By Mike Finch
So I ignored one of running’s most basic tenets and nearly paid the ultimate price at the Dodo Trail in Mauritius on Saturday.
There is nothing quite like travelling to do a race in a foreign country: The flight over, the hotel, a new culture and all the excitement that goes with exploring unfamiliar territory and places.
So despite a nasty flu and bronchitis less than a week ago I convinced myself that if I downgraded to the 14km Mini Dodo Trail Saturday I could go gently and still get to be part of it.
I was initially entered for the 27km with the 52km reserved for the true endurance giants of these central Indian Ocean islands. But with words like ‘mini’ and reports of previous years that the Mini had been too easy, I fancied a gentle trot and then watch the rest come in.
The problem with the organisers of the Dodo trail is that their took umbrage to the fact that last year the mini was too easy. So this year they beefed it up. In fact, scrap that, they totally changed it.
Within an hour I was in trouble. But in the middle of nowhere.
40 minutes later I had inadvertently taken the wrong path after following a bunch of runners off the trail. It took us another hour to find the route again as my energy continued to sap and wane.
I admit: I was scared. My body wasn’t coping and no matter what I ate or drank my legs felt like jelly and I found myself getting steadily more dizzy. At one stage, as I clambered along a boulder strewn river bed, I felt I was just moments away from keeling over.
I finally made the decision to climb into a local’s car 4km from the finish. I have never been more sure of a DNF in my life. I spent the rest of the day angry that I had let my ego get the better of me when I knew, deep down inside, that I shouldn’t have even lined up.
Despite my own drama, there is little doubt that the Dodo Trail is not for the feint hearted. The 52km has a mind boggling 2400m of climbing, the 27km 1500m of climbing and that 14km, 500m of climbing.
Add in the oppressive heat, the rocky, gnarly and dusty terrain, this ranks as one of the toughest trail runs in the world. There are no seconding points and no respite. If you’re not climbing, sometimes hand over foot, then you’re scrambling down near vertical descents desperately trying to get a firm footing on the rocky and gravelly track.
There are spectacular views to make it all worthwhile and a spirit of adventure that pervades trail running events in these parts. When I described my ordeal to the organiser he shrugged matter-of-factly and said in his thick French accent: “zo zee had zee nice adventure zen.”
I plan to come back and conquer this race but I will be under no illusions as to the challenge that awaits.