Friday, 24 February 2017

Fred V & Grafix - Just A Thought (Ft. Reija Lee)

1999 MdS #1 - A lifetime ago
Lyrics:- 'Lost what I already had' - Fred V & Grafix - Take a listen for yourself here.

Song Choice:- Well I've been experiencing a lot of 'thoughts' as I try to return to somewhere near my previous level of running fitness and this track cropped up on Friday, at twenty miles into a Merthyr Mawr 26.2 mile 'MdS Running Fitness Test'. It was a bit of a deal or no deal for the Marathon des Sables if I'm being honest, as only 300 days ago I thought I'd never walk again, let alone RUN following my brush with Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome. It's a condition that kills 7.5% of people and leaves 30% with lasting physical impairment.

I didn't realise I was quite this ill...
You see it was really serious, more serious than I ever realised at the time, and the level of pain associated with Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome (GBS) was unlike any I've ever experienced. For the first seven days in May, I didn't really have a clue where or even who I was. After a week of intravenous immunoglobulins that saved my life, I started my rehabilitation. It was a long learning process starting with managing a simple stand, then progressing to a walk and finally to becoming a human being again. It's a complete nightmare and being wheelchair bound brings it home about how fortunate we are to be able to run free and experience life to the full.
Already talking MdS on a Zimmer-Frame?
It's not as easy as it looks...
This is three months later...
GBS not only numbs the body, it also numbs the mind and there are gaps in 2016 where I just can't remember much at all. I know I frightened everyone around me, especially Lady Coleman, and after a month I just went with the flow after fighting EVERYTHING and EVERYONE around me. After all I'm a fighter and not a victim and after some soul-searching I decided to make the most of what I'd got, not what I'd lost.

A couple of months more in hospital and wheelchair confinement soon got me thinking that it wasn't the outlook I wanted and not much use if you want to run the 2017 Marathon des Sables - I had a firm picture in my mind of me crossing the magical finish line for that magical 14th time. Being stuck on 976 lifetime marathons was also starting to grate on me as, by September 2016, I would have reached the 1000 life-time marathon mile mark. The 24 I had left seemed now more like an impossible mountain to climb.

My good friend Chris Patterson had been in my MdS Tent in 2016.  He came to visit me and broke me out of my rehab hospital on the August Bank Holiday weekend to go to the local park. I managed to walk 100 steps holding walking poles mid-air just in case I tripped over my own feet and broke a bone or even worse snapped a ligament. After a month of learning to stand and walk and endless hours of physio, it felt like I'd turned a corner.

Remembering how to walk and run when your legs just won't move or go where you want them to go is a right bugger and really frustrating I can tell you.

Since then it's been a bit of a 'Roller-Coaster' if I'm being honest - one where I've had to use all of my years of strength, running expertise and intuition to get me out of hospital, off all the high dosage medication and through what training I could do without wiping myself out for days or even weeks afterwards...

The fatigue that accompanies GBS also has a profound effect. Whereas before my recovery from a marathon was pretty much instant, being able to run them day after day... now, for some time afterwards, I'm pretty much physically and mentally destroyed. It took me about a month to recover from my first marathon post-GBS, more lately it's about a week - and that's for a flat road-marathon without a pack.

So after my latest couple of road outings with a post-GBS Marathon PB of 5:43, I decided that running the 4:37 mile circuit six times around the Candleston Estate at Merthyr Mawr, which is leg sapping on a good day, would be an excellent test. You see, the stats are interesting as last year I ran a 5:36 prior to the MdS quite easily but the 8:14 I clocked on Friday for the same distance shows just how far I'm away from being SAFE from the cut offs in the race. For the record, I did RUN the entire 26.2 miles, every single step, in a whopping 19.01 minute mile pace. I believe I can walk it quicker and and that could be my next test.

A real moment of realisation...
For those not aware of the dunes at Merthyr Mawr, they provide the closest running conditions (apart from the heat of course) to the Sahara Sand that 1200 or so runners (including me) will be taking on in just six weeks time at the 32nd Marathon des Sables. For those that have yet to run in sand, well they're bonkers IMO as it's the place where you'll find your self-sufficiency pace which I believe is the key to MdS Success or Failure. I liken it to attempting to swim the channel following a few training sessions in your local pool.

Having previously placed 143rd at the MdS 2009, completing the marathon day in 5:11, I noticed that I took 8:14 to cover the marathon walking with Sir Ranulph in 2015. This was  heartening until I saw I was half an hour slower than that in 2016, although by this point I believe I was already suffering from the onset of GBS I believe. 

My general thoughts about running in the UK v Desert are that whatever you run in MPH here is roughly equivalent to KPH out there. Marathon day at the MdS takes you around 1.4 to 1.5 times your road marathon time. It's a rough guide and it's not far out but please don't hold me to it.

I can analyse the race and get the sunniest forecast possible to make me feel better about my chances of finishing this year. I've got the experience and unsurpassed support from my family (whom I know are really frightened) as well as friends and clients that will help me through the tough times ahead.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a sympathy blog - no-one is forcing me to go out there but, psychologically, it's a really important part of my recovery. I'm cutting it very fine this year - as yet it's still hard to put two double figure mileage days together although I did manage a 5 mile recovery run after my dune marathon and felt ok. The race is an amazing 'life-experience' and it's always lived up to it's reputation of the 'World's Toughest Footrace' quite nicely.

As a distraction, things are hotting up for those going there for the first time and I do try and guide them to a more pleasant 'Running Holiday Experience' and my advice has always been 'carry nothing', 'weigh as little as you can' and 'do some training!' and if you're suffering with an injury or just plain tired like me - TAKE A DAY OR EVEN A WEEK OFF as it won't kill you or your chances of finishing the race.

A message out to MdS17 UK Competitors...
So it's going to be a strange last few weeks where, as most will be tapering down slowly to 9th April, I'll be tapering up. You see the more I work these old legs of mine, the better they get. When I start any run, it feels like I've already covered a 100 mile race and my legs are dead for sometime before they wake up and get going. I've managed a 28 minute parkrun 5km which ain't so bad but I think the MdS will put a proud smile on my face this year, just as I hope it will on yours as it's simply a privilege to be a part of this unique occasion that every April sends people to their limits and beyond.

I'll see you at the start line and take a listen to 'Just a Thought' as a bit of Drum and Bass - it will help you out no-end when your s*** hits the fan out in the sand.

Just a few thoughts...

Rory Coleman - 983 Marathons - 241 Ultras - 13 Marathon des Sables
9 Guinness World Records - 8,454 Days' Alcohol Free
1 Inspirational Running Memoir - Get your copy here.
Location: Cardiff, Wales


  1. Good luck with the MdS Rory. Sounds like your biggest challenge yet.

  2. Good luck Rory but be sensible and listen to your body daily #strengthandhonour

  3. Sounds like you will 'peak' just in time for MDS... Im sure this year will be the most special of all for you - I never doubted you and just getting there is some achievement.. keep inspiring Mr C.

  4. Either that or I'm just plain daft Steve :-)