Last updated 15 November 2000

Extreme Events

 

Desert Cup Race report / Diary

Introduction
The Jordan Desert Cup is a race split into two sections; the desert and mountains. For this you need to carry two types of equipment to ensure that you survive both types of terrain.

The race is a 168km non-stop race from Wadi Rum to Petra in Jordan. There are 13 checkpoints along the route and there is a further requirement that you must make the checkpoints prior to the deadlines set out below, otherwise a runner is disqualified.

 

Jordan Desert Cup 2000

Checkpoints

km

Time Limit for going through CP

Obligatory Departure

07/11/00

 

1st Day

 

Depart

0

08H30

 

CP1

13

11H30

 

CP2

25

14H15

 

CP3

35.5

17H30

 

CP4

47

20H30

 

CP5

59

24H00

05H00-08/11/00

08/11/00

 

2nd Day

 

CP6

69.5

08H30

 

CP7

80.5

11H15

 

CP8

93.5

15H00

 

CP9

104

18H30

 

CP10

119.2

24H00

05H00-09/11/00

09/11/00

 

3rd Day

 

CP11

134.5

10H45

 

CP12

147

15H00

 

CP13

159.5

19H00

 

Arrive

168

22H30

 

This race should not be attempted unless the participant has completed the Marathon Des Sables or the Grand Union 145 as it is tougher than the former and equal to the later race.

Flight Out

The British team, which numbered 11, was made up of a disparate group.

Back row: Anthony Taylor ,Andy Blackford, David Turnbull, Liam McCann, Mark Dodds, Peter Mild, Jeremy Bolam ,Tony Kitous

Front Row: Alistair Cotton, Rory Coleman, Steve Partridge, Julian Palantayiou

The British Team

The majority of the backgrounds are already on the website but of the other individuals; Liam McCann, a physiotherapist from Taunton was an ex Royal Marine as was Julian Palantayiou from the Isle of Wight. Peter Mild a Swede, who ran a design company in Gothenburg, was ex French Foreign Legion. We made him an honorary Brit on the basis that he could stand our company for so long. David Turnbull had completed the Grand Union 145 and is currently 1 of only 39 people in the UK to have achieved this.

We arrived at Heathrow early on the Sunday morning and quickly formed into one group where we shared our experiences and hopes. After a 5 hour flight we arrived in Amman and were confronted with Arab lifestyle, heat, Middle Eastern toilets and Jordanian beaurocracy all at once, which nearly finished us off. The French, the Italians and the Swiss arrived and with them old friends such as Cedric Grant Paulo and the AOI team.

We departed in buses and went to the site. After 3 hours we were dropped off, where we were transported by 4X4, which were raced over the desert, to the campsite at Wadi Rum. We awoke the next day to the amazing sight of Wadi Rum, which was where half of Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. We spent the day trimming our packs and going through the procedures of checking equipment, ECG's and food - as is carried out in the MDS. This year each competitor had to carry and extra 2000 calories of food and 1 litre of water for emergency purposes only, both of which were taped up and checked at the end of the race. Brent Weigner of the USA suffered time penalties of 7 hours because he used them. (Its not an emergency if you have a pulse).

The Jordan Desert Cup Encampment at Wadi Rum

Sorting the Kit at Wadi Rum

Looking back at Wadi Rum just after 2 km from the start

The Start to CP1
The 172 competitors started at 8.30 am after an address by Patrick Bauer the organiser and the Minister of Tourism for Jordan. The runners moved down with the bastions of Wadi Rum on either side. The temperature was rising and Anthony and I were to the rear letting the others rush off. Helicopters circled us with News crews and sporadic groups of press were taking pictures. Almost immediately Andy Blackford started to get blister problems as the sand began to get into all the shoes. We carried on to 13km and Checkpoint 1.
 

CP1-2
We stopped at Checkpoint 1 for 10 mins and then pushed on to CP2. We were heading south and the sun was rising producing a very sweaty 30 degrees. Julian Palantayiou was with us as were Alistair Cotton and several others. Rory Coleman was starting to move a couple of hundred yards ahead with Tony Kitous, Andy Blackford and Jeremy Bolam. We crossed a Wadi and went up a slope into a canyon, which I recognised had been used as a part of Lawrence of Arabia. The echoes were great and the shade from the high wall was providing cool relief for us. At 20Km we came out and headed on a bearing of 112 to CP2 we could see for many kilometres and the other runners were stretched before us. We did not know that Olmo was already on his way to CP4.

 

CP2 -CP3
We arrived at CP2 at 1.30 to find most of the British team taking their ease. Rory, Andy, Jeremy and Tony were sorting kit, feet and food. Peter, Liam and David Turnbull had already left. Alistair had just arrived with us and Julian was still on the course. We were beginning to get concerned as Julian was limping having pulled a muscle in a fall on the previous stage. He had tried to keep with us but had now fallen seriously behind. I lay next to an Italian who had an IV drip in his arm and behind were 2 French runners looking very queasy curled up in the back of the tent.

Italian getting an IV drip from Doc Trotter at Checkpoint 2

Patrick Bauer came up with "Bon Courage mes Amies" obviously enjoying the event.  We stayed for 30mins, had a Diralyte and some food before pushing on .The Heat rose and we walked up a long incline for 5 kilometres before turning North east across an arid plain to CP3. To our left we could see Wadi Rum and the area where we had spent the last 2 days. It seemed along way a way and the light made it almost mystical in the late afternoon sun.
CP3-CP4
On arriving at CP3, we found the race taking its toll. Paulo the Italian organiser of the MDS who has completed 13 of them, dropped out. He looked sad but resigned to it. Tony Kitous was in the back not feeling too well and Alistair, Anthony and myself got ready to push on. The Jordanian girls, who were becoming national heroes, were in a bad way and a big swath of plaster was placed on the back of one of them. Her pack was rubbing.

In the tent at CP 3

Sam, a truly international character, who we thought was American but turned out to be half Irish, half Egyptian and brought up in Morocco, was also taking time to move on. Rory and all the others including Mark Dodds, Peter Mild, Liam McCann and David Turnbull had already left and we thought they were halfway to the finish. The water bottles for the outstanding runners were withdrawn from 25-9 and we assumed that many had "abandoned" including Julian. 

Alistair, Anthony and myself set off with a Frenchman. As usual Alistair's long legs meant he gradually disappeared over the skyline, the Frenchman fell back and we were left alone. Dark was now setting in at 6pm; Tony turned up talking 10 to the dozen and explained that his food was entirely sweets and that he was suffering from too much sugar intake. (You don't say?) We tried to be sympathetic, but found it very funny. Tony couldn't walk and ran on to the next checkpoint. We lit our luminous torches and placed them on the back of our packs. The course was straight North (358degrees) for 7 kilometres passing down an arid valley. The sand was very soft like caster sugar and our feet sank in sapping our energy. The temperature dropped and we put on our night gear and headtorches. The moon came up and it was so bright that we turned the torches off and carried on in the moonlight. The moon cast a strong shadow over us and I could see my kit clearly in silhouetted on the ground.

CP4
Anthony and I arrived at 7.45 to see the runners in the tent in a worse state. Michel Bach, a famous French runner, was on the floor suffered from dehydration wrapped in a foil blanket and throwing up. Another runner in the back was in a dreadful state; Tony Kitous was felling unwell and we heard that Liam was in bad way and had just set off with Rory Andy and Jeremy to CP5, where we planned to spend the night. Sam turned up a little after us. Anthony and I were bemused. We had our kit just right and apart from a rubbing between my legs which Vaseline cured we were OK. I needed some salt but I thought I would leave it until CP5.
CP5
We carried on under the moonlight. Alistair soon joined us and half and hour later a rushing sound behind me ushered in Tony who had run to catch us up. We strode on together. It went on forever. You see these rocks in the distance and you know you have to get passed them and 3 hours later they are still there. It's very depressing.  We eventually arrived at CP5 to find 40 runners camped out and in their sleeping bags. Anthony and I cooked our food watched with disdain by Tony, who is restraunter. Our hopeless attempts to create anything edible was met with derision from Tony. Still it hurt him when he laughed.
CP6
We were due to awake up at 4 we overslept and awoke at 4.30. To our surprise Julian had made it and was already to go. Sam had also arrived and Rory, Andy and the others had pushed on to 6. David Turnbull, Mark Dodds and Peter Mild were probably sunning themselves in Petra. Alistair was gone by 4.30. We scrambled out of our gear, skipped breakfast, changed and packed in a fury as we didn't want to be disqualified for staying past 5am.

CP6 from 2 kilometers. Can't you see it?

 We threw our stuff out of the tent and stuffed it into our rucksacks and headed off.  Not a good start. We walked for a few minutes listening to Sam speaking Arabic, English and French as he held a conversation with 3 nationalities at once. You some times feel your broad education is lacking.

Compass work is difficult in these countries, as the grandeur of the rocks and outcrops is misleading. The shear scale of geology is on a different level and you find checkpoints are miniaturised against this backdrop and it is easy to miss them. Sometimes the compass bearing is over very duny ground and you have to take an alternative course. This is when things can go wrong.  We almost missed CP6 expecting it to be further north but a flash of sun on a vehicle 3 kilometres away and binoculars saved some unwanted travel.

Now you can! Its easy to go by it.

We arrived at 7.40 too close to the 8.30 cut off time. We found Cedric Grant there now an "Abandon". He had got lost in the desert and was picked up. Sam arrived having lost his sleeping bag and borrowed one from Cedric having declared that he had no communicable diseases. To which Cedric replied "but I have!" Alistair and Tony were just leaving, Julian had pushed on. All the Brits were in the race. We were last.
CP6-CP7
We had a long stop and did not leave until 8.30. Things were getting a bit serious. We were not going to drop out. We strode on. The ski sticks clicked and we started our pace of 4 kph regardless of terrain. We closed down on a runner and passed one after another. After 4 k of going west we turned north and strode across the plain. We saw a runner in a bad way. It was Michel Bach. He was dehydrated and staggering around. He said he was OK and with only 2k to the next CP, we left him. Julian was staggering just ahead. He was in pain from his pulled muscle and the neurofen was not helping. We passed on as we were up against it as well.
CP7
We arrived at CP7 by an outstanding geological arch. We collapsed into the tent as the wind had now got up and the day was hot. Rory and the others were now long gone. Alistair was leaving as we arrived. Tony left with a Frenchman and Julian was behind us. In the tent were several runners who were finished. Doc Trotter was attending to their wounds and dehydration. It was here that Julian stopped.

We set off for CP8. We crossed a plain in a north-westerly direction. The heat hammered down on us and in the distance we could see other runners, black sticks that did not move but didn't get closer either. Patrick stopped us and shook our hands he was getting quite emotional about the whole business.

CP8
We eventually arrive at 2.20 It was still too close for comfort. What if we had a problem? I wanted to run some sections but we had a plan so we stuck to it. I needed to stop and get a Diralyte to buck me up. Dune striding is hard work. I made my calls to the web site and got through at last. As we arrived Alistair left Tony left and Sam arrived. He curled up in the back of the tent. I fixed my feet and off we went. It was 3.05 the cut off time had passed and Julian was not there. I was getting tired of wholebar food and the lack of a breakfast and lunch was making itself felt.

We headed across an empty plain going due north, passed Bedouin herdsmen. The light was fading. This was the last section of desert. We went passed 100 kilometres and headed for CP9. We decided to break each section up into 2 with a brief 5-minute stop for a bar to keep us going.

CP9
We arrived at CP9 45 mins ahead of the cut off and were greeted with black coffee and honey. It was great. We had a pit stop and took off.
CP10
Night had set in and we were now on the mountain section. We strode along in the moonlight following the directions. The wind got up to around 40mph and it started to get cold. We passed some Bedouin tents with their sides open Inside were families their faces reflecting silver in the moonlight while they watched us pass. It was unnerving. They only used moonlight to light their home. We got into the hills and the higher we got the stronger the wind. We stopped and were met by Michel Bach who had now recovered. We pushed on and eventually came to CP10.

The early morning Day 3 on the mountain

The Flags were cracking in the wind and the tent was flapping rolled-up in sleeping bags were a large group of competitors trying to sleep in the cold. We were given a space. The lights were on, people were talking there was the odd groan as someone's blister was lanced. Just the place to go to sleep. We waited for Michel but he didn't show and had pushed on.

The Jordanians got up at 3 and made a move. we were not going to sleep so we decided to do the same.  We had a leisurely breakfast , fixed our feet and started out.

Cp11 in a 50 mph wind

We went up the mountain only to find it a lot less difficult than we thought, the wind had now got up to 50mph and we were glad that we had stopped at CP10 as the checkpoints after that were too affected by the wind to be useful and it would have meant a push to the finish. We arrived at 7:30am . CP11 was windswept.  It is placed on top of a summit at 4500 ft and there were views to Arabia from the point. We were surprised find Mark Dodds in the tent and more surprised to find Sam was just behind having come in to CP10 later on. We had now completed 134.5kms. We followed Mark Tony and Alistair off down the hilltop path to CP12.
CP12
For the next 3hours we pushed against the wind checking to ensure that no kit had blown away. The views and scenary were beautiful but the wind demanded your concentration. We arrived at 12 to find the tent blown down and were told to huddle behind a rock, which had been used as a latrine. My feet were getting sore and needed massaging periodically. We pushed onto CP13 and as we came down the mountain the wind dropped and the heat rose. We walked through quiet a Jordanian town, where the road workers were pouring sand onto the tarmac to protect it from the sun. We eventually came to 8 kilometers from the finish. We received an ovation from the organisers as we came in.

Alistair was sitting by the wall suffering from dehydration, but he would finish. We started off down the Mule track, a narrow stony track going down 1in10 about 1 kilometre long . At the bottom we pushed on going over ranges until we came to the steps of Petra. These are thought to be some of the oldest in the world and we went down 570 of them with a sheer drop over the edge. We slipped and tread warily down their uneven surface. At the bottom we were met by tourists who applauded (the race was National News) and we turned right and went up through the town hardly gazing at the amazing buildings.

The road rises an equivalent of a 35 storey building from the bottom of the steps to the finish line 2 kilometers further on. We pushed on past red sandstone walls, just glazing at the Treasury as we past. We finally saw the finish and ran the last 150 metres to the line and crossed at the same time. We received a typically warm French welcome from Patrick and the team. It was very tough.

Finally the evening Prize giving finished with Rory Coleman picking up a prize for the most inspirational performer of the race" The smiliest person on the race"

The finish

Petra: The Treasury

Petra: The Monastery

Rory Coleman with his prize

Footnote:
We sustained 1 small blister between the two of us, a couple of aches which had passed by the time we returned to the UK.

Petra: The Royal Tombs

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