The weight of things - March 7th 2014
7th March 2014
£12.99 for an 11g spoon? Absolutely worth it. £400 on a 535g ultralight sleeping bag? Seems reasonable. 7.45 calories per gram of macademia nuts - best stock up. I have even asked my girlfriend to order me a single €200 note for my 'emergency cash' on the basis this will be a few grams lighter than ten €20 notes. The lengths I am going to in my efforts to reduce weight are becoming truly obsessive.
The concept of the MDS is actually very simple. Bring everything you need to survive for your 7 days in the desert (excluding water and a tent) and then you run with it. You can't buy anything whilst you are out there and you must carry everything yourself. This presents a number of challenges: how can I carry the least amount of stuff, but also have what I might need? What is the optimum amount of food based on nutrition, volume and weight? Can I find lighter kit that does the same stuff?
The importance of weight
Running is bad enough as it is. Running in extreme heat and in sand is even worse. Add a 10kg backpack to the mix and you have the recipe for a really miserable time. For the North Pole, I didn't care that much about weight. You don't really notice an extra 10kgs when dragging it in a sled across ice. Stick 10kgs on your back and try running and you soon know how important this is. So, I have become wholly obsessed with cutting weight and am going to truly extraordinary lengths...
I have determined the absolute bare minimum of what I need in the desert, then made a couple of conscious decisions about 'luxuries' - namely an iPod shuffle and a camera. In total, I have 73 items (excluding food!) covering bathroom/medical kit, clothing, cooking, mandatory emergency kit and sleeping gear - quite unbelievable when you think about it. For each and every item, I have tried to find the absolute lightest version of everything and am throwing hard earned cash at the problem.
The stupidity inherent in my thinking
Will spending 4 hours researching inflatable pillows and spending £28 to save an extra 4g to get the lightest compass really make a difference? Well, it depends on how you look at it... I recently had a day with the ultra running guru Rory Coleman, a man whose accolaides include 9 MDSs (the most of any Brit), 900 marathons, running 1000 miles in 1000 hours (a mile in an hour, every hour for 1000 hours) and running to Portugal to watch Euro '96. Rory taught me a lot. Essentially, I took away that there were two things that were important 1) my training and 2) my kit.
It's fair to say that if I had spent just half the amount of time as I did on kit and actually trained in this time, I would be far better prepared than I am today. Will saving a grams here and there really make a difference when I am in reality quite a slow runner? No, not really, but I will feel a lot better knowing I am not dragging the kitchen sink. The weight of my gear that I will be carrying and wearing all in? 4.589kgs. Perhaps not hugely relevant given I still weigh 82kgs myself!
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Maps & Tracking
You can explore the full route to the North Pole and follow Paul’s progress with live maps that will plot his position each day as he progresses towards the pole more >
VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries (www.vso.org.uk). The Fire and Ice Challenge is aiming to raise £50,000 for VSO’s secure livelihoods programme more >