Looking back with our second Marathon des Sables medals now safely removed from proud necks, bodies (if not all race kit!) clean, swollen legs and feet receding to normality it seems almost surreal to think this time a week ago we were sitting happily in the dirt by the marathon stage finish line cheering all and sundry home after a liberatingly filthy week in the dust, wind and sweat of the far reaches of a Moroccan desert.
For us mere mortals the true test of the Marathon des Sables isn't necessarily about who can run the fastest from point a to but but truly about meeting the challenges the Sahara throws up at you .. be it blisters,dehydration, sunstroke, diarrhoea, sickness, exhaustion, injury, eating crap expedition food, sleeping rough on a bed too short and too hard or just being downright filthy. All of these things are ever present and it is simply about how you face and battle past them that counts in the end. THAT is what running the MdS is all about.
It is the management of the race, yourself and the supplies on your back that interact to make or break your week. What you take or leave: what can be lived without for the sake of weight to speed your pace. Everything from when to drink to how many squares of toilet paper can be used with each visit to the loo. Every little aspect affects your outcome.
And as a race? This one is truly a beast. A great big beautiful beast that sends each and every would-be finisher a challenge of their own to meet, greet and overcome to make claim to the fact they DID it.
I am hugely pround (and tearfully relieved) to say that although my week didn't go quite to plan I met the challenge and I too succeeded in doing just that wonderful thing .. finishing!
One small moment in the thousand more such moments; for everyone here; every day.
A quick recap for the interested?
We had a steady start to our week. Gav running beautifully but as ever committed to my pace for our overall positioning. Chapeau, mon mari. Don't know how you bear it myself!
Best stage of all being the incredibly tough yet awesomely scenic day two. The glory of this breathtaking stage and it's jebel climbs almost managing to keep my mind from an ever-present nausea that had me continuing to limit our running stretches. Sorry hon!
Hindsight being the wonderful thing she is I now realise by day three I was well behind the optimal hydration drag curve. Having felt nauseous since day one I obviously wasn't drinking enough when running. An earlier recognition of this insidiously lactic passenger in my gut would have avoided the huge amount of vomiting I then did from kilometre 2 of the 75.7km long stage four. Oops!
....... TEENY SCROLL ON LEFT IF YOU WANT MORE ..
I can honestly say right now that this day was the closest I have ever come to facing the possibility of a DNF (did not finish). Not that for one second I thought of quitting but that I had to face the reality that maybe just this once my body was not going to be able to do it for me. That I might be superfluous to any decision making to be done.
Fear running through my mind while projectile orange goop seemed in control of a wonky body with tunnel vision was not good. This was not me. Where are the Doc Trotters (miracle race medics)? Where is Check Point 2? My focus was on getting only there at this moment and the help they could give me. The fact that we were only at 21km at this stage was meaningless to me though it weighed heavily on Gav. I just wanted to stay in the race at this point and now the doc's had the call, not me.
An hour and a half of slowing sipping rehydrant and not throwing it straight back up was the key. Poor Gavie trolling the CP as even the Korean cow went through ahead of us! Calculating and recalculating a plan that had gone totally array. Poor boy trying not to drink his next leg's water as he cooked in the boiling sun and I cooled in the hospital tent. Both of us wondering how this would end .. or trying NOT to wonder ..
When the doc's finally gave me the all clear to get back on the road (plus a 30 min penalty for extra water giving Gavie the family win though we trod the path side by side!) it was with ecstatic jubilation on my part even if an incredibly wary, somewhat ginger step. Every time I pushed the pace at all the lactic would kick up in my belly and had to be settled with the rather nervous chomping of a rationed macadamia.
But it is THIS stage I call my triumph for the race.
We could only yomp in the final 54.7km but we did it in one steadily determined hit that only totalled 3 hours more than 2008's long one in the end!? We even (quite quickly I am relieved to say) took the cow. Thank GOD!! Possible divorce there!
And crossing the darkened line that night was my "moment" for this race. Relief, pride, joy, tears .. simple words to describe a world of emotion that even now wells me up.
And there by my side? My boy. My protector. My heart. My other half. My cook. My packer. My love. Not a step we have not taken together. We made it. You and me. We made it.
And now a whole day off to mend for the marathon and one final chance to really have a lash out on this course. For me and for my boy who has so steadfastly kept my side all week.
Hard enough not to be able to run for me, but when that means he can't run either the weight of our disappointment felt much more than doubled. I, he, WE deserve a run!
And run we did!
I am thrilled to say we absolutely blitzed this stage! 100% healthy. Wings on my back. Matching Gavie step for powerful step. We flew! Running how we had planned for what seemed the first time all week.
Strong. Balanced. Unstoppable.
I say hand on heart the best run of my life. Topped off with a finisher medal, bisoux from Patrick (race guru) and the chance to cheer home friends, old and new, as they also crossed their finishing lines.
We are so happy. So proud of us ALL.
5 years to forget this now before the next? Who knows .. never say never!