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.



The Novice Cyclist gets ready to ride again

To kick this off on New Year’s day would have been a little too cliched. So as the calendar ticks over to Dec 27th it was time to get the old body moving again. My beautiful Pinarello has been sitting in the garden shed pretty much since we returned from Monte Carlo in June 2013. I feel guilty. That beautiful piece of equipment took me 1,200 kilometres from London to the south of France and I haven’t so much as lubed it up since my return. Don’t get me wrong, there was a week or two after our return that saw me on the the Pin and the single speed but interest quickly subsided.
As I will post here in the coming weeks London to Monte Carlo 2 (L2MC2) looks like it’s on. Interest is high and I am confident we can round up enough Financial News/Dow Jones staff and readers to make it even bigger and better this year. A slight route change is in order and the introduction of a hotly contested time trial and “King of the Mountain” stage will only add to the excitement…. I’ll leave the rest for the new year….
I completed the ride in 2013 but with little training. I want to be fit this year and have the miles in the saddle that will see me enjoying a ride in the pack rather than as an “also ran” at the back. Getting in after the other participants have showered and sunk their first few beers was fine for 2013 but, for me, will not do in 2014.
I am approaching this head on and have devised a clever exercise regime to combat my usual inability to follow any exercise regime. I am simply going to do two things. Set some goals and exercise 4 times a week. That’s it. I am hoping that the “loose” nature of this programme will stop me getting bored and stop those pangs of guilt one gets when following a strict programme that invariably cannot fit into a normal persons schedule. Also by just setting the 4 times a week target I leave myself open to a myriad of different activities from cycling, squash, swimming, running and dare I say it maybe even one of those classes at the gym I would usually pass by with a giggle.

So the goals.
Tough Mudder. Signed up for the West London April run under the team name “Keeping up with the Dow Joneses” – please join me.
London to Monte Carlo June 2014
More to come but this feels like a good start. Then I joined a Gym. Nuffield has facilities the shortest walk from my office and my house and so was an easy choice.

Day 1 – Nuffield Wandsworth
I remember from getting fit before that interval running is a pretty good way of burning fat. Run for 8 mins then alternate 4 mins fast running and 4 mins jog. Continue for an hour. Only problem with that is it would currently kill me so I settle for 20mins on the treadmill alternating between walking and jogging. Horrific.
Next on to the rower for 10 mins at a steady 30 strokes/min. This would have been fine had my left leg not started cramping at 3 mins. I soldiered on but… horrific.
I had taken my new goggles (thanks Santa) and some rather fetching swimming trunks but after the rowing machine I had images of cramping up and drowning (not being the best of swimmers anyway) so I’ve left that for another day.
A little stretching and out I strolled from the Wandsworth Nuffield into the bracing evening air with that feeling we all have after an infrequent visit to the gym “why the hell don’t I do that more often”.