Day 3 – Report from Ash

Hi, today started well, a really nice run into some dunettes. First reasonable running so far. A fantastic 300m climb up rock was stunning. Felt pretty good until cp2 then my wheels came off big time. A big dried lake. Really really hot – 52c. I couldn’t find a rhythm even though everything should have been easy. I struggled to get food in for an hour and a half and really felt it. Walked to the finish and have planned to walk the big day tomorrow….80km is going to be about managing my body. I think 20hrs would be a real achievement, so finishing about 3am. No emails tomorrow. Had a toenail drilled this evening – iodine burns under the nail bed. Going to have double the calories tonight and try to enjoy tomorrow. The rest of the tent are doing well. Tent #96 is still all intact though Artur’s feet are mashed. Phil is about 120th, Dave is coming in strongly and Andrew is flying round. Linda and Rachel are doing really well, though Rachel suffered nosebleeds today. Hope all are well Love, Ash

Ash’s report – Day 2

Second message from Ash below – please do write to him at – his number is 542 and I know he’ll appreciate each and every email. Thanks, Michaela


Hiya, recovered well overnight – yummy sweet and sour chicken last night. After that I got my emails.. thank you Ciara, Nigel, Gaye and Debbie. A great pick me up. I didn’t sleep too well, one tent mate was up sewing until 2am and with yesterday being the hardest first day ever there was a lot of commotion in the bivouac. Today was hot again but a wind that helped cool water poured over my head. I found a better way to carry 3l of water so that worked better. I struggled with food today so was pretty beaten for the last couple of hours. Got in and ate recovery powder and legs up for golden hour. Feel better now. First trip to Doc Trotters today. I kicked a stone yesterday and had a blood blister right under a toenail. I’ll lose the nail, it’s been drained and the iodine is making it throb right now. Tomorrow is going to be hard with lots of soft sand. We’re all holding back for the “big one”. All in all feeling pretty good at the moment, just worried about nutrition for 80km. Love, A xx

Ash’s first day – progress report

Hi, Michaela here relaying Ash’s progress report from the first day of his Marathon des Sable. Be aware that he is only allowed to send one email a day, and that email has a 1000 character limit! He is however allowed to receive emails via the official MdS website, and I’m sure he’d appreciate your encouragement, so please feel free to write to him.


Yesterday technical checks all good. 6 tent mates so a bit of extra space. Today very hard 18km in Morocco biggest dunes and very hot. A few aches and pains, and the running was very tiring. Will see how I recover overnight. No serious blisters yet at all. Felt today that I should stop chasing a time/position. It really was a tough 33km took just under 6 hours and I was hoping for 4.5ish. But we’re all in the same conditions. Tomorrow is 1km short of a full marathon, but the road book shows less big dunes. One foot in front of the other! Amazing organisation – the logistics are immense. Just love being back in the Sahara, motorbikes and camels today, but lots of amazing views all round, even took pictures whilst shuffling along, nice way to get the heart rate down in the heat. Didn’t run out of water today, but tomorrow will be much tighter. It’s 1700 now and time to get some dehydrated food down me, some stretches and some sleep. Onward! Love Ash. xx

Thank you for getting me to the start line

This is going to be a bit wordy and no pictures.

The last two and a bit years have been an adventure. Some good, some bad. I wouldn’t be here without the help of few key people, and before I line up on the start line for Marathon des Sables 2014 there are a few thank you’s needed.

Alongside all the supporters who have donated, who I thank for their donations and support there are a few people who need special recognition.

I guess it starts with Dave and Chris Bursnall, you made a good lad and without you two my motivation wouldn’t be as great as it has been. 

What Dave and Chris started Aila continued. Thanks. 

Pete Burnsall – in the nicest possible way it’s all your fault.

From here Harry Townsend secured me a place to run MdS with Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund. Encouragement and support from Harry, along with Michelle Baker working with supporters and publicity. A great little charity.

On the supporters front Matt Williams at The Sports Performance Clinic n Bristol, Chris Charlwood at Simple Intranet and Bounce Foods – you guys have made an enormous difference to the fund raising.

Along with The Sports Performance Clinic , Sam Whitley at Bodhi Movement and Zac Laraman at Snowdonia Sports Medicine have both had their part to play in keeping my body from falling apart whilst I punished it.

James Fell at sixpackabs for a great interview.

Meirionnydd Running Club, for keeping me motivated, Go the Goats! Sandra Williams for keeping the fire in my belly to go long and Ifs and Es Richards for all the advice, support, inspiration and a few miles together.

My very good friends Jeremy and Kim Brett, through their own tough road keeping me supported and accompanying me to events. I’m sure Jez and I will share a 15 year old single malt in the hills again this year. 

The guys and girls at TORQ and Freestak for all the introductions to great inspirational people in the trail running ultra world. Especially Stu Mills for his TOTAL preparation tips.

Martin Like for great equipment advice at Likeys, and putting on a really good ultra in the Brecon Beacons. Likewise Matt Ward for putting the very excellent Trail Marathon Wales on right next to my home – what more inspiration could I need.

Nigel Bulmer at the Bikers Retreat and Danny Crookes for their insight into previous events.

There are loads of people who give the occasional – “hows it going?”, through to some good solid banter who have kept me straight and true. Thanks to all of you and the parts you’ve played in keeping me inspired – Matty Brennan, Nikki Maclean, Jon Bauer, Katie Cole, Nick Moore, Robin Shapland, Bill Turner and Kerrie Langendoen to name the first into my head.

Other competitors have also been good sounding boards and experiencing a shared journey. I’ll thank you and the race organisers at the end 😉

Finally, a special thank you to Michaela, Ciara and Katie. Your tolerance of a creaky Dad on creaky floorboards as I crept out for the pre dawn sessions. Not batting an eyelid when I was out on long weekend runs or at events. For walking up and down my legs, or sitting on me for more weight on the foam roller, keeping things normal and a strong nose have made my life easier and that in turn has made getting to the start line so much more achievable.

Thanks all. Now got to just make it to the finish.

Write to me in the desert

When I’m out in Morocco, ironically people with access to the internet will know more about the race than I do. With the technology providing rankings and video footage very day, I’m looking forward to being in a bubble.

That said, it would be nice to get some uplifting emails. Every now and then, whilst we’re in bivouac we will get handed some emails. Previous competitors tell me that this quiet time can be quite uplifting.

So jokes gratefully received!

I’ll be able to send one email a day – if I can stand waiting to get to a computer. I’ll be sending this home and then hopefully it’ll get posted on here and then out to Facebook and Twitter.

Otherwise, I’ll be in the desert bubble…and if anyone takes a mobile, I might accidentally step on it… joke.

The details I’ve been sent by the organisers for sending an email are beneath. The details needed are Charlwood, Ashley 542.


Go to the website and follow the instructions. 

section “write to competitors”

After 11 april, this email service will no longer be operational.

Only messages with surname, first name and race ID number will be transferred.

Do not send attachments (e.g. photos). This will cancel the message. Messages will be given to competitors on the bivouac every day. Note: AOI cannot transfer messages posted on Facebook, Twitter,… .

What does the race look like this year?

There is a great preview of the race on the website run by Ian Corless.

Whilst I’m interested to read about the other competitors the bit I need, for preparing mentally is the bit beneath. On Friday evening we will get our “roadbook” which has all the descriptions of the stages, navigation advice and general features to look for on the journey.

This is the first glimpse of how the stages will look.

Leg No.1 – Sunday 6 April

We get straight to the point and attack hard with a good fifteen kilometers or so of dunes in total on this first leg. Our imagination transports us into the shoes of British explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, or to the very core of superb cinema, which were a wonder to us all!

Leg No.2 – Monday 7 April

This is coloured by fields of dunettes on the mountainside and a vast reg plateau, where the marathon runners will be able to really show what they’re made of at over 16km/hr. An abandoned adobe village, a dried-up lake crossing, a small erg with some beautiful dunes, an extensive plateau of black rock, the negotiation of a remote village and a djebel climb will make up the varied menu of this long second leg, where managing ones effort will take on its full meaning.

Leg No.3 – Tuesday 8 April

After 8km of running on fair terrain, the sand will put in an appearance again prior to a djebel ascent where a fabulous erg can be perceived at the bottom of the valley. There the runners will again negotiate some high dunes to make CP2, from where they will discover an ancient town, in ruins and perched on a hill, before making the night’s bivouac.

Leg No.4 (referred to as the long leg or the 80) – Wednesday 9 / Thursday 10 April

An ultra flat plateau running along a series of dunettes will form today’s backdrop before the runners traverse a wadi and hopefully get a bird’s eye view of the desert from up high after a tough little climb of around thirty-minutes. The landscape is truly breathtaking! Once you make it to the valley, you can make out a fabulous little erg followed by vast plateaus and a succession of djebels. The images here are strikingly beautiful and herald the discovery of an impressive sandy valley. Here, a laser beam will guide runners surprised by the cover of darkness. Participants will then link onto terrain dotted with crevasses before traversing a long, winding, sandy wadi and finally the bivouac. It will be important to follow the markers!

Leg No.5 (Marathon leg) – Friday 11 April

A long plateau of black reg will lead the runners into the ‘Out of Africa’ valley before they link onto a mountainous path, which will guide them to the bottom of a deep wadi. It’s a place where a number of villagers have taken up residence along this dried up river in which the palm trees are kings and agriculture is the only resource. A vast plateau peppered with dunes and dunettes will lead the competitor to the bivouac in this final timed leg.

Leg No.6 (the solidarity leg) – Saturday 12 April

As they make for the small village that will play host to the final finish destination, the competitors, sponsors and families that form the caravan will be able to appreciate the beauty and softness of the landscape in the ambience of closeness and sharing that is synonymous with this UNICEF leg (which supports projects benefiting disadvantaged children). For the majority of participants, this walk gives them time to reflect on this beautiful human adventure and collectively realize their accomplishments before getting back to civilization.