If you follow me on instagram you may well have noticed that I started doing a bit of running a few months ago. The runs are, unfortunately, few and far between but they have been with a singular goal in mind. To get my body in some sort of shape to take on the Oman Desert Marathon on the 20th November 2017. Incidentally, I am unclear why the race is called a marathon – at 165km over 6 days and carrying all your food and kit, it feels like a little more than a marathon.
When I tell people I’m doing the race their eyes tend to flick over my body, taking in the 120kg mass before them. Then with what can only be described as a tone of sympathy mixed with genuine interest they say “really, why?”. Well here are the 3 reasons I’m getting on a plane next week to try and do something I have no idea whether I’ll return from in one piece, let alone finish.
1. The Challenge
I cycled from London to Monte Carlo – twice – in 2013 and 2014. I and 22 other men and women took on 1,400 grueling kilometers , over the alps (Mont Ventoux et al) with total climbing of 36,000 feet over 9 days.
The Oman run is a self-sufficient 6 stage race from the Oasis at Bidya to the Arabian sea. You sleep out in the desert and have to carry everything except water (sleeping bag, mat, food, stove, venom extractor kit!). There are large soft sand dunes, high temperatures and pesky little scorpions to name a few of the challenges that lie ahead.
It’s not just that I like a challenge. I think it’s that I like a challenge that I’m not naturally predisposed to being good at. At nearly 19 stone in weight I am built for short, sharp bursts of activity. Breaking the line in rugby for instance. I am not built to run or cycle and certainly not over prolonged periods.
It is therefore more about leaving my comfort zone. It is not only humbling but also inspiring. It gives me a great sense of perspective and enhances my interactions with people in my everyday life.
2. Going off the grid
It is good to take a break and one of the best breaks you can take is from your phone. We’re all guilty of it – getting a daily update from work or convincing yourself that checking emails once in the morning and once in the evening on holiday is OK. Well it may be OK and communication with work and colleagues whilst on “holiday” may be inevitable. However running across a desert with no phone signal takes the decision out of your hands and the “off line” time is invaluable in my opinion. All you have to think about is getting from A to B, eating and sleeping. In my experience everyone manages just fine without you for a week.
3. Shared experience
I have nothing against doing things on my own. Indeed much of the training for these challenges can be solitary. I do however enjoy the shared experience with any great adventure like this. For Oman it’s me and Steve. A man (with a lovely family) who lived 6 doors away from me 7 years ago in London, went to India for 5 years for work and then in a fantastic “isn’t it a small world” moment moved in to the house two doors away from me in Hong Kong about a year ago.
I like Steve already – he’s Scottish, mixes a great cocktail – enough said. However the training, tears, laughter and shopping trips to buy endless kit involved in undertaking something like this – let alone actually doing the race – is a fantastic experience to share. Hong Kong is an amazing, but sometimes temporary, port during a global career. Whilst that may or may not be the case for Steve and I, wherever our paths lead we’ll always be able to meet for a pint somewhere in the world and talk about that time we ran across the Oman Desert – and that for me is very special.
Next stop Muscat – I plan to take some photos/vids of the run so follow the blog or my instagram if you’d like to see how it all goes.
Also if you have any interest in cycling around the island of Taiwan next year drop me a note. We are working though the logistics soon but current thinking is it’s a 6 day challenge.