Tuesday, 29 January 2008


A productive hour or two spent at work today browsing MdS
and contemplating the merits of various styles of sand gaiters (and the horrific consequences of choosing wrong and ending up with sand in your shoes for 150 miles...). [Nobody at my work knows I am doing the MdS nor about any of the things I enjoy doing with my life for the fun 16 hours of the day: I took a conscious decision to have a separate sliver of my life where I can relax knowing that nobody will ask me "what's your favourite country?"]

Then off to Clapham Common for our weekly circuit training session. I felt that it's time to really ramp up these sessions so today I concocted a really long circuit [NB: it is dangerous to concoct training sessions after lunch when the world is looking rosy and positive]. Suffice to say I am now very aching. My eyelids ache too but I can't go to bed as I've got to fill in my tax return form by Thursday. I know: very keen of me to do it so early. It's a singularly depressing experience to reflect on all those whose lives revolve around processing these reams of paperwork. My depression is increased by the total amount of my annual income up on my screen now: a rather feeble compensation for a year of hard graft. But of course I don't do it for the money and the vast majority of the world deserve far more reward for their daily labours than I do.
But, apart from the agony of paperwork, the guilt of procrastination, and the ache in my shoulders, things are going well. The training's still fun, Gary Mac's come back to Leeds and I've finally found myself a partner for the Easter Devizes to Westminster canoe marathon... (more on that later.)


Sunday, 27 January 2008

How much do you love your bike?

A man caught trying to have sex with his bicycle has been sentenced to three years on probation.


Learning to See

Part blog, part rough draft, part grass-roots movement, 
is the process ex-soldier, fledgling photo-journalist Thom Nezbeda goes through as he learns to become a professional photographer. It will be interesting to follow along as he learns the ropes of shooting great pictures, trips over himself repeatedly, travels the world, and (hopefully) meets some of his favorite photographers while teaching himself to be a bona fide photographer. Read more


A busy weekend.
A 3 hour run, carrying weight, on Friday night, dodging city boys heading for their All Bar One gatherings, tourists strolling excitedly and on along the Thames to the bright lights of Canary Wharf. It really strikes me how hard it is to train for a desert race in London!
Then Saturday morning it's back on with the distinctive rucsac plus front pouches that marks you out in Richmond Park and slogging out a painful 4 hour run with
, nodding knowingly at fellow trainers plodding their own way round the park. It just takes so much time. That's my biggest difficulty of all this training...
(Thank goodness for my
: fingers crossed it seems to have cured my shin splints, my knees and my hips, as well as sparing me from blisters... Great stuff!)
Then off for a
to toast the haggis and drown my aching limbs in
. I'm not sure a 4am egg fight in the kitchen was ideal training, but it was certainly amusing!


Marathon des Sables gear

I am beginning the complicated process of trying to work out what gear to take to the Sahara desert with me. It is tricky for two reasons:
1. I have no idea what gear I need whilst running around in the sand.
2. I am very aware that if I make any bad decisions then there will be nothing I can do about it when I am out 'there', and I will simply have to get on with it.
Thankfully there are people who have gone before us and who have
. A big help!


Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary, possibly the first man to summit Everest, passed away recently. He is a great example to me because, after Everest, he did not sit back on his laurels. Nor did he mope and whine over the tedium of his future. Rather he used Everest as a springboard to a lifetime of even higher, and more worthwhile achievements.
Read his obituary


Hints and Guesses

What was the point of Cycling Home From Siberia ?

Hints and Guesses.


“How come I end up where I started...”

– Radiohead


“These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation…

And right action is freedom from past and future also"

- T S Eliot

I often shake my head in bewilderment as I try to remind myself that the last three years did actually happen. It was not a dream, yet so distant and unreal it seems in my mind sometimes.  Before I set off I just expected this ride to involve lots of camping in epic places and riding across vast deserts and having a few laughs with Al. It all turned out to be rather more complicated, difficult and worthwhile than expected. That’s life I suppose.


I sometimes imagine what I would have thought, if before I set off, somebody had told me that the journey would end up taking not 18 months, but 37, and that I would be alone for the vast majority of it. That I would experience campsites at minus 40, sailing the South China Sea in Typhoon Season, getting lost in Papua New Guinean jungles, malaria, a Level Five Cyclone in Australia, dodging police checkpoints in Tibet, riding the Hindu Cush in Afghanistan... and best of all meeting an amazing girl who would be in London when I got home. Crumbs. I do not think I would have ever believed you.


Rather than over analysing everything (my favourite pastime these day it seems), I will sign off these updates with a brief look at a few questions which I am often asked (and which I often ask myself).


Why did you do it?


I think I did it because I wanted to learn about the world, and I have always found it difficult to say no when someone invites me to take part in something challenging.  Then, once I started, I found I could not bring myself to quit – and I was enjoying meeting such a wide diversity of people and learning about the world in such unexpected ways...


Friday, 18 January 2008

On the brink?

And for those of us making excuses to delay or compromise our lives, here's a quick line from Simon Murray's

"And to those that totter on the brink, my advice is to go and climb the mountains of life, and do so while you are young and you will be happy at sixty."

A change of scenery

A lovely, and apt piece from "A time of Gifts" by Paddy Fermor,

"To change scenery: abandon London and England and set out across Europe like a tramp... All of a sudden, this was not merely the obvious, but the only thing to do. I would travel on foot, sleep in hayricks in summer, shelter in barns when it was raining or snowing and only consort with peasants and tramps. If I lived on bread and cheese and apples, jogging along on 50 pounds a year like Lord Durham with a few noughts knocked off, there would even be some cash left over for paper and pencils and the occasional mug of beer. A new life! Freedom! Something to write about!"


My back is still in spasm which is infuriating. It's hard to get out of bed, it's hard to pull my socks on. It's very hard to go running. So last night I went for a long bike ride, zooming at random round the dark, busy streets of London. Then a quick beer and a long chat with a friend about expeditions and dreams. I'm allowing myself to clutch at a slender hope of getting involved in a polar expedition.
One of the difficulties I am finding with my first expedition having been so big is the question of "what next?" This matters personally and also in terms of my next book. I don't know what the book's going to be about; I do know that it will not be a four-year expedition. Doing something that challenges me and excites me is difficult: suggestions welcome!


Tuesday, 15 January 2008


I'm meant to be out doing circuits with Pete and
. I'd devised a devious and evil session as it's my turn tonight. Clapham Common. Wet and soggy and dark and windy. Training for a hot and sandy desert. The plan - to run across the park, carrying kit, with an exercise to be done at each lamppost. 20 press-ups, 20 sit-ups, 20 dips... On and on into the agony of lactic acid that's so darned addictive. To really bring out the groans of the boys tonight I was going to load my rucksac with some dumbells to take to the session as well. But instead I'm stuck in the flat waiting for some brainbox to come fix my internet connection. He's promised me he'll arrive "between 4 and 8"... Frustration.



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Saturday, 12 January 2008


I'm out running. I've run round and round Wimbledon Common following my nose. I've done a lap of Richmond Park. I'm trying to weigh up whether to go home or keep running. I bump into
, fellow MdS competitor and mate. I do another lap, feeling chuffed to be squeezing out 20 miles rather than going home. We talk about the race, as always. Bouncing back and forth with theories on kit, shoes, blisters, rehydrating, sleeping bags. It's great to be focusing on something again.


Friday, 11 January 2008


Yuk. It's pouring down. It's dark. It's late. It's windy. The longer I can make this blog entry the less time I will have to spend out in the rain training.
But it's the nights in the rain when the excuses are flowing freely that you've got to get out there. Get out there and run. Run like you mean it. Run slow. Run fast. Do what you want. But get out there. That's all you've got to do. Because the mental triumph of closing the front door behind you, of zipping up your rain coat and running off down that wet and shining pavement is what will get the very best out of you on race day. You need those moments of strength to give you the resolve to drain the very dregs of your strength to get you to the finish line to the very best of your ability.
So I'm not going to write any more. I'm going to run. I owe it to myself.


Thursday, 10 January 2008


It sure feels horrible when the alarm goes off and you aren't ready to wake up.
It sure feels good when the sun comes up and you have managed to take that gigantic step from the warm bed to the cold floor and you are out on your own and you own London and you're running free. You're proud you managed to get out of bed. You're grateful to have the sunrise all to yourself.


Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Happy New Year

I hope you are all well-rested and eager to get stuck into 2008. After 3 weeks of, among other things, running long miles on hot sand I realised that I am in for a tough few months as I build up to the
. I'm looking forward to it!

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