Running is an adventure into your own capabilities, both mental and physical, and Ultra-Trail Gobi is a race that inspires runners to “run further than you ever imagined”. The reason it appeals to me is because it actually scares me a little and I like that. I am so grateful that I get to discover and visit such amazing places as well as meet such brilliant people; a blessing that I thank the universe for each and every year that with the help of Raidlight I continue to race in fantastic and wonderful places, like China, India and Death Valley, USA.
As my running has progressed over the last decade, so has my kit and how I prepare for huge undertakings such as the 400k race across the Southern Gobi Desert. During my first ultra-marathons my kit was very basic, I would use a drawstring bag and my debut at UTMB saw me beg and borrow to meet the compulsory kit check, which included a pair of heavy duty fishing trousers as my waterproofs and a pair or five year olds skiing mittens to satisfy the waterproof glove requirements, whilst they didn’t stop me, they made things just that little bit more difficult.
Since being involved with Raidlight racing has become that much more easy and comfortable. It has enabled me to be more competitive and get closer to discovering my own limitations. There’s still a long way to go before I get there though.
When you think of a desert you think of extreme heat, something that years in India and racing in the heat of Spartathlon has made a strength of my running, but it is the cold of the night that I fear most, and those cold winter morning runs in the UK! Raidlight have been great in providing kit that really gives me confidence in pushing the limits night and day of my next adventure.
The body can adapt to all challenges, especially acclimating well in the heat through adaptations of sweat rates and thermo-regulation, but it too often shuts down when faced with low temperatures, working to preserve the internal organs, but shutting down motor-skills and drawing blood away from the extremities. There isn’t any great physical adaptations to these challenges but we have excellent technology, such as Raidlight Winter Trail Kit that makes movement and adventure in these extreme environments possible. I love the Winter Trail Long Sleeve Top with its built-in gloves, and the toasty Winter Trail running leggings.
Ultimately it is down to the self and how your mind chooses to deal with the challenges set forth by both the heat and the cold, by day and night and extreme fatigue and distances. Whilst ultra-running can be a very lonely and individual sport at times, it is the team around you, family, friends, sponsors and fellow runners, that can provide strength and support when you need it most, even just without their presence, but with the purpose they provide to your running.
Once again Ultra Trail Gobi is like stepping into the unknown, searching for new tests within this great universe and discovering new friends, strengths, weaknesses and limits. Wherever you are running, whether it be your first 5k or your 10th 100 miler, remember that we are all finding our own challenges and we are all one community, joined by a love of running and on a magical journey to something great.