Mark Gillett

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Posts Tagged ‘MDS 2013

The Running World Challenges and Changes

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Over the last 5 or 6 years I have seen huge waves of change in the running world. Just 15 years ago the challenge was a city marathon, New York, London, Dublin or one of the many around the world. The mega challenge was the UTMB or the Marathon des Sables.. Then popped up a few more copies of the MDS format like the four deserts, Jungle Marathon and a few others that came and went or still fumble by. And when you had completed one of these the next challenge seemed to be a 600km non stop or one of the Poles. Or even Everest.

MB5H7331

Yukon Quest – 1000 miles of -40 degrees

But now the landscape has changed so massively that those big challenges have become or are becoming the new norm and the professionalisation of some of the ultra world races in terms of competitors and sponsors is just so great to witness. No longer is the MDS the ultimate or the UTMB the toughest out there. They are certainly tough but with 2300 runners competing this years event and the MDS reaching 1200 and rising to 1500 runners in 2015, these are more catering to the masses on a tour basis.  Everest is about booking your trip and being guided up by an expert. The MDS is 1500 runners shipped by bus to the desert, fed, wined and dined for three days, run and shipped back for some R&R in a hotel. 2300 in the UTMB is certainly a good money spinner! City Marathons at over 30,000 runners. Although its good to see so many people active, these events are not cheap with Everest at 50k average, stage races like the 4 deserts and MDS at around 4k per runner. All very good business for the races but really cater to very few who can afford or jump on the charity wagon.

However, during my cycling hours through the streets of london, I see people running these equivalents in a week or so on their way to work. People cycling 20, 30km or more a day just for commuting.  How things have changed!

MDS from the air

I have watched my FB newsfeed with interest this summer. In particular the events covered by iRunFar and Ian Corless at Talk Ultra. I have seen a new breed of tough race and some of the toughest races out there being run by real competitors. Races that have good sponsorship behind them, tough competitors and professional runners. But the top are truly in a league of their own. Marathons have become their training runs, stage races their warm ups or ignored altogether as not worth it. And now mountain trails, non stop 100 mile races and more extreme races are the new challenge. Some runners are completing these running sub 3 hours marathon times. A truly different level. Races like the lakeland100 in UK are now seen as much harder to run. I cover the Yukon Quest which is truly a man challenge not to be ignored. There are cycling challenges everywhere and the growing number of city dwellers now running or cycling to work is growing so fast that city councils do not know how to manage the change. Or how to make money form them yet!

This does not detract from the toughness of a desert race. Heat is a killer. Or the challenge of the humidity of a jungle race and freezing cold of the arctic. But it does make some of these races more the norm.

Jungle Marathon 08

Jungle Marathon, Amazon

So what does this tell us? For me I see it as all positive. More races means more competition which in turn leads to better and safer races. It leads to more choice, more destinations. It weeds out the poor races or those that maybe unsafe. But more importantly it also means the creative can be more adventurous and dream up something that is so different that we are presented with a new “MDS” for the next 25 years. And I truly believe this will happen. There will be another mysterious, man challenging event that emerges. A race that entices because so few have done it. A race that people can run and really feel they have done something that the masses have not. Something I felt when I first heard about the MDS back in the 80’s…

I really look forward to the next few years to see what arises. What I might be involved in media wise. What I might even find I want to challenge myself with.

Written by markgillett

September 2, 2013 at 10:16 am

Marathon des Sables – A Picture Story

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This is a portfolio of the Marathon des Sables 2013… Click the “more” to see all the images.

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MDS Roundup

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MDS 2013 Roundup

This years MDS was as unique as any. I suppose the only constant is the toughness. There were new faces, returning faces, young faces, and old faces. There were race winners and life winners and those who did not make the end. But without doubt everyone will go home with an experience of a lifetime.

Patrick Bauer's Briefing

Patrick Bauer’s Briefing

Covering the MDS has always been a real pleasure for me. Not because of the race but more for what the desert throws up at us. It strips us back to the raw. Show us who we really are. It then asks us to live it in a way no other environment I have visited has ever achieved. This bit I still cannot explain but if you ever have the privelege to spend time with bedouin, you will find no truer human beings.

I have travelled to deserts for 30 years now. Made private expeditions, taken children across them, many adults to the Middle East Empty Quarter and I have run the MDS as well as returned for the last 7 years to photograph it. It never disappoints.  Read the rest of this entry »

Marathon des Sables 2013

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This is now my 7th Marathon des Sables and as usual it was very unique. The format was slightly changed which disturbed a few people but I think this will settle down soon and people will accept it in its new form. But this was just a tiny part of the MDS. What really makes this race is the people and the colour they bring each year. The emotions were running fully from start to end.

Stage 2 was one of the toughest I have seen for a while and the heat really kicked in from stage 3 reach the high forties in the sun. Sometimes fifties. The race provided many faces as usual. Some of sheer pain and some of sheer joy but all full of a human’s most powerful emotions.

As a photographer this year I was extremely busy but no more or less than normal. We could not get out much during the race but over the next few days I will be able to catch up with some specific stories, write my press articles and get back in touch with some of those beautiful times of the last 7 days.

If this is a race that is in your mind to do, dont hold back. Go to http://www.marathondessables.co.uk and sign up. I believe anyone can do this race but there has to be a want.

Here are a few images from the week..

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Marathon des Sables 2013 – Stories

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It’s that time of year again when all the MDS runners start to think seriously about what they have signed up for… “have I done enough training”, “Am I doing enough training”, “Oh God, what have I done”…… And so on.

But its a great time to as the next 16 weeks gives you some of your best training opportunities. With time off during the holidays and good food around, running for a few hours in the hills just makes it all such a pleasure.

Everyone who runs the MDS has a story. Some of them may seem quite simple some quite amazing but they are all stories and important to the person they belong to.

I thought I’d post this showreel from last year and also invite any runners with good stories to get in touch… I have a few commissions already but would like to hear your story if you are willing to tell it…  I can help you document it if you need me to… Some I will post here, some I will pitch to the press. Some I will leave… However, they do all matter.

Here is a teaser to keep you going and do a search here for MDS stuff. There is plenty to read under “coaching” Marathon des Sables” “Endurance” and “adventure”

 

 

Written by markgillett

November 30, 2012 at 10:47 am