9 weeks to go and my attention is now firmly fixed on hitting the gym in The Sligo Park Hotel’s Leisure Club, running my 70 miles a week and managing my pack weight to keep it under 10 kilos. I am training twice a week with a weighted pack and, having spoken with Diane Hogan Murphy who previously completed the Marathon Des Sables, her advice was to think really carefully about what I need to take with me – if I don’t need it, I don’t take it. Reading the online postings of other runners there are all kinds of ideas for weight-saving measures so I still have a lot of decisions to make before I go. I am not sure cutting the handle off my toothbrush is going to make much difference but people do it and I might feel differently on a long run in high heat.
Unavoidable essentials are a sleeping bag, running kit, medical kit and food. Eoghan at Call of the Wild in Sligo went out of his way to help me identify and source a North Face sleeping bag. It weighs in at 600g and will be invaluable as I am not taking a ground sheet.
Dromahair Pharmacy has kindly agreed to sponsor my medical kit costs and I am extremely grateful to them for that help. I also have had all my sun-protection from Dermologica which, to be fair, I haven’t really needed to test in recent weeks on The Sligo Way.
Raidlight came highly recommended by almost all the MDS veterans I met and I am using their Ultralight OLMO 20L backpack as well as their Ultralight running shirt, shorts and desert sun hat and even my trusty Asics Kayano running shoes are being specially fitted with Raidlight gaiters to keep the sand out. My buff is indispensable – it has done a lot of miles with me and it will give me additional sun-protection during the day and help keep me warm at night. I am planning to take Injinjii Compression 2.0 toe-socks but sourcing them has been unexpectedly harder than I thought. I am talking with a potential sponsor to get them and the pressure is on as I’ll have to train in them too. I’ve borrowed a Tyvek suit to change into after running but I am still trying to decide on what other clothing to take because the temperature drops so much from day to night in the desert. I am also taking my Bloc Bronx sunglasses – absolutely essential in the desert sun.
Food is probably the biggest choice I have to make. In order to be allowed to run, I have to show the race organisers that I have 2000 calories a day with me. Within that, I want to have food and drinks that fuel my running and aid my recovery each day. Plus I have to carry a small stove for the week.
I have decided to use Expedition Foods ration packs for my main meals – dried MREs that I can hydrate with my daily water allowance. I am extremely grateful to the team at The Sionnach Relay for sponsoring that cost for me. I will be trying the meals in training to make sure that I can get on with them and to find which ones I like.
I am already using Elivar drinks in my training and they are definitely coming with me – I can highly recommend the Strawberry and the Watermelon flavours to anyone doing any distance running, they are lovely and really help a lot. One of my training partners, Seamus McLoughlin, is contributing his world-famous home-made energy bars and I will supplement my meals with nuts and Stript Snacks dried meat packs.
Ultimately it all comes back to that target weight of 8-10 kilos maximum so, at the moment, things are in and out of the bag while I practice packing and re-packing all the kit.
The other thing keeping me busy is my fundraising so if you want to sponsor me and support a brilliant local cause – The North West Hospice – please visit my fundraising page. All and any donations will be gratefully received.