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Reflections after 250km in the Desert

UltraX Jordan 250km

What do you think of when you hear the words "Running" and "Athletics"?

For many, it's all about beating personal bests, new championships and medals.

However, sometimes it can be far more than that. It can be about something bigger than the self.

I had the opportunity to be a part of the UltraX Jordan event in Wadi Rum this year. It was a 250km trail run across Wadi Rum desert from 7am on the 4th October to 1pm on the 8th October 2021 over 5 days in a balmy 30-40 degrees celsius.

I and six others were drafted in to take part in this amazing adventure. A fantastic opportunity to visit Wadi Rum, a desert which we'd all wanted to see and an opportunity to run across it! Wadi Rum is a vast desert, south of the Dead Sea and just east of Aqaba (Jordan). It's known for its red-orange sand and rock formations.

Packing everything you need into a 14kg bag for the week, food, bedding and clothing made for a simple life. As we settled into finishing dinner on the first night we had a briefing about what to expect. There were five stages to the race, the first day of 46km resulted in me walking the last hour home, despite setting off conservatively, I undercooked the hydration and my legs cramped up to the point where I was doing well to make it home (31st placing of 100). I thought that this may be a very long week and wondered how my body might awaken the next day.

The second day, with a few adaptations of taking double the amount of liquid on board, taught me a little more strategy. Not running over every piece of terrain until I get exhausted, but strategically walking up steep hills and being selective with when to use the accelerator saw a smoother day over the 50km covered on the 2nd day (14th of 100).

Most of my weight in the bag was food. I literally had so many snacks. You can be the fittest person on the planet. But not refuelling when completing this event can turn it messy very quickly and see you check yourself out of the race. I experienced the opposite of this 55km into the 69km day. Nearly 10 hours running out in the heat, after starting off with the leading pack things began to get interesting. My stomach felt like a washing machine and I was ground to a crawl for the last 14km home. Still, lessons learnt. (9th placing of 100)

After sleeping outside on a large slab of rock with a spectacular view I thought I may need to be a little more conservative today. The 46km felt like a blink in comparison to the previous day. All my lessons from the week began to come into play. Having kept way too much in the tank saw me sprint home the last 2km pretty fast. I was however in the best shape I'd been all week (12th placing).

The last hurrah, I was cautious all week with how my body would respond. So knowing this was the last day I kind of approached it like the last 500m of a race. It was 40km so a longish last leg. I sharpened the strategy a little further and went out with the leading pack. They were a bit bemused and wondered who the hell was the gatecrasher uninvited to the party. My body was holding up well and the speed was doable for the distance. It saw me steadily lock in with the front runners as the group slowly broke up over the 3.5 hours we were running. Eventually, there were only two of us, the number one and two positioned had been fixed as they were a few minutes in front and not in sprinting distance. For 3rd and 4th it did result in an all-out sprint in the last mile uphill with the competitor who pipped me to the post, doing 5:45 min/miles up a hill in a desert at the end of 250km race is not something I envisaged doing. I did make it more fun though. I finished that day 4th for the last stage.

So many lessons at play from rowing to learning from the past, focusing on the present and being aware of the future.

Despite all the fun across the desert with blistered swollen feet and dodgy stomachs, we weren't there just to test our feet of endurance but to raise awareness and support two charities very close to home.

Worth every step and more. Amazing people, surreal experience, unforgiving conditions. Something I will do definitely do again in the near future.

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