Watching “Running the Sahara” while Running the Americas

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Frustratingly today has been a forced rest day due to a foot injury. I am hoping that with 36 hours off running and lots of stretching, elevation and resting I will be back on the road tomorrow. On the plus side this forced time off has allowed me to watch “Running the Sahara”, an inspirational film about three men who ran across the Sahara Desert. Their expedition was hugely ambitious and watching it has been amazingly motivating for me. Watch the trailer here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HidKMFClQUU

When you look at their expedition and mine then there is one similarity – to run across a large mass of land – but after watching the documentary I realise that the actual nuts and bolts of these expeditions are so completely different.

For starters the stats: I am looking to run 18000km in 16-18 months and they covered over 7000km in just 111 days. That is about 65km a day and they didn’t take one day off. Just taking into account my running days I cover about 42km a day but then I am lazy and have days off!!!

Then there is the size of the expedition team. They had three runners, a couple of fixers, a doctor, a physio, a cook and a full camera team. On my expedition there is just little old me. It was interesting to watch the dynamics and see some of the differences. There were certainly times during their run when tensions got high and relationships strained but then there were moments of great comradery which certainly helped them get to the finish line. I was slightly surprised when Charlie, the leader, ran off without his buddies on the last day. Full respect to the others for not making an issue out of that. I miss both of these dynamics, I have no one to get angry with and no one to share it with. I knew this was going to be the case before I left but seeing it on the screen made it more apparent. In reality I don’t think there is another runner out there who would want to run with me for 18 months!!

The preparation is also hugely different. I think they said that it took 2 years to train, put together the team, sort out sponsorship and plan the route. I quit my job in April and was running in August the same year. In just four months I had planned my route, contacted kit sponsors and was on my road. In terms of financing, this expedition has mostly come out of my own pocket. To get to the end I will probably need to do a fund raiser but that will need to be organised while running.

Logistically there are huge differences. I am very focussed on making this a solo expedition and to achieve that I have to make sure I cover all the important daily tasks which include making sure I have a constant supply of fresh water, knowing where I can get food and finding a safe place to sleep each night. If things go wrong at a border then I have to sort it out and if I have an illness or injury then it’s normally just me and Google doing the diagnosis. Then there is the transport of equipment, water and food. Toyota very kindly helped this expedition out with 4WD trucks – I just have my trusty Thule running stroller.

Watching a documentary like this makes me regret not having organised a better way to document what I am going through. The Running the Sahara team have an amazing DVD (with Matt bloody Damon as narrator). I will probably just have my vast collection of video diaries on a hard disk! I am looking into a documentary style idea for the end of my expedition but that will take money and a lot of organisation to pull off… Fingers crossed something will pan out.

I hope this doesn’t read like I am trying to make my expedition sound tougher than theirs because that is not the intention. What they achieved was phenomenal and there is no way I could have achieved that. I think I am just realising that no two expeditions are the same even if they do look similar at the outset. It’s the unexpected than makes running expeditions special as Charlie pointed out in the documentary – If you just want to run then do a marathon…

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