Interviews

Grant 'Axe' Rawlinson

November 2016

I’ve seen via facebook that you’ve been out on your boat ‘Simpsons Donkey’ quite a lot (far more than I ever did!).  It’s much more sophisticated than pacific Pete is.  Can you give us a low down on your boat?

We will be rowing one of the latest and fastest ocean rowing boats available in the world.  The boat is designed and manufactured in the UK by Rannoch Adventures.  The hull is moulded from a blend of fibreglass and carbon, making it extremely strong but lightweight.  The boat is self-righting, so in the event of rough weather capsizing our vessel (which will most definitely happen) the boat is designed to roll back over by itself (as long as  the hatches are firmly shut!).  We will have solar panels and battery systems on-board to power a water maker which we will use to make our drinking water.  We also have a GPS system for navigation, an electrical autopilot which controls the rudder, a VHF radio, an AIS beacon which identifies our position to other ships, GPS tracking devices, emergency beacons and a satellite telephone for communication.


 Hi Grant, thanks so much for sitting down and sharing some stories and knowledge with me and being my first interviewee! First off it’s a question you must get a lot; What’s with ‘Axe’?!  it’s the kind of name that many a guy would long to have bestowed upon them!

Hi mate – congrats on your recent journey to Elbrus expedition – I loved following.  Axe comes from rugby days, I played rugby for 25 years and the name Axe was reference to the way I tackled people.


 Thanks buddy! I have to say I assumed the name came from Mountaineering! Which leads us onto your background and your adventures thus far.  Playing Rugby must have been hard to give up?  Was it an easy transition?  

Yes for 25 years it was my major passion in life until I broke so many bones and tore so many ligaments my body said enough – even though my head and heart were very much still in the game.  It was a tough time for awhile as I went through some massive withdrawal symptons until I found my passion reignited in the world of adventure – mainly mountaineering.

First the transition from team sport to solo adventurer and you’re also a Kiwi living in Singapore which must be quite a culture change?! New Zealand is synonymous with adventure sports and the great outdoors and so do you find that your ideas and adventures gain more press in Singapore than they would/do ‘back home’?

I don’t really get much press – here in Singapore people don't understand adventure like they do in New Zealand  – Singapore is a high pressure society and working and making money are very much the priorities not adventure. 


I’ve been following your prep for your next big thing.  Can you tell us what that is all about?

Rowing from Home to Home is my vision for a massive completely human powered expedition from Singapore – my current home back to my original home in New Zealand. Using an ocean rowing boat and bicycle.


Is this a solo adventure or will it be with someone else?

I have a two-person boat – I would never row solo – solo rowers are crazy guys Scott(wink wink).


Haha! Thanks mate! Are you worried about maintaining your fitness/strength for a totally different discipline for the bike stage?  Do you have a time frame for the cycle?

Yes I am and it’s all about nutrition – putting the right fuel into the machine.  For this reason I have engaged the services of the most experienced sports endurance nutritionist I can find, a New Zealander called Gary Moller.  Through Gary we have done hair tissue analysis to see what state I am in, and have formed a nutrition programme around building my reserves where they are needed before the start of the journey.  During the journey itself – we are developing a plan to ensure we have the right blend of fuel every day which will allow me to perform and not run the tank empty of those key minerals and elements which I need to operate.  We are really applying a very scientific approach to this, customised specifically around my own body with detailed testing and planning. 



And the cycle is self supported also?


Yes – that's the way I generally like to do things.  My one exception to this would be if my wife would like to join with our two daughters who are too young to cycle.  But I asked if she would come along even for a few days in a campervan and share some of the experience with the girls as well.  It seems unlikely this will happen due to logistics and her leave situation with her work.







 
So, you’re back in the boat after your cycle!  From my own experience, I wouldn’t have wanted to get back in that boat after the climb, so hats off to you!  This is all such a long way from what you’re known for (although I believe your book  from peak to peak documents a similar adventure?) .  Was that a factor in coming up with this expedition?  And I presume this is all started before your two beautiful children came along.  Did their arrival alter your plans at all?

I became interested in human powered adventure in 2013 after I climbed Mt Everest. I wanted something that combined my passion for mountaineering with my love of cycle touring and kayaking  - and came up with the idea of long human powered journeys.  When I say human power I mean completely by human power, not using sails or engines of any kind.  This next expedition will be my fourth major human powered journey, and also the longest. You can read more about my previous journeys on my website www.axeoneverest.com

Well worth reading I think! With such a successful career, can you offer three pearls of wisdom to anyone looking to find their feet in the adventure world, no matter how big or small their plans?

Start small – do your apprenticeship, learn the ropes, scratch and scrape the money together to try things out yourself, independently rather than hiring guides and using massive levels of support to shortcut the learning process.  Most of the fun is in the journey – not with the photo at the finish line. That's my main point I would like to offer I think.


I couldn't agree more.  Will we be able to follow your prep and once its under way, follow your journey?

Yes through our facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/GrantAxeRawlinson/
And website:
www.axeoneverest.com
We are also producing video diaries throughout the expedition.


Its been fascinating talking to you Grant, so thank you for your time and I think that I speak for everyone who reads this;  GOOD LUCK!

 
Thanks mate.

Ross Burton

January 2017

  
Sounds like great fun! Things to be learnt for the young and the old(er!) How did your last event go?

Really well! It was a 24 hour course in January, so we were expecting it to be pretty tough, but it was actually one of the mildest weekends in January for ages!
The people on the course loved it, it's pretty much non-stop learning, all building towards setting up camp and enjoying staying overnight in the woods. We set challenges throughout the 24-hours, which combine different skills learnt in order to complete them.

Brilliant! Do you plan to do more of the same? How will you expand on the idea?

Yes, we've just put the dates for 2017 on the website,  www.naturalwildness.co.uk . In terms of expansion, we have the scope to run more courses, eventually running a few expeditions, but that's some way off yet! In the short term we have ideas of different types of courses we can run but that will come out on the website and the Facebook page once they are finalised.
  
​  
Hi Ross, thanks for sitting down with me! First off, tell us a little about yourself.
 
Hi Scott, thanks for inviting me!
So, I'm 32, married with two boys, aged five and eight. I've lived in Reading all my life, which is a fantastic location in terms of what it offers as the town and how you don't have to travel very far to be' away from it all'!
Full-time I'm a firefighter in Berkshire and have been for over 12 years. I have a huge passion for the' Great Outdoors' and have been practising Bushcraft and survival skills for many years.
I also work as an instructor for the Bear Grylls Survival Academy (BGSA) and have started up my own company, Natural Wildness, (not wilderness if you're typing it into a search engine!) with my dad, Pete, which has been running for nearly a year. I really enjoy teaching and sharing my knowledge, I think when you are passionate about something it makes it more interesting for people.
I'm a family man and love spending time with my wife and boys. I'm like every other parent, I want to be able to give as much opportunity to my children as I can. In fact I ended up running the local Beaver Scout Group with another dad so our boys could get the best experience from it. Now my eldest has moved up to Cubs, I've found myself getting stuck in as a leader there too!
 
Growing up, and perhaps even more so now, who would you say you looked up to and drew inspiration from?
 
The obvious answer is my parents. Although they're not together any more, they installed lots of important values and taught me important lessons for life.
I'm a huge fan of Reading FC, so the captain from the 90' s, Phil Parkinson was an idol of mine. My dad arranged for me to meet him for my birthday before a game once. It's always stuck with me how he made time to speak to me and it's something I've always tried to do, make time for people.
I came across Ray Mears when I was a teenager, and loved what he knew and how he taught it. But Bushcraft can be very one paced. Cue Bear Grylls' entrance to my life. (That was as a result of my dad buying me his DVD's for my birthday!) As a man, he's achieved so much. As a role model he's achieved a phenomenal amount. Scouting was very much in decline, he is now Chief Scout and the numbers are returning in huge waves. The Alpha course is hugely popular and most importantly to me, people are getting back outside. I love his down-to-earth attitude and his fast paced, dynamic style. Very much how I try to live my life and he's certainly inspired a few adventures I've been on!

​  
And now you've set up your own company that may just bring the world the next big adventurer! Tell us about Natural Wildness.
 
Yeah, it's exciting. Natural Wildness has been running for nearly a year now. We run sessions for adults, children and work teams, teaching Wildcraft, which offers a unique mixture of Bushcraft, survival skills, nature awareness and self awareness and it's really taken off!
It all came about from having a conversation with my old man, Pete. We used to try and meet up once every other month or so, in woodland, go for a walk, make a fire, cook lunch then head home. It was our way of staying in touch. I'd recently been on a survival course where I was frustrated with the course instructor. His knowledge and teaching skills were so poor, I thought,' I can do a better job than this'. I was already an instructor for BGSA, so I thought 'why not run one ourselves?' I was explaining this to Pete, and he said, 'well, why don't we?'
He is self-employed, resolving conflict and helping people communicate better being his specialist subject, so the team building strand of what we do is brilliant. But we were both able to put the time and effort in to get it up and running. Our most popular events are the Wildcraft 24-hour Adventure and the children's birthday parties. 
Parents keep saying they want their children to do what they did when they were younger, make dens light fires et cetera but they can't. We offer an antidote, if you like, to today's Computerworld, getting out and actually seeing, feeling and doing. I love it, watching adults or children learning what nature can provide and we how we can make it work for us. Young, old, or older, it doesn't matter, everyone gets something out of what we do.

​  
We are a very young company, so the future is looking bigger but we are busier than I thought we would be at this stage after a year. It's really popular, I've had to draft my wife in to take bookings and do our admin!
  
  
 
  
  
Where can we find out more and keep up-to-date with your plans?
 
Liking the Facebook page, all of our information is posted and advertised on there. Visiting the website, www.naturalwildness.co.uk  or get in contact and we will email you all are updates.
 
You have quite an energy about you; that certain type of drive. Would you consider or do you have a plan for a' big' adventure of your own? Perhaps with your sons?
 
Ha, I could say the same about you! I'm certainly taking inspiration listening to your adventures and plans! 
I'm off to the Massif Central Area in France next week with a few friends to climb a couple of peaks there, they've had tons of snow and freezing temperatures so it should be great!
I'd love to take my boys on a canoe trip to the south of France mixed with wild camping and climbing, but I have to wait for a couple of years. I've got a plan though!
 
The skills you teach are often cited as the ones that you need to survive in the Wilderness. What would you consider to be the most valuable?
 
Preparing and practising before you actually need to use skills is a good idea. Physical skills are important, knowledge is a factor, but being able to improvise and adapt are by far the most important skills you can possess. If you don't have a piece of kit, improvise and create it. If you're stuck, adapt your plan to become' unstuck'!
 
That's great buddy! Thanks so much for your time Ross. I wish you the best of luck and please, keep us informed of your ongoing plans!
 
You're welcome, thanks for inviting me! I'll keep you up to speed on Natural Wildness.
  

The big MDS interview

Huw Williams   Andy Townsend   Paul Griffiths
Simon Wall   Kristian Delacour   Alan Critchley
Rob Ert   Mark Dickson   Nina Pitcairn  
Sebastien Joyce   Alison Little   Ali Moullin  
David Ward   Lynton Dawson   Paul Cornwell
 

April 2017

Why did you enter the MDS?

HW. Wife was away!
AT. I entered for the challenge, to raise money for charity and to see the desert!
PG. I was there to try and improve on my previous performance.
SW. Over a few pints with an old friend it seemed a brilliant idea, then he had knee surgery (reckon he faked it) and left me to it!
KD. ‘Cause I'm stupid!
AC. I ran MDS for the challenge and to raise money for charity.
RE. 25 years ago was waiting on Football Italia to come onto Eurosport and MDS was being shown. I immediately said “this is for me... my ‘Mount Everest’". Also, I have done well professionally in regards to achieving goals. I wanted to push both body and mind to see how far I could go and what I would do to overcome any breakdowns along the way.
MD. I was very, very bored at work.
NP. I have battled with clinical depression for years and the only time I have been not depressed is when I do lots of exercise. I did triathlon for 10 years then after completing an ironman I decided to take a break which turned into a 5 year break. I put on 2 and a half stone and was severely depressed. I had always wanted to do MDS and knew that training and having a challenge would fix me mentally and help me loose weight. Also failing the year before meant I had some unfinished business.
SJ. It has been on my bucket list ever since I saw it as a kid. When a friend of mine did it and spoke about how much he enjoyed it, that made me want to do it more. I now know he lied...!!
AL. I did the MDS for my 50th birthday.
AM. Well my hubby told me sometime ago that it was not for someone like me - well I am still married to the twat! But it did make me look at myself differently.
DW. I followed a friend on-line in 2014. He had to pull out during the long stage, vowed to return and I foolishly agreed to join him.
LD. I entered the MDS to celebrate turning 40 & also on behalf of a little girl called Hannah who suffers from a condition called holoprosencephaly, which prevents the brain from splitting into left and right hemispheres during foetal development. This means that generally 97% don't make delivery and out of those that do 95% don't live beyond 6 months, she is now 4 years old and even though she is constantly battling life and death conditions she always has a smile on her face. There is no cure for this condition so I aimed to raise as much awareness and £10000 to help support the children and families affected by this condition.
PC. Always wanted to do it

DO YOU THINK ‘TOUGHEST FOOTRACE IN THE WORLD’ IS A WELL EARNED TITLE?

HW. No
AT. Not sure if it's the toughest due to my lack of other experience, but it was definitely the toughest I've done!
PG. It is a tough, if not brutal race. Difficult to know if it's the toughest without having done others and different people will find different things tough.
SW. Toughest foot race I've ever done
KD. No. Felt far worse on some other Ultras I've done. The thing is.. it could be harder by reducing the cut-offs. Forcing folks to run it. They're too generous but I understand why they do it. It's a shed load of money to pay out not to complete it so…
AC. Its tough for many reasons! Camp life can be tough, however, I found it to be OK, tent 116 a great bunch of guys.
RE. It is the toughest thing I have done, so can only compare it against things I have done so far. Although some other event I want to do like Berkley, Jungle Ultra, Dragons back look brutal.
MD. Possibly if you race, I like many many others was only concerned with finishing and so it didn't really apply
NP. Similar to others, it was my biggest challenge to date but I don't have enough experience to clarify.
SJ. It's as tough as you want it to be! There is no getting away from the fact that moving quickly across a desert, carrying kit and managing your water/nutrition/feet is a tough ask. If it wasn't hard no-one would want to do it.
AL. I don think it was the hardest race in the world, I think the terrain is challenging combined with the hot weather and lack of sleep this makes it hard.
AM. In a way not as tough as I thought it was going to be, I took each check point and broken them down into stages. Even the jebels were broken down into section which became manageable. The hard part was the kit, terrain, heat and water ratios.
DW. All I can say is that the combination of terrain, distance and heat make this challenging.
LD. I do think that this is a very tough event and can see why it has been given that title, however I think the cut off's are a little generous and thus there may well be tougher events out there now.
PC. ‘Dunno about that but it's the toughest thing I've done

DID YOU FIND IT ‘LIFE CHANGING’ AS MANY HAVE INFERRED?

HW. No
AT. Not 'life changing' but set a new 'high water mark' for me in terms of completing difficult challenges - I think it will probably give me more confidence to take on challenges in the future.
PG. I don't think it's been massively life changing but has had an impact. After my first MDS I became a lot less tolerant of stupidity from people who should know better. Don't know why but I did. I'm also much more prepared to push my limits beyond what I would have previously thought capable. I've also still got my beard and I think there's a good chance the tattoo might happen
SW. The run-up was life changing, and like Paul, I'm probably even less tolerant of lazy and complaining people!
KD. No. But a fabulous experience nonetheless.
RE. Well I haven’t changed my name to Susan and bought a lemon coloured VW Beetle convertible, so for me not really. It did bring home how lucky I am and should enjoy embrace the life I have instead of moaning about pathetic 1st world problems. I did like the off grid feeling which made for some thoughts on those displaced folks who are living in these conditions daily for years through no fault of their own.
MD. No.
NP. I would say no. However it was an amazing experience and I loved meeting lots of new people. I have however giving up watching soaps since I got home as I just thought what's the point!
SJ. No, but it was a life experience I wouldn't want to have missed
AL. I didn't find it life changing, my bank account did!!
AM. No, but it did make me appreciate what I have at home and the comforts we take for granted.
DW. By getting through to the end I confirmed that I can take adversity. I didn’t expect to take quite so much though.
LD. I don't feel that my life has changed in anyway so far, however it has helped to instil the belief that I am capable of achieving great things.
PC. nope (Jo says yes) – Jo is his wife!

 

DID YOU QUESTION WHY YOU WERE THERE AT ANY POINT? (DAY THREE FOR ME)

HW. No
AT. Never questioned why I was there - pretty much enjoyed it all!
PG. Questioned why I was there from early on, end of day 2 was a bit of a low point (you know why!) as were the endless jebels on day 3 which I was hopeless at.
SW. Day two was the toughest for me, the plains, then dunes, then jebel. But loved day three (weirdo) which re-invigorated me
KD. Nope. Enjoyed my time there, mostly, every minute.
RE. Yes, Day 4(long day), I couldn’t face my food and was very tired. Around CP6 I was very low mentally and blood sugar levels too (cue Snicker advert with Joan Collins!!). only had half my porridge in the morning (700cals) and didn’t have the wherewithal to cook. Luckily I found Jelly babies, put my music on (for the first time) and listened to some voice messages from the kids…boom!!! Back on track
MD. No, although I was continually questioning if I would finish and resolving not to have any more silly plans....
NP. No, I knew I was there to overcome my fears and build confidence after a truly horrible experience the year before.
SJ. After Checkpoint 2 on the Long Stage I had some very severe questions for my past self and some stern direction for future Seb - no more long distance runs ever!!
AL. I never questioned why I was there as I had wanted to go there for so long
AM. Just before Checkpoint 2 on the Long Stage my mind played a few tricks and then again round Checkpoint 6. But then again I loved the whole experience so possibly no.
DW. Surprisingly no. I feared the sun from noon to around 4.30 every day but I never questioned my presence there.
LD. I didn’t really question why I was doing the event, however I did tell myself how stupid I was repeatedly for putting myself through this on a consistent basis over the entire duration of it as I do with every event I take part in.
PC. Never questioned why, just put one foot in front of the other, eat, get patched up then go out again!
 

WHAT WAS YOUR
WORST FOOD?

HW. Porridge
AT. Worst food - those concentrated fruit bars - I quickly became sick of the super-sweet food I took!
PG. Anything from expedition foods
SW. Macadamia nuts are boring
KD. Macadamia nuts. They are shit!
RE. Macadamia/hazelnuts/almonds/dried banana chips when running… oh and Peperami . these had worked brilliant in training but in searing hear with limited water, well they sucked and made me want to throw up.
MD. Charity stage Macadamia nuts which I discovered had escaped from their zip-lock and swum around in the sand and sweat at the bottom of my rucksack
NP. lyo Chinese 5 spice and another of their rice dishes.
SJ. Bloody Cliff Bars. Worked fine in the UK but couldn't stomach them after a day or two in the heat. Took about a litre of water to get one down!
AM. everything. My tent mates will concur I hardly eat and struggled with the whole food thing. Tried everything hot and cold before going out but didn't like it when there. Did have starburst which were fab and hot choc sachets were good that were being given away.
DW. Apart from a couple of meals my tent mates took pity on me (a big thanks to them for that!) I prepared cold meals. Expedition Foods dehydrated scrambled eggs failed to re-hydrate properly and crunched like eating sand. Dates were a let down as they became mush.
LD. I enjoyed my food, however I did take too many Cliff bars and the Spaghetti Bolognese I had on the long day wasn’t the best as it was a bit greasy.
PC. blueberry porridge expedition food
 
 

WHAT WAS YOUR
BEST FOOD?

HW. Porridge once I'd learnt how to make it!
AT. Peperami without a doubt - I was craving salty, savoury food by the end
PG. Rum's spag bol
SW. Peperami and Marmite cashew nuts were great, and pork scratchings. Also decent granola with full-fat milk powder worked very well and that Parma ham from the French guy on the long day was lush!
KD. Veggie Tikka (Exped foods)
AC. expedition Asian chicken/beef noodles are the best. 1000 kcal.
RE. Jelly babies/jelly beans/Asian noodles with chicken/super noodles (breakfast last 2 days) and a hot chocolate given to me by Ali
MD. Peperami and some Dutch coffee flavoured caffeinated sweets my wife found for me - although I also recommend sharing Pringles and pork scratchings in the tent before the official start
NP. lyo beef penne pasta, Parmesan, bacon fries, mini Haribo, tangfastics and bacon fries.
SJ. Mark Dickson's peperami....! That or the main meals courtesy of work. Very tasty.
AL. Peperami!
AM. Rivita and cheese spread.
DW. Expedition Foods Granola was a good way to start the day. I am glad that I took 1/2 kg of macadamia nuts. I enjoyed the different texture and they gave me a lot of energy.
LD. The best food was the Sheppard’s pie I had on day 3 and the crisps and nuts a few other participants gave to me.
PC. chill- con-carne expedition food - nice kick to it!
 
 
 

ADVICE FOR FUTURE RUNNERS?
 

HW. Smile
AT. Heat chamber training was well worth it
PG. Whatever hill training you think you might need, double it and get your food right. Give yourself a number of targets to fall back on if things don't go to plan.
SW. Tape earlier rather than later. Keep the weight down. Also couldn't have done it on less than 3,000kcal per day. Raidlight gaiters looked much better, ripped MyRaceKit ones twice. Straws on both bottles
KD. Don’t listen to all the gossip in the forum. Be confident about your abilities and choose the things that work for you. There were many, many different tops/short combinations. They all seemed to work for those folks. All this "what colour... compression, etc." is bullshit. I remember a guy wearing PINK compression calve guards. I mean WTF! However, he smiled a lot during the time in the sand pit.
RE. Respect the challenge ahead. Focus on getting fit. Kit will take care of itself and don’t go psycho on weight… pick the stuff you need and that’s it..it weighs what it weighs. forget the black/white/ tight / baggy clothes debate. Shoes, where what is comfortable for you. Everyone is an individual and what works great for someone else may not work for you, so test your stuff before you go and don’t listen to “advice” on forums as it is just an opinion! Food – make sure you have things that are easy to eat (not loads of chewing) on the move and have varied tastes(I took the same everyday as fuel…mistake) and take Jelly babies oh and always take the water that is allocated (I screwed up on day 1)
MD. Be realistic about how much running, how much shuffling and how much walking you will do and train appropriately
NP. consistent training along with strength and conditioning for injury prevention. Take poles, they make a massive difference. Try all your food in training and don't always go for lowest calorie to gram ratio, go for what you know you like and what will give you a lift. Organise training runs with other competitors before you go, it's great to have developed friendships before you head out there. And pick your tent mates carefully, crap tent mates can make a not very nice experience.
SJ. Unless you want to win, don't strip the weight too much - you can afford to carry a roll mat (half size blow up would have been ideal) and some form of slippers / flip flops. The comfort these items bring is worth the weight. Don't get too fixated on the Facebook group and the opinions flying around, test out some things and do what is comfortable and good for you. Test your stuff beforehand. Enjoy it.
AM. Train and train more, esp time on feet with back to back days. didn't bother with heat chambers (well we don't have them) and the heat didn't bother me too much apart from the day it was round 58 degrees. If you get involved in the Facebook group, read digest and then ignore and do what you plan for your event.
DW. It’s potentially easier if you journey with someone else you know. Get friends and family to send you emails. They really lifted my morale. Make sure that you meticulously protect your feet from the first stage to the last. Hydration is equally important. I found that soaking an ice towel and wrapping it around my head helped ease the worst effects of the sun. Go quicker than I did so you don’t have to spend so much time under the withering sun!
LD. Future runners should definitely make sure they do some heat work in an environment chamber before they go and take a good supply of savoury snacks like Peperami’s and Crisps.
PC. What ever hill training you have planned, triple it. Run on sand and If possible run on sandy hills 3x as much as you had planned
 
 
 

HOW DID YOU FEEL CROSSING THE MARATHON FINISHING LINE? RELIEF? ELATION? JOY?

HW. A kind of dry delicious – probably how a Turkish delight feels under the dust
AT. Felt relieved primarily at the end - I didn't want to fail to finish so to get to the end in one piece was my main aim
PG. No joy at all on crossing the finish line this time, just sheer relief.
SW. Relieved to make it, and a little bit emotional, or maybe a bit of grit got in my eye
KD. I was glad, so very glad. Elated actually. And, for me, I got to do that with a great chap too.
RE. Numb!! Didn’t know how to feel, was emotional…. smiling, triumphant and a few tears.
MD. Relief.
NP. I was relieved, happy and ready to party!
SJ. I was knackered, that last flat was longer than it looked! I was really pleased to have finished, it was a great moment and the hug from Patrick was a nice touch - he seemed to be genuinely pleased to welcome you across the line.
AL. I was totally overwhelmed when I had finished as my biggest fear was not completing the race.
AM. I don't know. I was tired and it had been a long day. I was pleased that I'd finished but in a way with the charity stage still to do was thinking about my feet which need to be fixed.
DW. I expected to feel very emotional at managing to get over the line but I just felt a massive sense of relief. My relief was tempered by my concern for Jan Taylor, who I had journeyed with for much of the MDS.
LD. It just felt great once I crossed that line and received my medal because I knew all the hard work had paid off.
PC. utter relief that it was over!

DID YOU ACCOMPLISH WHAT YOU SET OUT TO DO? POSITION? COMPLETION?

AT. Yes, did better than I thought I'd do - finished in the top half!
PG. Didn't get the position I was hoping for but for two and a half days did compete at the level I wanted to. Given that most plans in the desert go awry, I'm happy enough.
SW. Finishing was the goal, top 50% was a bonus
KD. Sadly no. Due to stomach issues on day 1 that fell by the way side. I always had a backup plan. Don't go in thinking you'll be somewhere and then break cause you've not managed that. Just push on and do your best day after day. leave a bit of yourself on the course every day and you can walk away happy.
RE. Yes and then some. My goal was to complete MDS, raise as much money for my 2 cancer charities and at best finish in top 500. I finished 216 and 81 for my age group, so was a tad chuffed with oneself.
MD. Yes, but that was limited to completing
NP. I set out to complete, so yes I did what I set out to do. However following my dnf I took it much easier than I would have done if I hadn't had that experience and know I could have pushed myself harder.
SJ. I set out to finish in the top 500 and somehow managed to finish 102nd. Delighted, surprised and very happy.
AM. my goal was to finish, intact and alive, so in a way yes!
DW. I had physio on the Tues and my podiatrist changed my prescription for my right foot on the Wed before I flew out. My aim was simple; to finish.
LD. I have accomplished the physical aspects in regards to getting round safely as I didn’t have any other goals relating to time and position, especially as I was in hospital for 3 days the week we flew out. I still have some way to go to hit my money raising target though, as I have raised just over £5000.
PC. no, didn't get the place I wanted. In fact had to resort to plan B and even plan c!

HOW WAS CAMP LIFE? HARD WORK OR A PLEASURE? A HAVEN AT THE END OF THE DAY? 

HW. Welsh tent best life ever
AT. Enjoyed the camp - great meeting everyone. Didn't enjoy not having a chair to sit on - probably an age thing!
PG. Camp life was good, loved the camaraderie in both this MDS and my first one. That, and the support from back home kept me going!
SW. Good banter in the tent, hope I didn't annoy the others too much. Paul's cooking debacle was a highlight!
KD. It was great. A lot of time to chat to your tent mates. That's the thing about the MDS. you get to meet like-minded people from all walks of life. They are there doing this for their own reasons. Listen to them and learn about them. You'll hopefully be good friend for life after the MDS. However, that said, you're not there to make friend. If it happens, all good. I was happy enough to meet some very nice folks.
RE. Camp life was tough at times as I had a chest infection but apart from that I loved the folks in tent 119. Amazing bunch of people and very supportive of each other. Caring sharing bunch and we had some great laughs.
MD. Pleasure the camp is pretty comfortable given the location and the pre race catering much better than expected
NP. I absolutely loved camp life (apart from the not being able to shower and toilet situation). My tent mates were amazing and we all supported each other in different ways. After each stage I also went and visited a number of tents for chats as those of you who have met me will know I like to talk. (Possibly too much for some!!)
SJ. Camp life was easily the best bit of the whole experience. The tent group were great and it was a genuine pleasure to see them at the end of the day. As was the travelling visitors who come by for a chat and wander off. Very good feeling around and it was good to chill on the floor and watch the world go by.
AL. Camp life was totally brilliant tent 112 was totally the best and those guys and girls just made me laugh so much.
AM. Felt out tent was really good (apart from the ear bashing about food!), the guys gave us a guard of honour most days. The conversation was light heighten and funny. When passing most tents, the guys were always welcoming and chatty.
DW. Camp life? What camp life?? I was hardly there… After getting used to the strangeness of sharing with 4 others and the quirky humour I really enjoyed the camaraderie provided by the tent. It was a diverse group with very different characters and outlooks but somehow we managed to came together to provide meaningful mutual support.
LD. I enjoyed the camping aspect, my tent mates in 137 and the lads in 126 made it a worthwhile experience and it took me back to my days camping as a kid in boy’s brigade.
PC. loved camp life, the camaraderie, great tent mates, you and your pipe!!, being off grid was great
 

DID YOU VISIT DOC TROTTERS AT ALL? IF SO, WHAT FOR?

HW. No
AT. Went to Doc T about 4 times, I think - all blisters. I thought the docs were very good
PG. Thankfully, got my foot taping right so no doc trotters for me
SW. Kept away from the scalpels, only had a dressing on a tape rub on my chest
KD. Didn't need to visit them once!
AC. NO. Routine was important, taping feet every morning, I only had 1 small blister.
RE. Yes, but it was self-treatment. Felt embarrassed TBH as I had a couple of tiny blisters where some poor souls looked like the were wearing Lady Gaga’s meat shoes! I also taught Doc Trotters how to strap an Achilles injury which was pleasing aha by showing them how I strapped mine.
MD. Yes, once, for unimpressive blisters
NP. I did visit doc trotters as I had to have my toenail drilled as a blister underneath, I did self service for first few days as only very small blisters however on day 4 I had blisters between my toes and on bottom of my feet so couldn't see what I was doing.
SJ. I went after the Long Stage. It was well worth it - very good service! Unfortunately for the post it was nothing gruesome! Nothing like Paul's feet anyway!
AL. I only went to doc trots when we went to the hotel to collect our t shirts.
AM. God, they were my friends! I went there after day two as the under pad came away from my toe (did the same thing when I did London to Brighton!), then I had quite a few blisters (I was there for 2 1/2 hours one time trying to get everything sorted). Amazing thing was in flip flops they hurt like hell but in trainers the pain went away!!
DW. On the marathon stage had to have my midriff strapped as my left hip was no longer able to weight bear. Also had a dressing applied to blisters on my shins (yes there!) which were caused by my calf guards.
LD. I didn’t have to go to see the medical support at any point as I made sure my body and feet held up throughout the event, so I guess I was one of the lucky ones.
PC. Doc Trotters? Fuck me mate, I've got a golden season ticket, had a chair with my name on it by the end of it (Check out the pictures of Paul's feet!)

 

THREE WORDS TO SUM UP YOUR MDS?

HW. Brown shit bag
AT. Unique, challenging, hot(!)
PG. Brutal, unforgiving, friendship
SW. Brutal, hot, amazing
KD. Majestic, stunningly brutal.
RE. Amazing, challenging, humility
MD. Successful, hot and sandy!
NP. Brutal, beautiful and amazing
SJ. Comradeship, challenging, stunning
AL. Totally awesome experience
AM. Challenging, stunning and humbling.
DW. Gruelling, compelling, awesome
LD. Awesome, tough and hot or even more accurately “fuck you sand-dunes”
PC. Heat Exhaustion Amaze balls
 

DID YOU ‘BONK’ AT ANY TIME IN THE RACE? IF SO, HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH? 

HW. No
AT. I flagged at check point 5 on the long day - I ate food, drank lots, spent 10 mins in the Docs getting foot strapped and was good to go half an hour later.
SW. No bonking, but extreme tiredness on last stage of long day. Sleep walking for ages. Protein shake and fruit pastilles didn't cut the mustard. Thanks for keeping me in the right direction!
KD. Yup. Had a massive BONK on Day2 going up the Jebel. Water was becoming low and I hadn't eaten well. I was making up places and pushing on and 'forgot to eat'. 2/3rds up Jebel I had to sit down for 10mins as I was overheating and needed to eat. Kind folks on way up asked if was OK, etc. The camaraderie in the MDS is great. Embrace it.
AC. Suffered the second half of stage 4, last couple of hours I felt destroyed but recovered quickly.
RE. Day 4 CP6(as above), music and voice messages from my kids.
MD. As I had to look up what you meant, the answer must be no although I did hallucinate a fair bit during the last 3 stages of the Long day.....
NP. Well on the long day I was struggling energy wise from checkpoint 5 and was in a lot of pain, everywhere. I saw someone between 6 and 7 who had been behind me throughout fly past and asked him if he was OK (clearly I wasn't at the time) and he said great, I've just had Tramadol! So when I got to checkpoint 7, I also got Tramadol and felt great after that!
SJ. Yes, twice. Once on Stage 3 on the last flat after the Jebel. Running low on water, probably suffering a bit from heat exhaustion. Couldn't do anything apart from run 100 steps, walk 100 all the way to the end. On the Long Stage, I was dangling before CP 5. Stopped briefly, made up a meal and wolfed down a chilli-con-carne (still crunchy) before stepping off again. 20 minutes later I was back in!
AM. Yes, one day 4 on the long stretch when I started to run out of water and had to take a water penalty.
DW. A couple of times; I managed to poison myself with Co-Dydramol at the beginning of the 4th climb on day 3. As I felt so nauseous and chronically tired I had to sit down for 20 mins half way up. After 20 mins I got up took 10 steps and had to sit down for another 10 mins. The sickness lasted until I had cleared the dunes. The second time was after 19km of the marathon stage. When others I had overtaken passed me easily I knew something wasn’t right with my hips. I stopped at doctrotters at 21km. The Dr told me he couldn’t do much for me apart from provide some strapping. Another 2km and I realised I had to do something drastic. For the final 19km of the marathon stage I carried my bag on one strap on my right shoulder.
LD. I didn’t bonk but I did have a few wobbles mentally, I found just embracing the pain and taking a minute to just stop and look at the amazing scenes got me through as well as giving myself a good taking too.
PC. I bonked daily! Took a couple of man up pills, read some emails I carried with me, kicked myself up the arse and got on with it
 
 

WOULD YOU DO IT AGAIN?

HW. No. Never.
AT. Would do it again if there was a good reason
PG. Not doing it again. Never.
SW. I said never again, but now... could do better? Another friend wants to do it too
KD. Yup. I'm going to do it again in 2020 with a friend who wants to run it. I'm be their 'support'.
AC. Yes.
RE. No, don’t see the point. I know I could have a lot of hours of my time and get a better place but it was never about the place or the time. Just finishing it without an EVAC
MD. No.
NP. I might do it again in 10 years but only if my son wants to do it with me. The only reason I am even considering is that I would like to do it and race it without the fear of failure as I now know I can do it.
SJ. No - there are too many other things to do in this world. This should not detract from the fantastic experience that this race represents.
AL. I would not do it again as I don't want to ruin my perfect experience but I would recommend the race.
AM. No, ‘tho my daughter does want to do it. There are quite a few other things I want to do like G2G so maybe this instead...
DW. Yes. I would approach it with my less fear, especially during the first 3 days.
LD. I would definitely do it again if somebody paid for me or I won the lottery.
PC. yes (Jo says no, it's too stressful) some medical issues need ironing out but if I could, I would.
 

FINALLY, YOUR BEST OR FUNNIEST MEMORY? 

HW. Dropping half my salt tablets for the week in the sand as patrick was half way through the start countdown on day one!
AT. Best memory was seeing everyone get back at our bivouac at the end of the long day
PG. Funniest memory... Losing my temper on the second night when I hadn't put any water in my pot.
Best memories...David finishing, realising you Scott, hadn't crashed out in the marathon stage but had just run really well to be first back in the tent. Sharing the free extra Oringina that we wangled when we realised the marks on my drinks ticket rubbed off!
SW. Best was the beer possibly. Coke Zero was a massive let down though. Seeing David get in each evening was also a highlight. And a relief.
KD. Shouting aloud on the long day (22:30Hrs) "give me something to run on!" no-one else heard me. I hope.
RE. I have so many, Tent 119 in general was such a highlight, making a guard of honour each night for some of our tent mates when they finished, pooing in a bag and the dude in the next stall trying to have a conversation with you???? WTF??? Generosity, empathy and support of tent mates. French guy wearing a tutu playing a ukulele around the course, Kristian’s face when I said “hello”(in my own special way) to him each day during the run and crossing the finishing line.
MD. walking through the desert on my own at night; funniest was watching Paul Cornwell get his kit ready without the help of his wife...
NP. there are so many! I also met the guy with the banjo and he ran with me for about ten mins playing and singing to me. There was always lots of banter flying around our tent and lots of very silly moments. I think my all time favourite parts were meeting new people and chatting to them on the course, in camp and I loved the after party. Just think it should have lasted a bit longer!
SJ. Comradeship with Graeme on the Long Stage - we got through it together, coming over the final ridge to see the finish, chatting rubbish in the tent. Funniest memory - anything Paul said or did had me in stitches. Loved it when he arrived back in camp!
AL. The funniest moments was when the oldest man in our tent (74) bent over and his balls fell out of his shorts right in my eye line and he said I must put my speedos on, I'm still mentally scarred!!
AM. OK here goes, was having a wee, (easier for guys than gals!) and tried to haul myself back up on my poles only to lose balance and ended up on my arse (luckily not back in my pee!) I have no idea how the lady I was with kept a straight face or the guy who arrived to see it all in its glory! they were fab at helping me back up and allowing me to try and brush the sand off from places its should not have been!!
DW. The insanely wonderful reception I received while finishing last and in the dark on day 3. I was told that I made the cut off by 1 minute. I was impressed throughout by the camaraderie that grew between all the participants. It was particularly good to get verbal encouragement from the leaders as they overtook us on the long stage and the marathon stages. Other highlights; running 3km during the marathon stage with Guy from Luxembourg, the last of the leading 150. He was completing his 4th MDS aged 75. Seeing others finish; especially those who I had come to know and those who suffered more than I did.
LD. My best memory was seeing the finish at the end of the long day and that it was before sunrise, the funniest was hearing about my mate Tim in tent 126 falling over in the toilets when the seat collapsed mid-session and he fell into the next cubicle nearly giving the other person a heart attack
PC. IV drip, second morning of long stage, slumped under the only tree around with the bag hanging off a branch!