He’s traversed the Great Wall of China, scaled the hills of Hong Kong and now marathon runner Jerome Colson is setting his sights on the Sahara desert.
“Every marathon I have done before has been building up to this ultra-adventure.”Colson said.
With the rest of Accroteam- a six-man group of prolific marathoners- at his flanks, Colson is looking to add to his running repertoire by competing in the Marathon Des Sables, widely considered the hardest foot race in the world. Spanning six days across Southern Morocco, the race saps every ounce of energy from its 900 participants as they run across gravel, through palm groves and up sand dunes.
For a food and beverage director at the Ritz-Carlton who runs through the streets of Shanghai every Saturday morning, the desert constitutes terra incognita for this relatively inexperienced runner. After all, it was only three years ago when he donned the running shoes after being hit by a big realization that he was becoming, in his words, a little bit fat.
This was the point of no return, and his feet have since carried him across the world to marathons in Germany, Norway and Hong Kong. These, however, pale in comparison to his latest 250km challenge, which he has been building up to with his previous marathons and weekly runs.
Now in its 25th year The Marathon Des Sables, which runs from 2-12 April, has earned a fearsome reputation largely because of its relentless nature. Participants run an average of 40-80km each day, that’s six marathons in a row… in the desert! The mother of legs is an 80km beast, which equates to 20 hours of running in one day. No wonder there is a medical team shadowing the runners.
With this barrage of gruesome facts, it is interesting to discover that the one of the most difficult parts of the race is packing for it. “It’s a compromise, do you want comfort during the race or when you’re resting,” Colson says.
Competitors have to carry 6.5 kg of food to stay alive but, beyond that, the contents are at their discretion. In an effort to limit his bag’s weight, Colson has adopted innovative methods such as tailoring his sleeping bag to his body shape and carrying only the exact amount of toothpaste he will need.
For a man used to sampling hors d’oeuvres in his job, the bland food- such as bread -participants carry with them may be a slight shock to the system. Colson has, however, afforded himself some comforts, a solar charger for his IPod nano and a few candy bars.
Not surprisingly, Colson isn’t just running for fun. Accroteam collects money each year for a charitable cause to help someone who is close to one of the runners. Named ‘Project Eleonore,’ this year’s cause is to provide equipment rooms in the French hospitals of Saint Luc and Marie Avaux for people suffering from polyarthritis rheumatica. The disease limits physical movement and the half-sister of one of the racers is suffering from it.
After six months of solid training, as the race approaches, Colson conceded he is nervous, but that’s a good thing. “If the stress doesn’t build up then I take it too easy and the race becomes much harder.”
Surpassing this is his difficulty of balancing family life. “It’s not just a commitment for me, it affects my wife and two little girls too. Every weekend I go out running so the balance with family life is not easy for me.”
On Tuesday March 23, from 7-9pm, Jerome will be holding a fundraiser for Project Eleonore at the Cantina Agave, 291 Fumin Lu. The entrance fee is RMB250 and tacos, nachos, quesadillas, empanadas will be on offer, along with two drinks tokens (including beer, soft drinks and Margarita).
Information on Accroteam- http://www.accrorun.be
Information on Marathon Des Sables-www.saharamarathon.co.uk