29 March 2010

All done

I'm going to Morocco on Thursday. Frankly, I never expected to get this far. So many people injure themselves in the run-up to the event itself and my track record of soft tissue injuries made me reluctant to assume that I'd be travelling.

So. It started on a chair-lift in Courchevel in 2007, when I said to Rob and Hannah "Let's enter the MdS". They looked at me as though I was an idiot - it turned out I had to explain what MdS stood for (fair enough). They then continued their stares but, bless them, the three of us paid our deposits in late 2007. Neither are running with me but I'd never have entered if they hadn't. Thanks, guys.

In the intervening years, I started writing this blog, predominantly to make the running a bit more interesting and also to chronicle the last year-and-a-bit. I've run in New York, Pembrokshire, Orlando, the North Downs (twice), Farnham, Turkey, Castéra-Lectourois, Basel, Cologne, Epping Forest, Berkshire and Las Vegas - as well as (obviously) rather a lot in London. I've run dressed as a penguin in Pauillac and as a gorilla in the City. I've climbed 42 stories of tower block. I've seen riots, a woman's parts and the aftermath of one of London's larger fires - on my own street (above).  I've had swine 'flu and pneumonia. I've seen monkeys and a grasshopper that my grandfather helped to make. I've applied surgical spirit to my soles and learned to tape my toes. Since this blog started, I've run 1,000 miles and burned over 120,000kcal. It's been (mostly) fun.

I have a lot of other thank yous to get through too.
  • Firstly and most importantly, to family, friends and colleagues - not just for all the generous sponsorship (but thanks for that too), but also for putting up with my dull chat and constant training. In particular, Gluckers, Al, Lotte, Refik and Freya deserve special mention for various reasons, but everyone's been very understanding.
  • My part-time medical team - thanks to Jonny, Refik (again), Andi, Amy and Jane for helping out with various swine 'flu/pneumonia/ankle/drug/fluid-related questions. You've been hugely patient and very helpful.
  • Sophie Cox, my podiatrist, sorted me out with the orthotics I've been using for the last few years and gave my plenty of foot-taping advice (and some tape). Thanks Sophie!
  • The guys at Aegis Training, particularly Greg and Zahid, have trained me for the past two years. I'm sure my introduction to free weights has helped keep my relatively injury-free. Thanks guys!
  • Tom Crisp, a sports doctor, sorted out my patellar tendinopathy with a few painful injections back in 2007. They worked pretty well. I'm not cured but I'm more than functional. Thanks for injecting me with stuff, Tom!
  • Alex Marek has given me a few sports massages over the last few weeks. I have been known to scream. Thanks dude, and sharpen your elbows for my return!
  • Sam Murphy met me for a training session a while back and I bumped into her at the North Downs 30k a few weeks later. Anyone who has more than a passing interest in running should buy this book. It was good chatting to you Sam!
Right. I need to go and superglue my gaiters to my shoes. Finally, to those who've been asking - no, I'm not really nervous. I've done everything that I could do to prepare for this, within the constraints of illness and injury. All that remains now is to hope that it's not too hot, that I manage to avoid the use of my anti-venom pump and that my legs (structurally) hold up. None of those things are under my control so I might as well not worry about them.

So, Marathon des Sables 2010 - in the immortal words of Delia Smith - let's be having you.

28 March 2010

Animals XI / the end of the beginning

I set off a little gingerly yesterday for a quick run on my Easterly canal/river route (one with lots of good animals).

I've not run at all for two weeks, to allow my knee pain to subside a bit. It took a while to disappear - over a week - and I decided to be mature about things rather than rush back. Somewhat to my surprise, it didn't recur on yesterday's outing so - touch wood - maybe I'm better. I'm going to work under the assumption that it will come back at some point on the MdS itself, just so I'm mentally prepared if/when it does. Fundraising has started and I'm already up to over £3.5k for three causes - click here to give. Thanks to all who've donated so generously.

Otherwise, last week was all about the kit. Yesterday was the first time I've run with my new Raidlight water bottle holders, which fit onto the straps of my rucksack - good to have done a bit of a road-test. Regular deliveries began occurring at work - food, gaiters, hiking poles, a lightweight sleeping mat etc. I'm pretty much good to go now, barring a lighter, three more breakfasts and - most importantly - some new socks. Nearly there now...

15 March 2010

The longest week

57 miles this week, culminating in today's 26 mile run. Train to Merstham, followed the North Downs Way, ended up in Guildford. Easy (or something). It was a lovely day and a pleasant-ish run, with lots of hills to keep me busy, particularly Colley Hill (above) and Box Hill (right) in the initial 8 or 9 miles.

The only problem was my right knee has started playing up - it's a similar pain to one I had when we went walking in the Pyrénées last year, over the outside of my patellar, exacerbated by going downhill. It's strangely reassuring to have had this problem before - I don't think it's a show-stopper and this week will be more relaxed than last as I start to taper down the training, so there'll be time to rest it. I think the ice pack will be making an appearance. Everything else held up pretty well, which was nice.

Lots of preparation going on now. I've ordered my shades and some electrolytes. My gaiters have arrived and I bought my cooking gear at the weekend. Various brands of freeze-dried food are here and being sampled. I still need lots more - my anti-venom pump for starters - and I think my knee problem means that it's sensible to get some walking poles for the hilly sections.

For those who keep asking - I'll send out details of the charities I'll be running for later in the week.

08 March 2010

London again

I'm stating to think I'm trapped in some kind of Sisyphean nightmare. All I do is run, after which I wash my kit. Repeat ad nauseam. It's getting boring to be honest.

Or maybe it's more Promethean, given the occasional work-outs I give my liver?

Anyway, this week's outing was back on very familiar ground - I can't get away from the fact that I'm a North Londoner at heart. My long run was 23 miles, a lengthened version of my loop around the central parks. The extra diversions were up to Hampstead Heath (around the route of my family's Sunday morning walk, where we'd often see Michael Foot RIP) and through Golders Hill Park, where I have early memories of the ducks, sculptures and bandstand. And maybe some llamas? Then back into Zone 1 past the Holly Bush - they do a great hot spiced apple vodka drink at Christmastime - and also my old flat on Frognal. The other extension to the usual route was to do a whole lap of Hyde Park.

Life isn't all miserable though - the run was sandwiched between two of the best meals I've had for some time. The first was at the newly-opened Bistrot Bruno Loubet in the Zetter Hotel - exceptionally well-executed posh peasant cooking (book now before the reviews start coming). The second was after I got my friend Jonny to do my pre-MdS medical sign-off and ECG in Hammersmith, at Indian Zing, which serves up an excellent biryani. Whilst I'm admittedly bored of running, it's good to see that I can still continue to derive vast pleasure from a decent meal, no matter how many I've had before...

04 March 2010



February drew to a close with a trip to Las Vegas, the first time I've been. No real reason for it, just an excuse to see three of my friends from medical school. The weekend was predictably savage, taking in the casinos and some excellent drinking and eating opportunities, along with nonsense like the white-knuckle rides 1,000 feet up the observation tower of the Stratosphere, a chopper visit to the Grand Canyon and multiple In'n'Out burgers.
From a running point of view, it was the first time that I've been glad of jet-lag. Instead of being enormously frustrated when I wake up before 7am, I was pleased, as it gave me the opportunity to get out early for a couple of runs. It wasn't that hot or hilly but I managed to rack up the mileage - 38mi in total over two big loops to the edge of the City, bringing me to 155mi for the whole of February, which seems like a lot until you realise that the MdS will match that over the course of just one week. Still, I'm kind of getting towards where I want to be, though I'm unsurprisingly experiencing a bit of wear-and tear - hopefully nothing terminal though...