Mark Gillett

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Posts Tagged ‘Travel

Airports – Heathrow Sucks

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I am constantly bemused by the lunacy that confronts me each time a travel through Heathrow Airport. I don’t think it would be nearly so bad if my experience was the same at each of the airports I travel through but its not. No matter where I am, the security checks are simple and respectful. Heathrow? Well, they are just unbelievable. Each of my last 3 or 4 journeys my bag has gone through the “extra check” line where it gets taken for a good swabbing and total empty out. Early on in the experience I was told it was the hard drives and camera and it was best to take them out with the laptop. So my next trip I did exactly this and in anticipation of a clear walk through I was again disappointed. I got stopped. So now I begin to get agitated and question why again?. 

“Well, sir we need to check”

“Yes, but why?”

“Because you have cables sir.” 

“Err, they are earphones, what on earth might you find in there?”

she ignores me and the search goes on, she searches my bag and returns and after 10 minutes I am on my way.

My next experience;

“Sir can I please have a look in your bag?”

“Do I have a choice then?”

“Well, you can say no but I will look anyway.”

“So, why are you asking me if you can look then?”

“Sir, I have to look in your bag! Can I please take a look”

“No”

“But Im going to have to have a look!”

“Thats fine but don’t ask me if you can look if you are going to look anyway.. Just take a fucking look!”

“Please don’t swear at me sir!”

“I didn’t swear at you, I swore, period!”

The search happened and after 15 minutes of wasted time I went on my way… A few more times I had similar experiences and one really nice indian lady who apologised profusely before the search but said she had to, so I just kept my mouth shut and smiled. However, this last one took the biscuit.

I arrived at T5 checked in with no more than hand baggage, got to security and took out my laptop, cables, earphones, hard drives and anything that might matter. By bag gets selected again!!

“Please, please, tell my why my bag is being searched?”

She ignores the question and asks if there are any object that might hurt her in the bag so I ignore her. She asks again to which I said “no” so she opens the bag and empties it out. “Will you please tell me why the search?” I emptied everything out that could possibly perceived as a bomb or determine that I am a jihadist! Please?”

“Its liquids sir” she said tersely.

“What? What liquids?”

“Here sir!”

“Excuse me? Thats a tube of toothpaste 2 inches long!” She then took it out put it in a plastic bag and ran it through the machine again. It was a miniature travel tube!

I have come to the conclusion that the UK Airport security services probably all share the same brain cell. It is not rocket science when determining who might possibly be a danger, who really cannot be a danger and who might be a grey area.  No other airport except American, of course, do I ever have such an experience. I am now on my way back to Heathrow which of course, will not be a problem but I really don’t know what to do next time. I think I will put each item in a plastic bag of its own, empty everything out at the X-ray machine, take three of the big trays and just see what happens.

 

Written by markgillett

August 26, 2014 at 8:56 am

Are You An Athlete?

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Street Child Sierra Leone

Each year I provide media for a few races or events around the world. Some of them long and arduous some short and powerful and as the sporting leisure world, or more accurately the business of leisure pursuits, grows I find my self hearing the word athlete along with elite and high performance, being banded around so freely that I was beginning to feel I didn’t understand the definition anymore.. So! On my run today as it was buzzing around in my head I thought I would look it up when I got home and write my thoughts on what an athlete is….

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Written by markgillett

May 30, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Marathon Des Sables Time

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MDS Dunes

The Desert – Somewhere to Enjoy

I am sure there are many of you out there starting to get a little nervous about your last 12 weeks before the start of your MDS. I know exactly where you are at so just keep believing and training up to departure. Remember that tapering is no use, gathering calories does not work, go light, pack light and take the food you need. You have everything else to succeed and no reason to fail. You have water, shelter and food. The rest is in your head! Here is a little piece just published.. Good luck!!

http://www.sidetracked.com/marathon-des-sables/

Mark

Written by markgillett

January 2, 2014 at 3:05 pm

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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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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The 1000 Mile Yukon Quest Starts

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http://on.fb.me/12jgTbH

The Quest finally got underway today and it was warmer than any year I have attended… Out car read 1 degree on the way to Braeburn.

Here are a few photos and I will blog post stories as they emerge.. For today it was just important to get the first images out. We are now at Braeburn editing, posting and creating our first short video for the race….. The first mushers are due in around 11pm so it could be a long night… Posts coming…

Written by markgillett

February 3, 2013 at 2:40 am

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