Jamie Maddison completes his epic cross-desert 30-hour run
Christopher Ward Challenger Jamie Maddison recently completed his mammoth run across the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert. We caught up with him to see how he got on, what he struggled with and what he plans to do next.
Where did your run start and end, and how long did it take?
We started at a town called Birlik on the western-most edge of the desert, then I ran across sand dunes and dusty tracks eastward for 70 miles. It took 30 hours in total, including a night-time stopover as navigation was tricky and the driver was getting dangerously tired.
When I reached the finish line I just felt pure elation – followed by the realisation that I could barely remember any of the journey I had just done!
How was the preparation in the lead up?
The training was by far the hardest part of this adventure. I ran every day of every week, in and out of a busy and stressful full-time job, then headed off for marathon-long runs on the weekend. Finding the time and headspace to train was definitely a real challenge.
During the run, were there any points at which you felt like you couldn’t go on?
It was much, much harder than I expected.
There were a lot of points where I felt like I couldn’t go on. The one that really sticks in my mind happened 32 miles in to the run. 32 miles may not sound that much of a distance, but I had been running up and down sand dunes for hours. At that point, the sun was at its hottest and the temperature was 36ºC. I could feel my vision starting to draw in around me; it felt like time was slowing. Just putting one foot in front of the other was incredible effort.
Two miles from the finish I injured my knee; I felt a sharp shooting pain whenever I put weight on it. Continuing was intensely painful, but I’d come too far not to reach the finish line.
What really got me through it was focusing on what lay immediately ahead of me. If I could cover just one more mile, I could then look to the next mile and from there the next, and so on. I would also recite Rudyard Kipling’s “If” over and over again.
…And what was your favourite moment?
The best moment was seeing the river at the finish, running towards it and diving into the ice-cold stream!
Did your Trident come in handy at all?
I wore my C60 Trident COSC 600 for the whole adventure and it was very helpful.
Unlike a GPS running watch which you tend to pause when you’re resting or navigating, an automatic watch keeps running. Using the adjustable bezel, I would set a start time and then keep note of how many hours had gone past from that point– rests included. I also used the C60 to keep track of my direction via the sun – as I knew the nuances of the route, whenever we changed direction I could place roughly where we were in relation to how far I had left to go; very handy!
How has CW’s sponsorship helped you?
Christopher Ward’s help has been invaluable to me on this adventure.
Their monetary support made the expedition a reality, the C60 Trident was incredibly useful for the run, and their unending personal support has been nothing short of incredible.
They really do believe in encouraging those who challenge themselves, and I am so incredibly grateful for everything they’ve done.
Would you do anything differently if you did it again?
If I was to do something differently, I’d go a little bit later in the year.
Just one month later would be enough to push the temperature from the mid-30ºCs to the mid-20ºCs, which would have made the whole experience just a little bit more pleasant.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might be considering taking on a similar challenge?
This undertaking was the result of nearly a decade of travel in Central Asia and a good three years of club running experience, so I would say not to rush into such a long journey lightly!
Prepare well, take your time and work up to it. Then, when you are ready and confident, go and give it every ounce of what you’ve got.
You really need to commit to the challenge you set yourself – prepare more than you’ve ever prepared for something in your life. The more you can ready yourself for a trip like mine, the greater chance you have of succeeding.
What is next for you?
Rest! And work. I’m already back at my job and there’s a lot going on. For the moment, I’m taking some downtime from the training and adventuring; it’s important to take some time in between challenges – it’s easy to burn out really quickly.
If you had to summarise the entire experience in a sentence, what would that be?
It was a marathon, not a sprint.
Photography: Mark Woodward