The Belvoir Challenge

The Belvoir ChallengeOnce a year the peaceful Leicestershire village of Harby, set amongst the rolling countryside of the Vale of Belvoir, is disrupted by hundreds of runners and walkers thronging to take part in the annual Belvoir Challenge. First ran in 1990 this is a 26 mile challenge walk that has grown in popularity year on year- so much so that the event usually fills up weeks in advance.

The Belvoir (pronounced ‘Beaver’) Challenge is organized to raise funds for the village primary school by the ‘Friends of Harby School‘. A shorter route option of 15 miles was added some years ago and has now proved to be even more popular than the marathon option I had decided to tackle today. The school children themselves love to get involved, and can be seen helping to man the checkpoints, clear up the hall or even completing the shorter route alongside their parents.

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The Telegraph Adventure Travel Show, Olympia

Ben Fogle speaking at the Adventure Travel ShowAfter years of intending to go to the Telegraph Adventure Travel Show, I finally decided I should just stop talking about it and take the not exactly arduous step of booking the ticket and catching the coach down to London… which I ended up changing as Ben Fogle was originally scheduled to talk on Saturday but two weeks before the event I noticed that this had been rescheduled for Sunday!

So my first tip would be to keep checking the schedules if there’s a particular speaker you really want to see- there’s nothing more annoying than travelling down only to find that they are now speaking the next day! Although the web site does warn that the talks are subject to change so it is up to you to check…

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I’m Going to the Adventure Travel Show!

I’m so excited… I am going to the Adventure Travel Show in London tomorrow!! It’s held around the last weekend of January at Olympia in London, and I have wanted to go for years- so this year I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and go!

There will be loads of adventure tour companies, trekking companies, equipment suppliers etc exhibiting there and I expect my bucket list will grow considerably… there are also free talks held throughout the weekend. I originally booked my coach ticket for today, but changed it to tomorrow as Ben Fogle and James Cracknell are talking tomorrow- they have both done some truly epic endurance challenges and I can’t wait to hear about them. Plus have a little hero worship of course…

I’m so excited!!

Happy Shiny New 2013!!!

Endurance AdventuresI love the start of a New Year. Although change can happen at any time in your life, there’s something special about January 1st that marks the threshold of a new chapter in your life- a feeling of starting again and making real progress in the 12 months now ahead of you…

So- have you got your endurance adventures planned out for 2013? What races will you do, what challenge events will you complete, what ultras will see you sweating through all manner of terrain, what personal challenges will you meet?

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Marathon des Sables- After The Race

100_2654All that was left was our final night in the desert and then boarding the coaches back to  Ouarzazate. I felt even worse next day and had to abandon attempts to be part of the giant ‘24’ to celebrate the 24th Marathon des Sables and allow myself to be frogmarched back to the tent by my friend as I was about to lose consciousness. The diarrhoea had cleared up but I felt really sick and ached all over.

As we waited to board the coaches many of the officials set off the spare flares and the sky was filled with little pink lights. I picked one up- it looked just like a plug attached to a parachute.

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Marathon des Sables Stage Four; Aferdou Nsooualhine to Tizin Igrs- 26.2 Miles

After finally being able to force my eyes open the stark truth hit me. I wasn’t feeling at all good. In fact I felt actually ill- completely lacking in energy and rather sick. This did not bode at all well for the day ahead and I lay there, desperately summoning the energy to a) get out of my sleeping bag and b) get ready to walk 26.2 miles over sand and rock to finish the 2009 Marathon des Sables.

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Marathon des Sables Stage Three; The Longest Day

Marathon des Sables Stage Three; Erg Znaigui to Aferdou Nsooalhine- 57 Miles

I scrabbled up the slab of rock in front of me, rising like a broken tooth out of the darkness. I had lost all trace of the route and had no idea where I was, I only knew that I had to climb this mountain, but I was so very tired and my ability to balance had completely deserted me…

Head swimming from fatigue and loss of balance I reached for the top, feeling the rough stone beneath my hands- only to see yet another slab rise up in front of me. My foot slipped and I heard a rock dislodge and tumble down into the inky blackness. I had lost my friend and there was nobody else in sight. I knew the most sensible thing would be to descend but the only though my brain was capable of processing was to keep ascending… if I reached the top then surely I’d be able to see the glow sticks marking the route and get back on track…

I reached the top of the next slab only to see a sheer wall rise in front of me. This was it. I was lost- my race was surely over. After two years of preparation, hard training and the disappointment of the floods, the Marathon des Sables had beaten me. I started to cry- tears of fear and frustration.

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Marathon des Sables Stage Two; Erg Znaigui to Erg Znaigui 22 miles

I was absolutely freezing. I had no idea what time it was but the sky was still dark and the bivouac lay silent. I lay there desperately trying to get back to sleep, but there was no chance; the wind was blowing straight through both open ends of the tent, whipping round my ears and down my neck. I pulled my buff up over my face and tried to snuggle down into my sleeping bag to preserve as much precious heat as possible, and lay there, miserably waiting for dawn.

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Should You Trek Alone or Use a Travel Company?

I was following a debate online the other day on whether it is best to organise your own trek or go on an organised walking tour with an established travel company. Some people seemed entrenched in one camp, but for me there are pros and cons for each. Here are my thoughts;

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Marathon des Sables Stage One; Erg Chebbi to Erg Znaigui- 19.5 Miles

I lay in bed feeling a tinge of excitement and more than a tinge of nervousness. This was it- after two years of preparation, floods, torrential rain, mud and disappointment we were actually going to start the Marathon des Sables!!

As we waited for the coaches to arrive to take us to the start I was relieved to see that it was a nice day- sunny and dry but not overbearingly hot and more importantly no clouds in sight. Oddly enough, I had mixed feelings about this- the cooler weather would make for easier walking, but I felt that we weren’t going to be as challenged by the heat as we should have been and wondered whether I would feel cheated as a result.

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