Marathon des Sables 2014
I’ll be tapping away at the keyboard over the next little while – roadbook in one hand re-living and journalling what has been a sensational, personal and stunning trip. To get the small stories, the feelings and the successes written down might take some time. I need to reflect and understand all the smaller bits, but I wanted to get down something more immediate.
Marathon des Sables 2014 took two years coming, and blew my socks off.
And though it was the death of a friend that put me on the start line, I have taken so much more from the race than I could ever have anticipated.
The Sahara is simply stunning, it wasn’t my first time, but to travel on foot through this environment was new to me. As a journey, it is so pure I find it hard to never think of doing it again even whilst skin is raw and the body recovering.
Whilst there are minor parts of the experience that are quickly forgotten – queues, THAT music and the various aches, the memories are already transcending those small irritations. What I am left feeling at the moment is a sense of awe. Not in the every day awesome sense, but in the old fashioned way.
The logistics of running this event are impressive, the location and environment even more so. But, the people, all the people, with their own reasons and their own driven ambition make the event something else entirely. From the event team, bright and cheerful Commissaires, checkpoint Controlleurs, tireless Doc Trotters, the morning Berbers, photographers, pilots, film crews and of course the inimitable Patrick Bauer, there is nothing but enthusiasm.
The approachable nature of some of the best Athletes in the world mixed in with ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing is a heady cocktail.
The emotions were stretched, magnified and refined. Then thrown or blasted back at us all. A genuine unity between all those who toed the line on Day 1. A shared sense of gratitude as each runner made it into bivouac each night, and finally across the line. For those that trained and sacrificed but didn’t make it there is a collective, genuine regret. Some suffered more than others, and experiences will be remembered forever. The lessons handed out in five stages or less can be brutal and defeating, but there are positive things for us all to learn.
The simplicity, human body against a harsh desert, the gratitude for a simple can of Coke, the night sky, the open places and the people have left me humbled. An immediate legacy is gratitude for things that I had perhaps grown complacent of, and a greater value put on smaller things.
And finally, whilst all the above are beyond normal, I can’t ignore tent 96. We laughed, hurt and lived together through an amazing event. We all made it in our different ways. You’re all a very special part of the journey – Thank You.