3 reasons why I’m running across a desert

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.


From top left: Finishing 26k in HK MSIG , running in London early morning, fitness test ECG, Barcelona running, Tokyo jog around the palace, 15km Pottinger Hong Kong

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.


Steve left, author right during a training run at the top of section 4 Maclehose Trail, Hong Kong


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.



10 things to know about the L2MC Bike Ride

With registration for London to Monte Carlo 2 (L2MC2) opening in 7 days I thought it would be good to answer a question I am often asked  by people weighing up whether to take on the challenge in 2014, “what’s the ride like”. I have put together the top 10 things you should know about the ride when considering it.

Disclaimer: Remember I’m The Novice Cyclist and my thoughts and observations reflect that level of experience. It should be pointed out that far more accomplished and experienced riders also took part in 2013 and enjoyed the challenge immensely and will be returning for 2014. The challenge of L2MC really does cater for every level of rider.

L2MC BacksJoe Martin

  1. London to Monte Carlo is quite a long way to travel on a bike, however at 19 stone I did it without having attempted anything like this before. I trained, but only managed a few 50+ miles rides and maybe ten 30+ mile training rides plus a number of gym and commuting sessions. As per previous posts I plan to be fitter and faster this year but the above gives you a sense of my preparation for 2013.
  2. There are some tough bits to deal with. I would classify these challenges into two camps. The long straights, which are a bit of a grind, and the hills – affectionately called “the lumpy bits”. Both can be overcome with a little determination but it’s not a cake walk.
  3. Here are some photos from 2013 which give you a sense of what’s in store http://bphillips.co.uk/L2MC.php
  4. We’re planning to include Mont Vontoux in the 2014 route – you can find out about it here http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Ventoux. Putting aside nervous trepidation, if reading that excites you even a little then this ride is for you.
  5. There is very little competition even with the introduction of the time trial and king of the hill in 2014. Riders find their level and groups quickly and the support and camaraderie builds from there.
  6. You won’t be staying at the Ritz. While we are attempting to make the hotels a little closer to the centre of towns in 2014 this is a charity ride and we look to limit costs wherever possible. Personally I would have slept on a nail bed in a barn at the end of riding 100 miles for the 6th day in a row!
  7. The support crew are the best in the business and you feel in very safe and experienced hands and if you or your bike need any help whatsoever it will be just moments away. I personally put this to the test in 2013 by falling off my bike going round a bend at speed and the motorcycle outrider was with me in 5 mins and the mechanic in 7 mins. They also feed you and pop a cup of tea in your hand whenever required (on a side note the rejuvenating capabilities of a cup of tea continue to amaze me)
  8. Read my account of the 2013 ride at thenovicecyclist.com and some of the other riders accounts on efinancialnews.com/montecarlo. We wrote this as the trip developed so you get a real sense of the highs and lows
  9. The sense of achievement is phenomenal, you get to raise money for fantastic causes and meet people you’ll know for the rest of your life.
  10. Spaces are limited so sign up as soon as registration opens on Wednesday 15th January. Email either sdick@efinancialnews.com or me at jonathan.wright@dowjones.com or through the contact section of this blog.
  11. The majority of the cost of the ride is underwritten by our generous sponsors and Financial News. There is a registration fee of £500 per rider (towards costs) and minimum fundraising target of £2000 (all of which goes to the charities). If you look at similar fundraising initiatives you would either have to pay the full cost yourself or a % of your fundraising total would go towards the cost (and therefore a higher fundraising goal). The way we approach and support L2MC ensures minimal cost to the rider and maximum contribution to the charities… pretty unique.

Ok so that was 11 things not 10. If I missed anything you’d like to know please do get in touch.

The Dilemma

I think i may have a problem. I’ve been on a bike for the last 9 days and my legs hurt. During the London to MC ride I had fantasies of stripping my bike down, selling the parts – leaving only the frame which i would hang from a wall (or put in the attic) much as one would a moose or a wildebeest.

Why then do i find myself sitting in front of my computer on a Wednesday evening (having only been back home for 3 days) looking at cycling trips. The route below depicts the coast to coast route. There is a very useful website with tips, places to stay and companies who will take all the hassle out of the trip. http://www.c2c-guide.co.uk

The question i keep coming back to is how long would it take? The website suggests 3 to 4 days is the norm (http://www.c2c-guide.co.uk/34-days/) but that under 24 hours is possible.

It certainly could be an interesting 24 hours… A bike, lights, a waterproof and whatever food and spares you can carry. Coast to coast in 24 hours…. for Joe Martin’s reference the record is currently held by Joel Toombs and Matt Shorrock at 7 hours 53 minutes and 03 seconds west to east on September 28th 2012

Could I really be considering getting back on the bike…….