“I can’t imagine why they’ve allowed six days for 105 miles,” read Seaton’s e-mail. “It’s non-stop after all.”
If this was supposed to reassure me, it didn’t. I had to remind myself that my editor’s idea of a gentle warm-up for the Trans-Siberian Bare-Foot 500 was a weekend of white-water rhino-wrestling with the Royal Marines.
As far as I was – and still am – concerned, the Jordan Desert Cup promises to be like the sort of dreams you get after a pound of Red Leicester.
The prospect of running over 100 miles in one go appals me. I ran 50 miles last year in the Alps and had to be jolted out of a near-death experience with a shot of adrenaline.
The Marathon des Sables might have been longer than the Jordan thing, but at least they made you stop and lie down at the end of each day. And strangely, I don’t recall ever experiencing a pang of disappointment at the sight of the finish line after staggering across 20-odd miles of blistering desert under a rucksack the size of Phil Jupitus.
My training started in earnest last weekend with Man v Horse. Although it didn’t exactly mirror the conditions that I’ll experience in Wadi Rum – more rain fell in the first half-hour of the Man v Horse than has fallen in Jordan during the last 50 years – at least I was reminded of how ill you can make yourself feel if you really put your mind to it.
This long-distance running is a lonely business. Well, actually, it’s not so much the running that’s lonely as the months of advance fretting about it. So this week I decided to secure a bit of moral support: I called up my old Marathon de Sade crew and tried talking them into joining me on the Jordan caper.
Eadie, a veteran of the Himalayan 100, was cheerfully apologetic. “Sorry, sport, I’m doing a 200-miler in Mauritania the same month.”
“Not absolutely sure, old boy,” he confessed. “I’ve an idea it might be down Ecuador way. But I might have dreamed that. Anyway, I was going to call you – Gratton’s organising something in Mongolia, apparently. I’ve always fancied Mongolia. You wouldn’t happen to know where it is, I suppose?”
So while I was still without a partner for Jordan, I was now committed to some lunatic expedition to Central Asia in 2001.
Next stop, Roger. Those among you with memories unclouded by lager and Class-A drugs may recall that this Old Etonian ex-tank-commanding erstwhile stockbroker turned trans-continental horserider accompanied me on the Long Day of my Saharan adventure. Surely he, of all people, would be up for a diverting amble across the bone-strewn dunes to Petra?
Well, yes, it seemed he was. Excellent!
So now the training can begin in earnest. We’re starting with the Ridgeway, Northern Europe’s oldest road. For 50 miles, this chalky trail meanders across the Marlborough Downs, high above the spring line, from Goring to the spooky stone circles of Avebury.
However, halfway between, crouched dangerously beneath the hindquarters of the White Horse of Uffington, is The Fox – an enticing hostelry where we will doubtless throw good sense to the wind and render ourselves incapable of movement for days. No matter. We shall regard it, in the fine old tradition of Numbskulls AC, as resistance training.
Meanwhile, Oscar The World’s Fittest Dog and I will be upping our weekly mileage from a civilised, contemplative 30 to a sinew-rupturing 60. Pounds of blubber will fall from my waistline, rendering the path slippery and hazardous for other runners. My gaze will become steely and my jaw will jut with a grim resolve.
In short, I will be On My Way.