Mark Gillett

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Two Pieces of Loo Roll or Three?

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This guy took around 36 hours to finish the long stage. He made good choices for him on how to tackle the distance....

I am not sure what brought me to this subject other than the obvious in the title! It’s a subject that is close to me, though, and an important one for everyone, and one that so many people struggle with. Choice. And so many have been inadvertently taught not to make choices.

Everyday we face decisions of which some are easy to make and some more difficult. Some are just plain impossible. Choosing is often determined by how you were brought up. Were you allowed to make choices and make mistakes without being berated or put down if you messed up? Were you given encouragement to choose? Then, if you made a mistake, you could adapt and move on quickly. I believe I was on the whole but also that my choices were my responsibility.

I encourage people to make their own decisions and choices in the work that I do in photographic workshops, coaching or expeditions. The one that throws parents is when I ask their children to come up with their own kit list. “Why do we not have a kit list?” I get asked. “I have to know what Jonny needs to take!” Parents often go into a complete spin but at the end of the day would it not be better to research what to take, make a choice on what you wish to buy based on your budget and then run that choice by the authoritative person with the knowledge? That way the knowledge becomes yours and you have a little fun on the way. Ah! but if someone else chooses for you, you have blame when it turns out to be unsuitable or wrong. Of course!

I never let anyone take away unsuitable items but I will always make them choose because what is right for one person is not necessarily right for the next.

Expedition kit is a good example. I am often asked what to wear on the Marathon des Sable. To be honest, I am the wrong person to ask if you want a brand name and material type because basically I am not sure it matters as long as you don’t wear a fur hat and down jacket but even then I think you would get through. I wore a cotton t shirt that cost £2.99, a pair of regular running shorts and normal running socks. If you check the forums or the suppliers you will be told that you need clothes made from special wicking materials (good old nylon), socks with aluminium strips in them and lots more that will cost you the earth. I have had youths walk across the Sinai basically in what they can afford.  All loved the experience and did not regret their choices.

So how do you choose? What is it that finally makes you commit? Well, for me a vital part of any choice is gut feel. Obviously there is knowledge you have or gained from others with experience, what you know about the choice you are trying to make, how it affects what you are doing and what the purpose is. All those factors play a key role. However, it’s those choices that you don’t have much knowledge about that can be difficult, especially when its scarce or unqualified. Shops are led by marketing and sales not by what’s best for the job. You can easily see this when you have a child show up with Gortex winter boots for a desert expedition…… Or an MdS runner wearing who packs 5000 calories a day and then keels over exhausted because of the extra weight he is carrying….. Then you have the sheep who just wear what everyone else wears hoping its right.

Take my choice of a cotton t shirt in the Marathon des Sables. This was knowledge. I spent 10 years in the Middle East coaching tennis for up to 10 hours a day often in 40 degrees and 90% humidity.  I thought I was well qualified to make that choice.  The man in the running shop had been to Lanzrote for two weeks in the winter and lay on the beach! You may need fast wicking materials in the cold European climates so the sweat disperses and you do not feel cold, however in the desert, the sweat evaporates faster than you can run so choose another reason for your space age material and make sure its a good one for you….

This is not to say that a cotton t shirt is best but is just an example of me making a choice. I hate nylon and if I pour water over my cotton shirt is will stay around a little longer and keep me a little cooler too. Over heating and dehydration are the biggest killers in the desert and this works for me;  tried and tested many times.

It was looking at my loo roll that brought me to this subject. Two or three?  Slip and slide or get a good grip?  I chose three.  For the MdS I took 2 wipes for each day! Yes, thats all. One for each days ablutions and one for cleaning my ‘parts’. I washed with water and used my t shirt to dry myself…. It worked well for me and I just hoped I would not get the shits by washing my hands regularly and sharing nothing…

The point of todays post is to go ahead and make a choice. Base your choice on knowledge and get the best you can from the experienced people around you.  Then go for it. If you mess up, so what, you will always adapt….

I can be contacted by email if you need help…….Come to the London Ultra Expo on 12 February…

Written by markgillett

January 27, 2010 at 11:29 am

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