A Surprise In Preparation For The Gobi March 2015

Whilst many a person might think undertaking a 250 km run through 250km of Asian desert sounds like hell, there are a few determined individuals that see this as a personal challenge.  From all reports there will be roughly 200 individuals that are genetically predisposed to taken on this challenge this year.

Now for some background the Gobi March, like the other events in the 4 Deserts, requires a fair amount of preparation.  Running or trekking 250km in a week and preparing physically for this is of course a given.  Yet there is a great deal of other preparation required.

We must remember this is a self sustained event, meaning as a participant you carry everything you need for the seven days across 250km. Yes, ‘WT’… you might exclaim, as I did when first told about this.

Image: Ultra Runner Girl

Image: Ultra Runner Girl

Participants are required to carry all their own gear, yes pretty much all of it.  All there own food, all their own sleeping gear (except a tent), much of their own first aid, clothes to do them for the 7 days. Yeh I know what you are thinking, the undies will be pretty much thrown out at the end.

They will need to carry just in case items like rain gear, maybe a music device, a watch and or GPS (people have gotten lost in the past), a sleeping bag, maybe something to put that sleeping bag on, and heaven forbid anything that might be deemed a comfort, like a small pad resembling a pillow or spare socks.  The experienced participant will be carrying anywhere between 7-9 kg for much of the distance (give or take daily water allowance).  The not so efficient might have another 2-4 kg added to this.

So in a so small effort to get some idea of what the participants need to put up with I said ‘ok, I’m not running but lets get as close as possible to empathising with them.  Sleep the same, eat the same, do as much the same other than the 250km insanity thingy.

So I go out and researched sleeping bags the participants might use, check. Adventure sturdy clothing that might be useful (not quite running gear mind you), but somewhere approaching ‘carry your own’ stuff, check again. Bits and bobs that are required or suggested (the more interesting are listed below), both for participants and volunteers - check.

Then we come to food. Even as a volunteer, we are rightly required to bring our own food for the period – carry your own.  So I ask JP, ‘what are you doing about food?’

The very considered person he is, he has tested just about every freeze dried packet of something or other available on the open market and probably some on the not so open market.  And in his selflessness he supplied me with some samples.

Now, my memory of freeze dried foods or foods acceptable to take on remote camping excursions has not been fond.

These food items (used in the broadest of contexts) were always only vaguely food like; generally smelt like something that had been left in an alley behind a Hong Kong seafood restaurant in the middle of summer for at least 3 days (before you added water) and definitely tasted only marginally better than the result in the morning after a Friday night binge session.  Or at least that was my memory.

So I received a half dozen packets or so of various meals to sample. Labels included Beef And Potato Hotpot, Spaghetti Bolognese, Chicken Korma, Granola & Berries, all very tasty sounding, but my expectations were low.

The packets looked impressive to be sure. Little pictures of mountaineers on them (presumably to look like they were on Everest or somewhere equally treacherous).  All were shiny foil looking that seemed more suited to an Apollo mission than my humble kitchen bench. With labels that provided nutritional information clearly meant for PhD graduates in biology rather than me as I could barely pronounce half of the ingredients let alone understand what most actually were.

So a few cups of hot water later I sit down with my first ‘new age’ freeze dried meal, straight from the shiny foil packet, as I might in the middle of the Gobi.  A tentative little spoon full first, not really expecting much, then one more just to make sure, and you know what?  It was really good.  Not just edible good, but enjoyable good. Definitely nothing like the meals I had been subjected to in my younger years, those salmonella ridden slop feasts served in my cadet years.  This was tasty food that actually tasted like what was printed on the label.  I’m now on day 5 of eating only these meals and I actually think I’m putting on weight.  Not that I’m doing exactly like my participant friends are, I wash down my good freeze dried meal with a glass of Pinot or Cab Sauv from the Barossa in Australia.  So I’m looking forward to some actually good eating in the middle of nowhere less the wine though, probably washed down with a cup of instant coffee – so there will be some hardship.

Did you miss how we go this far? See March Across The Gobi
Continue on to Gobi March 2015 - The Arrival Part 1
You may also like The Gobi: A Lesson In Determination

Richard Batka is CEO of The Wise Traveller, a some time writer, regular traveller and someone always humbled by the wonders of the world.