Marathon des Sables media roundup

Marathon des Sables media roundup

It isn’t surprising that someone running 6 marathons in 7 days across the Sahara desert would be newsworthy, but Callum’s excellent performance in the event garnered a whole lot of media coverage;

STV News // 13th April 2018

The Herald // 14th April 2018 // page 8

The Herald weeventure media coverage marathon des sables


The Daily Record // 14th April 2018 // page 17

Daily Record Weeventure Marathon des Sables media coverage


The Courier // 11th April 2018


The Courier weeventure media coverage marathon des sables


The Evening Telegraph // 13th April 2018

evening telegraph weeventure media coverage marathon des sables


Energy Voice // 11th April 2018

Energy Voice weeventure media coverage marathon des sables




Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

Return from Morocco // Initial reflections on the Marathon des Sables 2018

Return from Morocco // Initial reflections on the Marathon des Sables 2018

Thanks to everyone for all your support while I was away running the Marathon Des Sables. It was a great adventure and challenge. I was astounded to see so much interest and so many messages from people spanning my whole life from days in Germany to Harris Academy, St Andrews and now Oxford/London. The support was much appreciated and meant a lot when the printed notes were brought round to the tents in the evenings.

I met some great people while I was in Morocco both civilian, current and ex military (regular and reserves). In my tent alone we had backgrounds as varied as an ex-professional pianist turned entertainment lawyer, a Chinook pilot, two Royal Marine Reserves, an entrepreneur, structural engineer and wealth manager – What a mix!

The week had its ups and down and challenges, not only the fitness associated with the races themselves but also the general upkeep of you body to make sure you could get to the start line each morning. Most important was hydrating and refuelling after each race but also making sure you got enough rest and sleep in an environment that is often not very conducive to it!

I had a fantastic result for the week placing 58th overall. The race had its ups and downs with the hardest point for me being the last race day. I could feel that I had very little left in my legs as we set off across the dunes for the final marathon distance but despite eating everything I had to hand there was no powering up the legs again. It was a struggle for the last 25km into a powerful and persistent headwind that seemed determined to slow me to a walk. It was a relief to finish that day and know that the competition was over.

The two highest points of the week were day three, the Jebel day, and starting the long stage as one of the top 50 athletes. The Jebel day was incredible – running along the rock ridges with steep climbs and fast descents. The experience of starting the long stage among the top 50 was something special. I’d seen the documentaries of the MdS showing the top 50 “elite” athletes starting the long stage and it was amazing to me that I was there starting the long stage 3 hours behind the main pack ready to try and pass through the other runners on the way to the finish

The MdS was a great experience – a fantastic adventure. Very challenging at times but well worth the effort.



Callum is an engineering geologist with a love of the great outdoors and physical challenges in extreme environments.

Marathon des Sables Marriage Proposal 2018

Marathon des Sables Marriage Proposal 2018

The Marathon des Sables is a life defining event for many and what better way to mark such a seminal moment than to combine it with a marriage proposal?

Well as we were waiting for our man Duffy to come in on the long day of the event, we spotted a fella kneeling down in front of the camera. What’s this? Unlike all the other people waving for the camera, he had the presence of mind to get someone to shine a torch on him. An in the grainy light of that headtorch we witnessed a Love Actually-esque proposal. He even got down on one knee. It’s more amazing that, after 86km, he managed to get up again without assistance.

So, Richard Carpenter (#684), we hope that Laura (is that right?) says yes and you can have a dual celebration tomorrow.

Marathon des sable marriage proposal 1Marathon des sable marriage proposal 1


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

Unconquerable soul // Duffy smashes the long phase // Stage 4 // Marathon des Sables

Unconquerable soul // Duffy smashes the long phase // Stage 4 // Marathon des Sables

Our man Duffy has really continued his run of form in the Marathon des Sables with a strong performance in the long day.


Back in December, when on a training hike in the very un-Saharan like temperatures of the Cairngorms, we discussed possible strategies for the event and Duffy reckoned that conserving energy during the hottest part of the day, just ticking over the miles, would allow him to may hay while the sun stops shining. He seems to have taken these tactics to the desert, keeping an easy pace until Checkpoint 3, at which point he stuck the afterburners on and rose 40 places in the rankings. Between there and Checkpoint 7 he chipped away at the competition, rising to 73rd and once that last milestone was cleared he did just what I expected him to and pushed again, rising higher still to finish the day in 62nd place, which puts him in 35th overall, with one marathon left to go.

long day  marathon des sables


To finish in the elite group would be truly spectacular, especially for a runner who doesn’t train with a club, doesn’t generally compete in the athletics scene (but wins medals when he does) and whose shorts are of normal length. He’s also a bit too tall for the ideal runner’s build, standing at about 6’1″. Yet what he possesses, a trait both born and bred in him by his parents and honed through years of testing challenges, is a mental endurance far superior to the vast majority of people. In short, he will go, always a little further.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

Winter Driving: A winter car kit to keep you safe

Winter Driving: A winter car kit to keep you safe

If you’re driving to the hills in winter, as we did recently, or even just cutting about your local area over any distance, you’ll want a winter car kit in order to be prepared for the conditions on the road.

winter car kit

The first, most important and most useful thing to equip yourself with is proper knowledge. Knowledge of how to drive in icy and wintry conditions will go a long way to preventing you needing to use the car kit in the first place. There are courses to help you learn these skills but even a short session in a skid pan will give you a good idea of how to control the car in a slide. Alternatively, when wintry weather comes, find yourself a large, empty superstore car park and test out braking and cornering in a safe but real environment. Don’t try and set the donut record though, you’ll probably get arrested.

You’ll also want to make sure that your car is ready for winter, with anti-freeze and screenwash topped up, etc.

So, having learned the skills, you then want a backup. That’s where your winter car kit comes in.

A basic winter car kit, and there are many available to buy, will include de-icer, screenwash, a scraper, etc but the list below is what we would pack in the boot for the winter in the UK. Also, though not mentioned below, if you’ve got the funds to splash out on a set of winter tyres, which start to improve performance as the temp drops below 8c, then that’s advisable. In Scandinavian countries, it’s a legal requirement.

Wooden handled shovel

I’ve seen a few of the kits which suggest using an entrenching tool because they are compact. But I would always go for a wooden handle because wood is a much better insulator than metal. If the temp is dropping below zero you definitely don’t want anything to drain heat from your fingers quicker than absolutely necessary. The colder your fingers get, the less useful they will be.

Hi-vis clothing

You’ll want to be seen. A minimum inclusion in your winter car kit would be a simple high-vis vest. A better option would be a fleece lined hi-vis jacket.

Headtorch (and spare batteries)

You’ll be using your hands, or keeping them in your pockets. A headtorch makes things easier. Also, batteries drain quicker in cold weather so have spares.

Gas Stove (and/or a Kelly Kettle)

A warm drink not only raises your core temperature, but it raises morale. In really cold conditions, gas stoves become less useful as the pressure in the canister drops and it’ll take you a year to warm water over a meagre flame. In this case a Kelly Kettle, plus some sticks for fuel, will allow you to boil water regardless of the temp. Plus you can pop the cork in and use it as a hot water bottle.

Thermal Mug & Hot Chocolate

No point in boiling water for it to go cold immediately so a thermal mug is great. Also, as much as tea and coffee are lovely, I find that Hot Chocolate with milk powder mixed in i.e. Highlights, is the best because it only requires hot water for a comforting brew.

Cat Litter

When stuck in a snowdrift for hours, nature may call. But that secondary benefit aside, I always pack a bag of gritty cat litter in the boot because on icy, hard packed snow, pouring a small path of this in front of the drive wheels will probably get you on the move. I have tested this for real a few times and it has worked a treat. It’s cheap, the bag is easy to pour from and store. Nice one.

Folding Saw/Leatherman tool

If you are out in the country and you get stuck in snow or ice, and the job is too big a task for one bag of kitty litter, you may find yourself wishing for some matts to get you free. Well, a trick I adopted from an experienced Land Rover driver in Uganda is simple – branches. Most of the time in Scotland you are not far from evergreen trees. a good armful of these branches will see you out of the mire. Sure, you could rip the branches from the trees like some sort of angry gorilla, but it’s far easier to simple saw a few off. I like a plastic handled Gerber saw but a Leatherman could do the job too.

Cyalumes (posh glowsticks)

Awfy useful things for providing 12hrs of light without running any batteries down, or for sticking on the back of your car as a warning light.

Thin Gloves

If you’re fiddling with shovels and saws, thin gloves will allow you the dexterity required, while still protecting you. Pop a pair of mitts over the top when you aren’t doing anything and this will keep your wee fingers toasty and free from frostbite.

Warm Clothes

Fairly self-explanatory, but keep a set in your winter car kit. One that you aren’t tempted to take items from. That way you’ve always got warm kit to stick on. Hat, fleece, thick socks if the mood takes you, that sort of thing.

Sleeping Bag/Survival blanket

If it’s going to be a long night, then a decent amount of insulation will mean you don’t have to be uncomfortable when out on the road. Fold down the rear seats on most cars and you’ll be able to sleep flat and fully extended with you legs going into the boot. But even if you have to make the best of your seat, a sleeping bag or at the minimum, a foil blanket, will keep you that bit warmer. Have one for every passenger.

Scraper (and possibly de-icer)

When ice coats your windows, you’ll need to clear them to see, obviously. I prefer to use a scraper as the glass ice clear and clean afterwards. De-icer seems to leave a streaky sludge on the windows. Actually, let’s be honest, I usually use a Starbucks loyalty card as a scraper but proper, insulated ones are available.

Hopefully that provides some help to you and we wish you bon voyage on whatever winter adventure you’re undertaking.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

Christmassy Cairngorms – a training hike at Minus 14C

Christmassy Cairngorms – a training hike at Minus 14C

Two things coincided recently in Scotland; 1.) Duffy was flying up for a meeting on the Monday morning; and 2.) a massive dump of snow in the Cairngorms was followed by clear weather. These two combined made for ideal reasons to head up North and get some quality (hard) miles of tabbing under our belt, carrying weight.

Distance: About 15miles (the Garmin died about 2 miles from the end)
Kit Carried: About 15kg.  Full winter kit, including crampons, ice axe, and a couple of kg of camera stabiliser.
Weather: Clear skies, deep snow, minus 14C.

As is the perpetual situation of any parent, asking your partner in crime to shoulder the full burden of an eleven month old baby and a potty training three year old is not something done lightly, or without huge sensations of guilt. So in order to actually use this occasion to reduce my time away from family, I decided to take some kit along to film stock for my new freelance website. The extra, unwieldy weight was probably the only price to pay with a benefit arriving in the form of more rest breaks. But permission granted, we set out.

The roads North to the Cairngorms were suspect, and Duffy’s rental Astra objected a few times but we got there ok. The weather was promising to offer up spectacular conditions and we weren’t disappointed to say the least.

cairngorms winter training

OK, so let’s start by saying that Duffy had already clocked 16 miles the day before doing Beinn a’Ghlo, and was brutally hungover following a late night catch up with his brother in law. That gave some hope of a level playing field, but hope that was soon to be dashed. The man eats up miles in the same way I have been eating up mince pies.

Getting out of the car was the first challenge of the day. Two other people reported the temp being -14C, which is a  bit cheeky. So you’re presented with the age old dilemma of  “do we start with warm kit on, and strip off, or just be brave”. We were cowards. There was no way in hell the buffalo was coming off until I was sweating profusely.

It must be said, the conditions in the Cairngorms were stunning. There is something utterly invigorating about crunching through the frozen forests from the Linn of Dee car park before opening out into wider vistas of sparkling hills on the way to Glen Lui. There was not a sole to be seen and it was totally silent, beyond the occasionally bird chirp and the gentle rustling of the river.

cairngorms snow river

Anyway, this was a training exercise and the aim had been to climb Devil’s Peak (a somewhat sanitised translation from the Gaelic to save Queen Vic’s blushes – though she was apparently a total randy mare so I doubt she’d have been shocked) from Linn of Dee in the 7 hours of daylight available to us. This required us to be in the Cairngorms at about half eight. Road conditions made this timeframe impossible, so we altered plans to just see how far we would get and enjoy the walk while we went.

The initial walk to Derry Lodge was simple, as that track was well used and shallow. Beyond that it started to get deeper, but still fairly simple until we started getting towards Luibeg Burn. The snow still wasn’t too deep, with a simple path of trodden snow weaving through the laden branches. After the burn however, Lordy, the pain started. Climbing from Luibeg Bridge around to the Lairig Ghru was exhausting, with each step seeing us drop to knee or nether regions in snow. The effort required to haul the leg out, sinking in with the other, then lurching forward, will surely be as good a preparation for the energy sapping sand dunes as any amount of powdered silica could be.

The weight we were carrying was certainly heavier than we’ll have to haul on the MdS. My old Craghopper’s rucksack has seen better days and wasn’t doing my back any favours so one take away is that the pack used in the desert will want to be packed with priority given to weight distribution. Hopefully the front pack can be used to counterbalance the backpack.

Having hauled ourselves to the highest point of the shoulder of Carn a’Mhaim, we stopped, dropped packs and took in the views of Devils Point as the sun dropped behind the hills.and what little warmth there was went with it. If things could have got more silent, I don’t know how. But then we realised we had a rapid tab out to undertake and it was on the way to darkness. Darkness in itself is not a problem, as we have headtorches, spare batteries, etc. But we wanted to get shifting before the next ice age descended on the car.

devils point in winter cairngorms

Without the time taken to film or take in the views, our pace dramatically increased on the way out. Duffy was habitually getting about 100-200m ahead of me every few miles, but that’s fine, given our event ambitions. What is reassuring is that after a hard few hours or total energy draining hiking, carrying perhaps 50-100% more than we will in the Sahara, we were able to maintain somewhere around the 4mph pace without too much issue. The other take away was that biltong is great food for the trail but causes serious lactic acid built up in the jaws when it is largely frozen.

A quality Cairngorms mountain day, in every definition of the term, and one which instils a bit of confidence in advance of the months of training ahead.



Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

The Ochil Ultra 50 – Pain Again

The Ochil Ultra 50 – Pain Again

After the South Downs Way 50 in April I thought I’d have another go at a 50 miler in preparation for the MDS 2018  – the Ochil Ultra. This time I’d avoid the scorching sun of the south coast (strange considering I’m training for a desert marathon) and opt for a nice grey day in Scotland in late September.

The inaugural Ochil Ultra was set for the the 30th September starting in Stirling and heading along the trail network of the Ochil Hills to Perth. This was close to home so I had the added incentive of some family support at the end of the race.

The day started with a ridiculously early pick up at 0500 on the South Inch in Perth. Groggy and sleep deprived we slowly emerged from our cars and congregated at the mini coach that would take us to the start at Stirling University. The improvements I’d attempted to make to my kit from the South Downs Way 50 were:

  • A Salomon vest for water and food (and the other necessaries)
  • Salt tablets,
  • A deposit of watermelon and oranges (and kendal mint cake) for each of the aid stations
  • Injinji socks, and
  • a particularly fetching Outdoor Research cap (ready made ‘Kepi’ style for the MDS)

We were off as dawn approached and started the first climb up through the woods to the first top. I passed a few people, one of whom had some seriously big thighs and was keeping the metronomic pace I’d seen before – I was pretty sure I’d see him again. There were amazing views of the Wallace Monument and the sun rising over the Forth valley as we climbed along the first ridge.

A quick touch of the cairn, then down the steep slope towards Menstrie and along the base of the hills to the first checkpoint at Tillicoultry. I settled into a rhythm as the field spread out. I hit the flat ground and was feeling pretty good at the first checkpoint. A comedy moment ensued as we checked in and found the timing chip sensor mounted on a table about chest high leading to the guy in front of me contorting himself to raise his leg to the sensor.

I tucked into my watermelon and oranges, topped up the water bottles and headed off for the biggest climb of the day.

The conditions underfoot rapidly deteriorated as we climbed up the valley towards the pass that would take us down towards Glendevon – good Scottish boggy trails. Dry feet were a thing of the past by the time I made the saddle and started the decent. The Inov-8 race ultra 290’s are pretty good for most hard packed trails but left a little to be desired on the bogs and sphagnum moss. Descending to the Glen Devon reservoirs my feet came out from under me, jarring me out of the daydream I’d been as I bounced across the “path” on my arse and shoulder, knocking the prized OR cap from my head.

The route followed the tarmac road down past the reservoirs and down Glen Devon. We headed off-road following the Glen then changed direction towards Glensherup reservoir, crossing the dam before winding up a footpath onto the forestry roads.

I descended out of the woods and down toward the second checkpoint for the next helping of crushed watermelon pieces and quartered oranges. I didn’t hang around here and headed off for the next climb, which would take me over towards checkpoint 3. This section was hard going as my energy levels slumped and a couple of people came past me, notably the metronome from the first hill.

As I came to the top of the climb my stomach started to play up, threatening the need for a hasty exit off the path. I managed to keep it together and continued down to the next checkpoint. 30 miles in and not feeling too bad!

I was surprised to see someone gaining rapidly on me as I climbed the next hill; he came alongside very chipper and bouncy. It took me a while to realize that he was on the 50-mile relay where each team member does a 10-mile leg before handing on to the next person. A bit of mutual suffering would have been appreciated 35 miles in with my legs starting to seize up.

I started the long descent to Kilgraston school and the final check point at 40 miles. I was starting to struggle with my stomach by this stage. It seemed to be calling for an immediate evacuation but could never quite get to that point, so after a few abortive poratloo visits I shuffled on. My legs were also becoming uncooperative by this point and had to be coaxed into a trot along the tarmac roads leading through Bridge of Earn and towards the final climb of the day up and around Moncrieffe Hill. At the top of the first long climb I could see down towards the finish on the South Inch before doubling back for some soul-destroying switchbacks that seemed to loop me around the summit several times (maybe my mind was as buggered as my legs by this point!). It was all downhill from here and I attempted to squeeze the last bit of life from my legs to get down the hill and across the line, stopping for quick shot cold coke on one of the last junctions.


Another relayer galloped past me in the closing stages as I made the last turn and cut across the South Inch towards the finish of the Ochil Ultra 2018 and a cheering Wife, Mum and Sister.

ochil ultra 2018

All the gear performed really well – the Injinji socks were a surprise success and the new Salomon vest made a huge difference.  The Inov-8 290’s i’ll probably leave for dryer trails in future.  The salt tablets and fresh food were a good solutions but i’ve still got things to work out on the nutrition front.

50 miler number two done. 10th place overall in 9:33 and had a much better result in terms of gear and nutrition.   A bit slower than the SDW50 but with significantly more climbing and rougher underfoot.

That’s me done with the big ones until after the MDS.

ochil ultra 2018 weeventure


Callum is an engineering geologist with a love of the great outdoors and physical challenges in extreme environments.

Prime Beef Bars – Ultramarathon Race & Recovery Nutrition

Prime Beef Bars – Ultramarathon Race & Recovery Nutrition

Prime Bar – beefy goodness for weary bodies

The information you actually want, without having to read my chat.

Product: Savoury protein beef bar snack
Weeventure rating: 5* / In Ma Belly
Company: Prime Bar
Facebook:  /primesnacks
Instagram: @primesnackspri,e bar chilli with red peppers
prime bar chilli and red pepper beef bar nutrition Continue reading


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

Mount Hood – Timberline Trail in 24hrs

Mount Hood – Timberline Trail in 24hrs

Mount Hood is in the US Pacific Northwest state of Oregon. My wife was in the midst of preparing bachelorette (Hen) festivities for a high school friend, leaving me the chance to get into the hills, have a bit of an adventure and get in some quality miles in preparation for the Marathon des Sables 2018.

It was a secret plan of mine as soon as I knew we were heading to Oregon. I casually brought with me most of what I needed for lightweight camping and anything else I could pick up in Portland before heading off. The newly purchased OMM 25 litre pack (, Nordic lightweight fibre sleeping bag ( and classic army issue goretex bivvi bag were the core pieces of kit. I also tested out the Inov-8 Race Ultra 290’s and MSR Titan kettle.

The route itself was the Timberline Trail which is a circumnavigation of Mount Hood (a dormant strato volcano). I started at Timberline Lodge on the southern side of the mountain going clockwise.

The worst part of any route is navigating from the car park and getting on to the right trail. You don’t want to look too serious taking out your map and compass at this point but I find this most likely where your going to screw up. About 20 minutes after leaving the car park I make it onto the Timberline trail (also part of the Pacific Crest Trail – the major hiking thoroughfare of the west coast mountains). It should have taken about 3 minutes and not needed me wandering around some ski runs, pretending I knew where I was going.

Anyway, it was a reasonably late start to the day in the mid afternoon and I got moving along the sandy volcanic trails through the forests contouring around the mountain. I started at a brisk walk, running the down hills and flats. The first attraction was the Paradise Park side trail that comes off the main trail and heads a little higher up the mountain and parallels the main trail. This area was stunning – full of mountain wild flowers. Sadly this was too early for me to stop, as it would have been an incredible place to spend the night.

Mount Hood Timberline Trail meadow

For most of trail around Mount Hood you head up and down the spurs of the mountain, climbing over ridges and down the other side, the views can be a bit limited by the forests but when you do pop out on the ridges you really know about it. I was aiming to get half way around the 40 mile loop before looking for somewhere to stop for the night. I hit Ramona Falls just about dusk and pushed on, climbing up and around Yocum Ridge.

Due to the fact that I didn’t really have anything to make camping a very pleasurable experience I decided to push on late into the night. This gave me chance to give my head torch (LedLenser SEO7) a decent outing which performed very well through the pitch dark forests and looking out into abyss of the steep gorges. I set my sights on getting to around McGee camp on the northwest side of the mountain to stop for the night, hoping  I wouldn’t encounter anything lurking in the darkness.

Mount Hood Timberline Trail waterfallMount Hood Timberline Trail sunset

I climbed up towards McGee camp, topped up with water at one of the streams that crossed the path and started scouting for a flat piece of ground to bivvi. The spots right by the trail were occupied so I descended down a spur a short way and found a flat piece of ground by a decent sized tree to curl up for the night.

I have a hangover from the military where I always try and camp somewhere a bit out of the way and out of view – this usually leads to me hunkering down in a spot that most people think is appropriate for taking a dump. Not a great feeling in the morning when you wake to see white corners of toilet paper peaking out from beneath a small pile of pine needles.

Camp was basic but I got the esbit cooker going and tucked into my freeze-dried beef stew and a nice brew. A gentle rustling caught my attention, I blasted the direction of the noise with my head torch to see a little mouse about to tuck into the oxygen absorber pouch that comes in the freeze dried food packs. Not the best of meals for the local wildlife. Some Porridge and more tea for breakfast before setting off around the northern side of Mount Hood.

Testing out the MSR Titan kettle

The route between Eden camp and Cloud Gap was beautiful with some great views of the mountain and to the north towards the Columbia River Gorge. A new trail had been cut after a significant washout of one of the valleys before Cloud Gap which wound down the steep slopes to the stream in the bottom. I  managed to rock hop across the stream without any trouble, making use of my poles and keeping my feet dry. Cloud Gap seems to be the other major entry to the trail system so it was a bit busier here as I headed up to the highest section of the route above the tree line and across some snowfields. This section of the route was barren, dry and hot in the sun. I pushed on to get back into the forests and a little shade.

I came into some incredible stands of small twisted old pine trees on one of the high ridges before descending towards a valley and the rushing river at its base. The river channels in the base of the larger valleys are something to behold. The constant erosion of the soft, unconsolidated sands mean the valley is loaded with sediment dumped by spring thaws and debris flows where large sections of the mountain slide into the valleys. This leaves ridges of boulders, cobbles and sand in the base of the valleys with a small summer stream flowing through one section – quite the spectacle for a geologist!

The heat of the day picked up as I made the final climb up to Timberline Lodge on the sandy path – some decent training for the MDS perhaps. I finished around 5pm making it about a 24 hour trip.

Overall the kit check was successful – trainers were good (though needed gaiters), rucksack and sleeping back did the trick and the Titan kettle was a champ.

Mount Hood national forest is awesome – I recommend it to anyone heading out to the Pacific Northwest.




Callum is an engineering geologist with a love of the great outdoors and physical challenges in extreme environments.

How to have the confidence to try

How to have the confidence to try

Confidence. It’s an elusive and powerful thing. If you have ever fancied doing something outside your normal repertoire, does the following conversation seem familiar to you?

“You’re going to do what? What makes you think you can do that?”

This attitude, so often seen, really says more about the person asking the question I think. They don’t have the confidence to take on their ambitions, so have to ask with undermining incredulity how others feel so brazen as to do so.

So we’ll ignore them shall we? That is a good first step. Remember, it is not the critic who counts. That renders their influence mute and impotent.

Let’s instead ask ourselves some better questions;

Instead of “why?” ask “why not?”

If you ask yourself why do you think you can do something, this has the effect of focusing on yourself, and not the matter in hand. If I asked why do I think I can run a marathon, I’ll end up scrutinising my own current levels of fitness at this point in time. If I ask instead, why can’t I do a marathon, then the answers often become practical steps to achieving the goal. Or they provoke further questions. So maybe the answer is, there is no reason I can’t run it, but then the question might become, why can’t I run it under 3hrs? In which case the serious of measures needed to improve to that level would arise; technique, training, injury recovery, etc. Really, we throw up so many imaginary barriers in front of ourselves sometimes that it is often best to really scrutinise them and if we tackle them one by one, there is no reason why we should have the confidence to take on any challenge.

What is my desired outcome?

The Marathon des Sables is a classic example of this but so is almost every other mass participation run. Some people aim to win, some people aim to just go the distance. Compete or Complete is the pithy way of putting it. If your aim is to compete, that’ll take talent and training. If your aim is to complete, then the bar for performance level lowers dramatically. In so many challenges, for so many people, their relative place is irrelevant. Edmund Hilary said it best; after all it is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. Set your own ambitions and pursue them with confidence..

What if I don’t succeed?

Fear of failure is a huge barrier for most people. But what is the worst that could happen? You’d be embarrassed? Ok in some cases i.e. free climbing El Capitan you’d be dead, but that isn’t most people’s area of operation. Why be embarrassed? At least you tried. Like we said before, ignore other people. Armchair critics deserve a special place in purgatory, but they don’t need it, as their own bitterness is that in itself. You can inoculate yourself against fear of failure by, at all times, remembering the words of Theodore Roosevelt, H. Jackson Brown’s mother and Wayne Gretsky. If you don’t try, you’ve already failed.

You may also wish to consider the concept that failure is not an outcome in itself, but one result in a larger experiment. Why did you not succeed? Find the reason and fix it next time, again again until success.

What have I got to lose?

The final word goes to Steve Jobs; you’re going to die, so you already have nothing to lose.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.