Mark Gillett

Come back frequently……

Posts Tagged ‘World

The Running World Challenges and Changes

with 5 comments

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.


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

with 3 comments

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Marathon des Sables 2013 – Stories

with 3 comments

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

A night on the Quest…..

with 3 comments


Well, here I am at 7 am.

Sleep was between 3 and 5am and now I am trying to force my body into action each time a musher approaches.. Not easy, I can assure you.

Its relatively quiet in the press room with only a handful whereas last night it was heaving with press, cameramen, radio people as well as tourists who have come to watch..

The quest seeps into my blood more each day. Having run endurance I understand their need to complete this. Their thirst for finishing, thirst for winning and their desire to push themselves to the limits of human endurance. The hardest part is the mental. They will be feeling exhausted and elated at the same time. Physically drained yet energised with the power of their achievement. Their minds will be playing games. “Why?” “What for?” “Never again” and usually only minutes after finishing in Whitehorse they will be talking of their next race….. But what makes these guys special is that they also need to care for their team . 12-14 dogs that need feeding, sleep and looking after. This make this event far tougher than met I have witnessed….

We have another week or so on the journey to Whitehorse and who knows who will take the prize. What is clear is that all are winners.

Written by markgillett

February 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm

World Flight Ban…..

with 3 comments

I got back from Morocco in the nick of time, or so I was told.  In fact it never even entered my head.

The recent flight ban due to volcanic ash stopped flights all over Europe. In theory this could happen worldwide one day if a few volcanoes decide to erupt simultaneously. I thought about it a bit when I tried to book the Eurotunel for my trip home but found no change, no hassle and just a little more traffic at the terminal but on the roads there was far less.  Obviously passing Gatwick I would expect to see heavy traffic even early in the morning but there was none.

A few days later I thought more and more about the lack of flights.  The so called problems it had caused. But all I had from friends and colleagues were exciting stories. One had taken days to get back from Oslo. Another an eternity from Japan! Someone had spent thousands on a taxi from Germany but all stories were happy ones. They could not wait to share their stories. Stories of real journeys or expeditions. The type of journeys we miss because we fly.  Then I thought about why we fly? For me, door to door Woking to Pairs is half an hour longer by car.  I don’t have to check in. I don’t have to sit next to someone  that smells or that has awful breath.  I can listen to my music and make my calls in peace.  I also do not have to take my bloody shoes, belt and braces off each time I go through customs. Admittedly for long haul I might choose to fly but then I started thinking about that too.

Holidays would be s much more pleasurable.  Would it really hinder me to not be able to fly on holiday? I could still go all over Europe, to the Stans in Asia, in fact many places that I have never been before.  The Caribbean might be a bit tough but so what? I have only been once and am not hankering to return…. I thought about possible journeys to Morocco.  A few days driving, camping and nice hotel on the way in Spain. We would see and experience so much more.  Then we would have the freedom of our car in Morocco. When it was time to come home it would just be part of the journey and we would continue to expeirence the land we covered and people we meet. So much more enriching than airports and crap food and the depression of returning home.

I suppose business was affected hence the histeria in the news. Commerce which our world relies on so heavily was damaged.  But then, was it really?  Would it be without flying? I am not so sure. We would adapt, our farming practices would become more healthy, we would go back to eating seasonal fruits and probably suffer less from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Market stalls would flourish and supermarkets would vanish…..  Corner shops would pop up.  There would be fewer conglomerates and more local wealth.  Travel would be exciting and more enriching.  Our lives would overall be healthier and probably morally stronger too. We could still travel.  Humans have travelled successfully for centuries without flying.  And in fact most humans don’t travel much but stay put and perhaps go on one or two holidays a year.

So! Would I miss flights? Not in the slightest. It would for me make the world a more exciting place. And most definitely a more healthy one. Other forms of transport would flourish and travel would continue. Our creativity would return in our efforts to explore and invent clean transport. Travel if we really wanted to. And those who didn’t would not have the dilemma of weather to spend thousands on a sunny holiday in a dirty resort or go explore the lakes, coastline or cities close to home……

Flying did allow me to get the above shots though!  Got to work now………

Written by markgillett

January 15, 2012 at 11:28 am

More on Freedom

with 4 comments

I was in an interesting thread the other day and the topic moved to freedom. Or perceived freedom.

The protests in Kuwait were at the centre of the topic and I just mentioned how I felt the freedoms they had in Kuwait were greater than they believed and that the life in the West under ‘democracy’ was not as ‘clean and fresh’ as they believed.

The protests were peaceful and for their constitutional rights.

I would just like to point out than Read the rest of this entry »

Written by markgillett

June 1, 2011 at 8:43 am

MDS 2011

with one comment

Just back and here are a few images from the portfolio…..  The portfolios can be found on my Facebook and Flickr page and will be on junglemoon soon….

Written by markgillett

April 13, 2011 at 10:26 am