff over face to cover from sand blasting, Foreign Legion-style hat to cover head and neck. The world was seen through the frame of darkened goggles and i was plodding along with the weight of the world on my shoulders…. except i wasn’t… i was ENJOYING IT! I suddenly realised how amazing this was – i’d trained hard to be here. I’d cried from exhaustion, exhilaration and frustration during training. I’d been through incredibly poor weather including gales, hail, pounding rain and snow in the depth of the Great British winter. I could do this. Ashley’s words came back to me ‘stick with it, it’ll click, you’ll start enjoying it’ and I realised he’d been right. I didn’t want to quit, this was an amazing experience, i was doing it for an amazing cause. And I felt proud of myself. Only 10k to the next CP, only 6 miles. Around two hours walking. Easy.
About halfway across the lake, Mia stopped to sort something, and we carried on walking slowly. Rose and I chatted away a little, but conversation was challenging due to the wind, sandblasting, and the buffs we had across our faces as protection. Then Rose pulled up dead and said ‘i feel sick’. She tried to move, and managed a few steps, before stopping again and looking around in a daze. 4×4 appeared in the distance and drove up, the driver shouting ‘ca va?’ out of the window. ‘Yes’ shouted Rose. ‘NO’ shouted yours truly. Medic hopped out and said ‘what’s the matter’. I explained about Rose, and the medic asked her to sit down – in the direct sunlight and sand-blasting, so i suggested we move round the other side of the truck where there was protection from the sun and wind. The medic took Rose’s water bottle off her and tipped in some rehydration salts, handed it back to her and said ‘drink’. Rose drank, and retched, then drank, then retched, then the medic gave her a pill for the nausea, then Rose drank, and drank…. Then Mia walked by and shouted over ‘i can’t leave you for a minute can I’ and came over to see what was occurring. I filled Mia in on the situation, while Rose carried on drinking and slowly started feeling better. Meanwhile, i ligged out on the sand with a couple of the other medics that had turned up, one of which Mia was particularly pleased with as he looked George Clooney-esque. He was an interesting bloke and i think was a heart specialist (and I found out later he was the Medical Director for the event). He said that Doc Trotter was an amazing organisation, and we were very lucky as they had better equipment than the hospitals of many small towns (cardiologists, surgeons, even a dentist). After a full 1.5 litres (i think) of water, Rose felt better and we got up and plodded on. This experience watching Rose was to come in handy for me the next day. The medics kept driving past us, then pulling up by the route markers and waiting for us to pass. After a short while, i realised that they were pulling up the markers as we passed, and the realisation that we were the back markers sunk in.
I think we were silent again for a long while due to the wind, and i became introspective, but for the first time this was positive. I came to enjoy the time to think, and remembered the Depeche Mode song “Enjoy the Silence” and tried desperately for a while to remember the words, before my brain skipped to the theme from ‘the littlest hobo’, then skipped to ‘Star spangled banner’ before being reminded of Winston Churchill’s words ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going’. All of this entertained me greatly, and i was pleased to be enjoying my experience. This was one of the first times through the MdS experience that i realised that my head was starting to empty, and i came to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of what we were doing. Wake up, eat, run (walk!), finish, eat, remember to drink throughout….
Towards the edge of the lake, we began to see large animals in the distance and realised that they were herds of camels – HUNDREDS of camels. I’d never expected to see so many, and didn’t realise that camels came in loads of different colours, most of the ones we saw were a dark brown. Then we saw herds of goats too and i was snapping away at all the wildlife, enjoying the experience even more as the camels were amusing me greatly. Mia and Rose gave me some strange looks as i chuckled at one of the camels in particular that had crossed the trail in front of me.

We reached CP3 and it was only 9.2km to go, along with 1.7km of ‘dunettes’ ahead. It was here that i realised the French were particularly inventive with their descriptions of the sand we went through. These were ‘small dunes’, up to the height of around the first storey of a building, but we managed to weave our way through them, being drained by the terrain with every step. After the dunes was ‘sand bumps’, ‘sandy terrain’ then 0.7km, followed by ‘small line of dunes for 200m’ after which was the finish. We made our way slowly through this and could see the start in the distance. We could see a lot of people at the finish gesticulating, then some began running towards us jabbing their arms in the air. Then i heard ‘FOUR MINUTES, YOU’VE GOT FOUR MINUTES TO CUT OFF’, and realised they were showing us four fingers. Shit, we started running, using the last of our reserves, and managed to get over the line without being disqualified. I’m still not sure that we had only four minutes, as the sweeper camels weren’t anywhere in sight. The camels were the cut off, if they caught up with you, then you could get disqualified (they were led by Berber’s, they weren’t just wandering the desert). Crossing the line, i grabbed a cup of the almost-mandatory Sultan tea – and i loved it – minty, hot, sweet and maybe a little salty, it revived me and i realised i’d loved the day. Hobbling past the finish area, i went to get my nightly issue of 4.5 litres of water, and wondered if i had enough energy to carry it to the tent. On the way to our tent, i passed many other runners eating their tea, and experienced many moments of pride as they were clapping, shouting ‘Well done mate’, or ‘Bravo’, ‘magnifique’, ‘courage’ (from the French tents on my right). I realised that they were respecting me for being out so long, and i felt honoured that all these people who were so much faster than i was, realised how difficult it can be at the back of the pack. Another example of the amazing support between competitors in this event.

Back at the tent, my colleagues were sorting themselves out, and i dumped my bag, and we relived the days events. Again, i was enjoying the experience. I got emotional as i said thanks to all, but Ash in particular for his words the previous day. Tony was still in the tent, as he’d not managed to get transport back to Ouarzazete. It was good to see him, even if i couldn’t understand a great deal of what he said due to his strong Midlands accent. We received e-mails at some point, and i’d got more tonight than last night. I also decided that my pack was too heavy and decided to either bin or give away a load of Frusli bars and some flapjack. One of the most memorable comments was from Dean who asked me what i would do for food during the day. It wasn’t until Friday that this sunk in, and part of the reason for my slowness at the end of each stage started sinking in. That said this was the night for me that the banter really started in the tent, and i remember having a good crack and enjoying what remained of the evening before the sun sank dramatically at around 7pm, and we climbed into our sleeping bags

MdS 2012 – Instalment 1

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.

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