Mark and I, still together at this point, in the early stages of the long day of Day 4 Marathon Des Sables

Day 4 – 56.20 miles, 18 hrs 48 minutes 16 seconds, 5700 calories, ascent 1300m, estimated sweat loss 9568ml. The long Day

This is it.  The big day.  The one that has been looming ever since we signed up for this event. 90km and 36 hrs to do it in.  My plan….. just keep moving.  Walk through the day. Checkpoint to checkpoint. See how I feel as the temperature drops in the evening.  The time will pass, and it will pass quickly.  I was almost looking forward to it. Here are my notes from day 4…

“I was nervous about today but very positive.  I was pleased with how yesterday went and my technology and diabetes management was back on course. Today is a slow and steady day.  I can’t wait to run from day into the night.

It was even hotter today.  It was mainly flat apart from going back up the other side of Jebel el Otfal at approximately 32km (that we got over on day 2).  A slightly easier ascent from the other side but a hell of a climb in searing temperatures didn’t make it an easy one. I even saw my blood from my cut knee on Monday as I made my way back up the stones.

Mark and I marched at a fast walking pace together until checkpoint 2.  I could feel a nasty blister forming on the ball of my left foot as the morning progressed and shortly before checkpoint two, I felt it pop which was pretty painful. So, I took a quick 10 minutes out to get it dressed so I could continue as best as possible. At this point Mark carried on so I spent most of the remainder of the time on my own which I didn’t mind too much at all. In fact, I like it.

I needed to remember how far it was to each checkpoint, so I wrote the KM of each checkpoint on my arm. The sweat did wash most of it off but it was still legible and actually really helped when I was trying to make my water last in between the checkpoints - Day 4 Marathon Des Sables

I needed to remember how far it was to each checkpoint, so I wrote the KM of each checkpoint on my arm.  The sweat did wash most of it off but it was still legible and actually really helped when I was trying to make my water last in between the checkpoints

Tent 99 getting ready for Day 4. The tents were taken down around us as we packed our bags. Coach Rory in foreground, Mark behind him, Craig and Di in the background. Day 4 Marathon Des Sables

Tent 99 getting ready for Day 4. The tents were taken down around us as we packed our bags.  Coach Rory in foreground, Mark behind him, Craig and Di in the background.

Once getting the Jebel behind me I knew that the rest would be mainly flat.  However, there was nothing to break up the monotony of the slog – just trudging, one foot in front of the other. Quietening the mind, thinking of loved ones, playing games was all part of passing the time.

Just before checkpoint 4 a blister popped on the ball of my other foot, so I got that dressed before continuing.  At every checkpoint I filled up my water bottles, took on more salt, saved the rest of the water and moved through as quickly as possible, wasting as little time as possible. It’s amazing how much ground you can cover if you just keep moving.

After I passed checkpoint 4 and approximately 50km in (out of 90km) the sun began to set, temperatures dropped, and it became increasingly pleasant.  I was enjoying myself.  I was smiling.  I took a video where I think it provided me with ‘someone’ to talk to.  I was cheery, I was positive, I was genuinely enjoying myself.

Mark and I, still together at this point, in the early stages of the long day of Day 4 Marathon Des Sables

Mark and I, still together at this point, in the early stages of the long day

I took a panoramic shot as the sun started its descent - Day 4 Marathon Des Sables

I took a panoramic shot as the sun started its descent

After checkpoint 5 another English runner, Katie, caught up with me. She stayed with me until after the final checkpoint at the 83km mark and just 7km from the finish.  At this point I was grateful for a bit of company as it was pitch black and we were relying on head torches and picking up the next way marker which were approximately 100-200m apart.

Moving quickly through checkpoints 6 and 7, the end was in sight.  Jogging now and eager to get to the finish I just remember trying to soak everything up.  I had never run this distance in one go before.  My body felt amazing.  Those little niggles had quietened, and my body just accepted what I was doing. I was having the experience of my life.  I felt privileged; I felt lucky; I felt grateful.

Just 7km to go and I could feel family and friends watching back home, egging me on, getting closer and closer to the finish line.  It was an incredible feeling and the tears rolled down my cheeks as I crossed the finish line at around 2am on Thursday morning, local time.

It had all gone to plan.  What an incredible feeling. 

A very bad quality still shot, but you can just make me out waving at the finishing camera after crossing the line of the long stage. Very, very happy after the best day of the week - Day 4 Marathon Des Sables

A very bad quality still shot, but you can just make me out waving at the finishing camera after crossing the line of the long stage.  Very, very happy after the best day of the week

Mark was back in the bivouac and had been back for about an hour – he had had an amazing stage. Di was also there but had withdrawn before the first checkpoint.

Poor Di – she had to make the awful decision.  She was right at the back of the pack at that early stage and didn’t want to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere on her own.  She was still shaky from the day before and I thought she was incredibly brave to even start the day. She left nothing out there and gave it her absolute all.  She should be so proud.  I am so proud of her and if that was me, I think I would have given up far earlier than she did.  What an inspiration. She was with us for a final night in tent 99.

I took my recovery shake and bunked down to get some rest. A solid and brilliant day behind me”

17th overall. 18th female. 5th in my age category.

125 withdrawals

Day 5 – Rest Day

We woke up fairly early.  Still no Rory and still no Craig. Di said her goodbyes which was really sad.

Craig stumbled in during the morning and looked fairly shook up.  Rory arrived around 11am.  They had both been out in the heat for longer than Mark and I and were struggling a bit more because of it. 

We were all sweating just lying in the bivouac not moving.  I decided to get up, visit Doc Trotters and send an email to Emma all at the same time. The thought of doing ‘all of this’ was turmoil.  I was trying to stay off my feet and out of the sun as the temperatures continued to climb higher and higher. 

I lay queueing in the heat for Doc Trotters for a couple of hours, after which the pain I was put through was barely tolerable.  They pierced each blister with a needle, sucked out the fluid, and then injected each one with iodine before dressing and strapping them up.  Omg, the pain was searing, especially as the iodine was injected.  Two massive blisters on the balls of both feet; two middle toes on both feet had blisters and a couple appearing on my big toes and the sides of my heels. Urgh, it was turning into a bit of a mess.

My feet having been treated and dressed by the amazing Doc Trotters. Starting to look a bit messy - Day 4 Marathon Des Sables

My feet having been treated and dressed by the amazing Doc Trotters.  Starting to look a bit messy

But once my duties were done (which did feel like arduous tasks)  – emailing and going to the loo etc, I returned to lie on my back, get off my feet and rest as much as possible. Not easy when the heat is unbearable. We then heard the announcement that each competitor was allowed a bottle of cold coke. Oh my goodness, that bottle of coke, was absolutely amazing.  We tried to make it last but alas the sweet taste was over way too quickly. But what a treat!

Camp post was even more exciting as we almost got two days’ worth of letters in one.  Such amazing messages that made me so emotional. At that point I felt so loved and supported by my family and friends. It was very overwhelming.

Albeit tough, doing nothing in the heat it was a nice opportunity to be positive about the remainder of the race.  Only a marathon to go tomorrow…. wait…what? … only a marathon??

Charlotte Day 4 Marathon des Sables - That bottle of coke was the ultimate treat!

That bottle of coke was the ultimate treat!

Before the long day the marathon day sounded easy.  But with feet that were screaming at me, the temperatures continuing to rise and energy levels depleting the thought now seemed anything but easy.  It was going to be tough.  It was going to be a slog.  This was not the time to switch off.  I had to stay ‘on it’ to make it through tomorrow.

It was nice to get an early night.  I made sure I took some more melatonin to make sure I was as rested as possible, and I also made sure that I took on as much water and salt tablets as possible.

Come on Charlotte…I could do this.  One last big push.”