Tag Archives: Marathon Des Sables

One month until stage 1 of the MDS 2017

There it is…in one month’s time I should hopefully be tucked up in my sleeping bag, (it gets dark early in the desert), having eaten a delicious freeze dried meal of shepherd’s pie and a mug of rooibos tea!  I hopefully won’t have developed any drastic blisters on day one and there should be some good banter in and around the tents with other runners from the Uk and around the world…I am still establishing my tent mates but slightly winging it this year.

So, as more people at work become aware that I am taking on this “ridiculous” race (not my words), it is time to put it out there as to why I am running the Marathon des Sables for a third time.  Well, firstly, I decided back in 2007 that it would be a fun thing to try and do every 5 years, and secondly, well it is one of the most beautiful places in the world that I have ever been to, and two of the most amazing and memorable weeks of my life I have ever spent – the first time was the catalyst that led me to becoming a nurse, so you never know what might happen.  But also, I do feel that I need a really good challenge to once again ask people to sponsor me for a good cause – and I think the cause I am running for this time is rather special.

It is nearly 8 months since I moved to Cornwall to work at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust in Truro in oncology nursing and it has been and continues to be a massive adventure. Each day at work is different, fun, sad, tough, rewarding and I am lucky to be working with a wonderful team of nurses and looking after an extraordinary group of patients.  I am frequently asked by many of my patients what do I miss about living in London. Whilst there is very little that I miss, I do miss the rich cultural diversity of London that on a daily basis has the ability to remind you that your neighbours are not just those that you live next door to, but those who might be millions of miles away in war torn countries, & less privileged countries. It is all too easy living down here in Cornwall to forget the rest of the world or sometimes even the rest of the country. 

So when I embark in one month’s time heading off somewhere across the Sahara Desert to run 150miles over 6 days in what is still rightly billed as The Toughtest Footrace on Earth, the Marathon des Sables 2017, what will hopefully be motivating me and inspiring me to keep running, putting one foot in front of the other, to share rudimentary sleeping quarters with about 7 other runners, to carry my life on my back through the heat, is that I will be running for Medecins Sans Frontieres. (Doctors withou Borders).

Working for the NHS in the current climate is definitely a daily challenge. I am privileged enough to have worked in one of the most wonderful and efficient hospitals in the UK – Guy’s & St Thomas’s in London. The Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro is no less wonderful but I am far more aware of the strains on the NHS and the services we supply to the public. In my department we have people on waiting lists for chemotherapy treatment because we simply don’t have the resources to see them all as they need it – there just aren’t enough hours in the day or enough trained nurses.  But today, we only have to turn on the tv, or read something on Twitter or some other social media to know that even in the cash strapped chaos of the NHS that we are still so lucky. There are people in places that aren’t even reported about that don’t have access to the medical facilities we have.  

Medecins Sans Frontieres go where most other aid agencies won’t or cannot go, they often have such meagre facilities to work with but they still carry on. They often work in war torn cities such as Aleppo in the middle of bombing raids and still carry on. Hospitals they work in are targeted and hit, and they still go back, they still carry on. They work with refugees and migrants all over the world and treat each and every human being as precious and valuable and with respect. I sadly overheard someone say recently that all refugees coming to the UK should be sent back where they came from and that we didn’t need them here and I felt so sad to hear a fellow Brit have that opinion. We have so much, and if someone thinks that it is worth the risk crossing treacherous seas in barely seaworthy boats to seek refuge or a better life, to end up in a squalid camp or asylum seeker’s centre then it feels like we haven’t progressed much since WWII.  

It would be so easy to raise money for a UK based charity but I hope you will feel as I do that our neighbours are all around the world and with famine, disease, war and political unrest in so many parts of the world giving healthcare to those that don’t easily have access to the most basic medical care is a worthy cause. The healthcare workers who work for Medecins Sans Frontieres are an incredible bunch and do incredible work. They inspire me everyday to be the best nurse I can be and I hope somewhere down the line I might get to work for them – but for now I just hope to raise as much as I can to help them in their valuable work and I hope that by doing something as crazy as a third Marathon des Sables you might be inspired to sponsor me – it will definitely motivate me up those sand dunes!
To sponsor me please go to my fundraising page:

http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/Runhurryharryrun 

Thank you so so much.

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Eerie night time running…

So, in preparation for the Marathon des Sables it is quite good to get used to running in the dark.  During the last two times I have run the MDS, I have always quite enjoyed the sections of the race that end up being run through the night.  Not least because you mentally reach a stage where it becomes quite surreal.  I always go down bizarre mental tangents and become enthralled with the small pool of light thrown ahead of me by my head torch and the almost sci-fi green laser beam thrown into the air from an all too distant check point.  You have the glow sticks marking the route every few hundred metres appearing like little glow beetles on the horizon that occasionally disappear as you drop down between sanddunes or rock outcrops.  The moving glow sticks attached to the back of other runners that muddle in with the markers and make you feel like you are following some strange elvish trail in the dark in Middle Earth. (I admit that it might just be me that thinks this!).  The only noise is your own breathing and efforts as your run/hobble/shuffle through the desert’s complete darkness before the crazy stars start to light up the sky.  

Running in the dark along the Camel Trail in Cornwall is a slightly different kettle of fish.  For starters, simply because it is January  and not a desert, it does feel a whole lot colder (even though the desert can reach freezing and below at night).  Tonight I ran a quiet run of 9 miles towards Bodmin from Wadebridge and back.  As I set out from Wadebridge, the last light of the day was just fading and I had my head torch on.  Unlike running at night in London, there are very few street lamps once you get outside the town’s limits and literally none along the Camel Trail and very quickly all I can see is the pool of light and the odd twinkle of the first few stars as they appear.  It isn’t silent though, as the River Camel burbles alongside the trail, although in the dark it loses some of it’s poetic merriment as the shadows of the trees occasionally loom darker than the inky sky behind them, creating eerie shapes and a sense of running through long tunnels.  Every now and then a light from a cottage twinkles through the darkness and the smell of wood smoke  pervades the air.   However, I find that what takes most of my concentration and attention is trying to spot the odd pile of horse poo!  The light from my headlamp is bright but everything is lit up in black and white and several times it isn’t until I tread in a rather soft mound or kick a rather large but soft lump that I realise I am upon and past the horse poo.  I giggle to myself as I run, imagining it is just one horse that has left a trail of dung but in reality it is probably several!  I also hope that it is only horse poo and not the rather nastier and smellier dog poo which also frequents this trail (but is mostly picked up by convivial dog owners!). I say to myself as I completely miss seeing another pile of dung that it is like yomping through small clumpy bits in the desert where the occasional sand dune  tricks you in the dark – but it isn’t really.    As I turn back towards Wadebridge having reached my halfway point, the noises of the river at night, and the occasional rustle in the undergrowth are joined by the hooting of owls who seem to be having some sort of intense discussion – they are perhaps just greeting each other  for the night’s activities.  But, I like to think that perhaps they hare having a debate about something, maybe the hilarious notion of Trump as president of the USA!  On the way back the stars are brighter and as the lights of Wadebridge grow brighter I am surprised as I run past the bird hide – there are three people sitting in there…I can’t really imagine what birds they are watching and I suspect they may be some of the Wadebridge youth hanging out.  This seems even more likely as a young teenager walks past me as I go past the first street lamp as I re-enter the town.   

It is as surreal running at night here in Cornwall as it is in the desert, and as beautiful.  But totally different and there are more owls and a lot more horse poo!

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Well folks, it’s all done and dusted

I’ve survived a gruelling 150+ mile race across the Sahara Desert for the second time.

All I can say is that it has been one hell of an experience from beginning to end. As fun, challenging, exciting, demanding and extraordinary as the first time, if not more so, in so many ways.

I’ve made some very special friends. Not least, the seven lovely (if a tad smelly) men I shared a tent with for the last week. We’ve shed tears, laughter and a few unsavoury moments that will bind us together forever. And also with other participants who, at times I ran with who got me through, or I helped through low patches.

The Tiyanjane Clinic has never been far from my mind, and was a wonderful source of inspiration when the going got tough. As were all the wonderful messages I recieved from so many of you willing me on… I can’t tell you how much those messages helped. Thank you!  I am now clean and sand free, if hobbling a bit with rather bruised and battered feet. It remains to be seen how long my toenails cling on to my toes!

As I sit enjoying the sun and a cold beer during a last afternoon in Morocco, I send my love and thanks to you all and will let you know in due course how much money I have raised. Cheers for now!

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Stage 5: Hello from the Sahara Desert for the last time!

What a day it has been. My 13th full marathon and boy, was it tough…

The first 10k were horrific for me. My feet were agony. Walking hurt.  Running hurt and I pretty much stumbled over the line at CP1 and had a small meltdown bursting into tears on a very sympathetic doctor’s shoulder. She patched my left foot up gave me a painkiller and off I went.

I was now at the back of the field with what looked like the walking wounded returning from some war. But, I found my mojo and set off, singing all the way. I caught up with four of my tent buddies at CP2 and then straight on to CP3 through some of the most beautiful dunes and wild scenery.  I’m proud to say from CP1 onwards no one passed me. I don’t know why but despite my feet I felt fantastic and it was just amazing to be in the desert today.

Thanks to all who wrote to me everyday – it has been wonderful to have your support and very emotional. We’re about to be treated to Orchestra de Paris, live in the Sahara. XX

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Stage 4: What a long old slog that was

We started running at 8.30am and I finally crossed the finish line somewhere around 3am.

It was a tough day… A case of power marching, the desert shuffle and a slightly delerious run. I will save the story of this stage for later as it had many twists and turns. 

I ran with lots of different people and had a lot of laughs and interesting moments – not least when stumbling out of CP5 into the dunes and falling headlong down one… Much to the amusement of the two French guys with me at that moment.

 I’m proud to say I ran in the dark on my own and didn’t get lost! I sang a lot, lost my voice, but the stars and moon were out and the desert was inspirational!

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Stage 3: Where to begin… what a day

Found the first 12 kilometres really tough, but then someone must’ve put something in my drink as I stormed up the hill from CP1 and down into a beautiful valley of dunes. Ran with a lovely 60+ Moroccan, Amine and had lots of laughs.

Crossing the dry lake from CP2 was “encroyable”! The ground was like an old elephant’s skin. A sandstorm blew across and I could barely see the runner in front. Quite exciting in a rather scary way…

A few toenails trying hard to part company with my toes, but other than that all good. Filthy and my hairstyle is something special – and would you believe it? Sand everywhere!

I finished today with Ahmed from my tent. He’s awesome… He caught me with about 1 km to go. I was giving all those in earshot a full rendition of “Les Mis.” 🙂

There are some French firemen pulling disabled children along on a wheelchair. Watching them finish each day is something very unique.

Love from a very dirty, smelly, but happy Harry. Big day tomorrow, steady as she goes! xxxx

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Stage 2: What a truly beautiful day

A bit of cloud cover to start with lulled us into a false sense of security and everyone was going ‘guns blazing’ to CP1. A lot of folk, tired from yesterday, began to slow up and the first real dune field reduced a lot of runners to walking.

I love dunes. No stones and the sand is soft going down, and going up well, Jon would never forgive me if I didn’t charge up them. Each one was just a step-up session…

CP2 to CP3: Well that was something else… 6 miles across a flat, dry lake. It went on for ever and ever and EVER. Head down and just keep going. My feet felt like I had hot coals in them and at one point it felt like a blister exploded. (I have spent the last hour in “Doc Trotters” to have my feet mummified – all patched up for tomorrow).

CP3 onwards: Beautiful dunes. I popped on my iPod and a mixture of David Guetta and Nina Simone saw me through. Pipped to the post by an Italian as we tried to outrun each other! GRRR!

A new day tomorrow… Off to eat dried shepherd’s pie!

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