I knew I had to suffer, I knew it had to hurt………these were the thoughts that passed through my mind as I sat by a beautiful pool vacationing in Turkey in June 2015.
But what was I thinking? I was thinking about how to prepare myself for perhaps one of my biggest challenges yet, “Crossing Wahiba” something that I had failed to do on my first outing there in 2014.
A date was locked in to take on this brutal desert again which was to be Feb 2016. I knew it may take everything I have got so I wanted to be ready.
What better way to prepare I thought to myself than run 50km in 50 degree heat with zero training what so ever! As I sat there the initial idea started to grow on me, my fear started to rise but at the same rate so did my excitement. This was going to be an unreal test.
July 31st 2015, the date was set and at 5am we assembled in the carpark at the start of a 50km loop in the middle of the desert. Some had never run more than 10km, some were planning to complete 25km, I had my sights firmly set on running the whole loop and clocking 50km. People were nervous but excited, fearful yet smiling and as daylight broke through it was time.
Running is an incredible sport, I guess you could say it is something like a self propelled roller-coaster, the only issue being if you ever stop the propelling, the roller coaster also stops. The waves are both physical and mental in that at times your legs may be feeling heavy but mentally you are in a good place whilst in another instance your mind is weighing you down but your legs are delivering a solid and effortless speed.
It is truly a unique sport.
I love doing challenges with people and the first 10km of this run was like a social club, for some it was their first time in the desert and their enjoyment of nature warmed me. For others you could see they were having to focus from the start. All of those things aside we were all together, 16 people, all with the same goal, I guess you could say to really test our limits, I mean none of us had gone to the desert before in 50 degrees and attempted to run 50km. Everyone was going to experience something new and that in itself was just unreal.
As we passed the 20km mark I remember Jacque saying to me, “Well every step from here on in is further than I have ever run before, so let’s see what happens.” What an incredible mindset, just uber positive and yearning for that experience. There were a number of steps more as Jacque made it to 43km before he was forced to retire.
From 25km to the 40km point strange things started to happen in my body. I needed way more water than I normally did and my legs felt heavy, very heavy. I put the legs down to the fact that I had not run once since April (when I had completed the Marathon Des Sables) and just kept on pushing.
The push as we know is as much mental as physical but on this day I was waiting, waiting for the mental game to come into action, it was actually why I was there, remember this was a “training” run with the intention of suffering and hurting myself. Masochistic you could say but I had already bought into the temporary pain in search of my bigger goal in Wahiba.
As I reached the 40km point, luck has it that it is basically a straight line back to the start but more importantly the sun had reached overhead and was peaking out at 54 degrees, only 4 degrees more than what we had asked for!
I find it hard to put into words what that last 10km was like, physically your head is thumping, I could run about 400m before I was in so much pain that I had to stop and walk, you are alone, the sun is so bright, not a breath of air, your skin is burnt, I guess that’s some of the things but it doesn’t really complete the picture nor do it justice.
What is important and why I was there is for the mental strength, this is the test I like the most. The fact that every time I drank some water I vomited it up (a sure sign of heat exhaustion) I guess you could say is a by product of the benefits I was looking for on the day. Having the mental aptitude to cope with those conditions, but always knowing that every footstep I took was one step closer to the end. Some people will never understand why I did this and why I continue to do things like this but I understand 100% and will never stop.
6 hours 43 minutes after we started I arrived at the finish. I would have crawled the last 10km, at no point did I ever think I would not have made it, even if it had taken 5 hours more, the goal was set and I was making it.
The thought that this may become an annual event frightens the hell out of me which to be honest is a sign that I really need to make sure it is.
The simple summary is this: You run, you suffer, it hurts, your mind plays games with you, you want to stop, it hurts, you keep going, your body starts to do strange things, it hurts, you cross the finish line, YOU WIN!