As I'm very quick to point out to everyone who asks what I'm in training for; The Marathon Des Sables (MDS) is not a just a marathon. I'm not being louche and knocking anyone that is in training for a marathon but I do like to remind folk that MDS is in fact 6 marathons back to back - in soaring temperatures of around 50 degrees heat - run across the Sahara desert and to top it all its self-supporting which basically means you carry your own garb for the entire week!
Why? Why indeed! I think it's the chance to break down some personal barriers and get myself out of my rather cosseted lifestyle - sleeping overnight in a bivouac, no phone or contact with the outside world and absolutely no quick-fix snacking along the way.
According to the Discovery Channel, MDS is the toughest footrace on earth. Starting on April 7th, we participants will attempt to run 6 stages, the longest of which is an 80km run, walk, stumble. It's not for the faint hearted, however, as I'm regularly told it's all about the preparation.
I enjoy a challenge and have participated in some of the iconic open water swims such as Alcatraz, I've crossed the Bosphorus both ways and run marathons in New York, Helsinki and even at midnight in the most northern part of Norway. I've always done these things for my own personal gratification and only once have I asked for a donation to charity. My MDS adventure is again wholly self-funded - but having signed the form for my body to be repatriated for the Sahara if needs be - I am asking for support! I am taking part and raising funds for WellChild, the national charity for seriously ill children who are based in Cheltenham. It's fair to say this is my biggest personal challenge, equally, it is my biggest ever ask.
Over the weeks I will be giving an insight into my training and the huge consideration to what being self-supporting in a desert means. The preparation is everything and my training schedule precludes pretty much anything other than running at the weekends, mornings, evenings and where possible lunch times!
I'm adept at setting off for a 20 mile run and then doing another 22 miles the next day; just last weekend I clocked up 50 miles and in the coming weeks I will share my schedule which includes a 66 mile race, a hard-core training week with elite athletes, training in heat chambers and carrying 10kg on my back and running half the Cotswold Way.
Like any running a marathon; not only is it a huge ask on the body, it's a huge mind game. Preparation may be king for the desert but until 59 days' time for me and the team at WellChild it's all in ask.