Ultra Africa Race – What’s in the bag?

Greetings from Banfora in the south west of Burkina Faso.

The countdown to the Ultra Africa Race is no in full swing – tomorrow is the start of our five-day / 2013 km run!

Competitors in multi-day, self-sufficient, footraces face many challenges. These include the weather, sand, injuries, blisters, tiredness, thirst, lack of comfort and privacy, etc.

But there is one challenge which ultimately could make or break your race – the weight of your backpack. Finding the fine balance between the overall weight of your bag, and the food and equipment required to get you through the race, could have a major impact on your ability to finish or not. Ultimately, what every runner packs will be determined by personal preferences and daily nutritional requirements. Runners are only provided with water during the race – 1.5l to 2l at every checkpoint, 10-15km apart, and 3l to 4.5l at the overnight camps – everything else required needs to be in your bag when the race starts on 14 November 2013.

According to the rules of the race, there is a standard list of compulsory equipment which every runner has to carry from start to finish (e.g. head lamps, sleeping bag, blister kit, etc.). In addition, every runner has to start with at least 10 000 calories of food and nutritional supplements (2000 per day) for the entire race. Anything else in your bag is a personal choice of what will make the experience as comfortable as possible for you over seven days in the desert.

The preferred weight of a backpack is between 8 and 10kg for most runners, with some starting with less and others with slightly more weight. My aim is to start the race with my backpack weighing less than 8kg.

At the moment, I have the following items in my backpack:

4 x dinner packs – biltong and smash or freeze dried beef and rice

5 x Rehidrat Sport sachets

5 x PeptoPro Sport sachets

30 x 32Gi hydration tablets

5 x sachets of Future Life breakfast cereal mixed with protein

5 x packets of salt and vinegar chips

5 x packets of biltong

5 x packets of fruit and nuts mix

2 x water bottles

1 x knife

1 x camera

1 x solar charger

1 x iPod

1 x sunscreen

1 x blister kit

1 x head lamp

1 x sleeping bag

1 x inflatable mattress

1 x emergency / space blanket

1 x head scarf / buff

1 x running cap

1 x unit of Vaseline

50ml of Hand hygiene gel

1 x sewing kit

1 x spoon/fork

1 x toothbrush and toothpaste

1 x packet of Voltaren tablets

1 x packet of Ponado pain tablets

10 x Imodium tablets

In addition, I will be using the following gear:

1 x pair of Nike Pegasus 30 trail running shoes

5 x pairs of Nike socks

2 x Nike running shorts

2 x Nike running shirts

2 x gaiters

1 x Garmin Forerunner 310XT watch

1 x Innov 30l back pack

Based on my experience from previous desert and multi-stage race, most competitors start the race with more food items (and therefore weight) than required. After every stage everyone re-assesses their requirements for the remaining days and reduce their weight (and especially food) accordingly. This usually results in a mini feast amongst those sharing a tent!

Ultimately, a multi-stage desert race such as the Ultra Africa Race is all about survival and as we say in Afrikaans – vasbyt!

But then again, there is nothing to gain without a little pain!! I am dedicating my participation in the Ultra Africa Race to the work of the ONE Campaign in Africa. ONE is a grassroots campaign and advocacy organization backed by more than 3 million people who are committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Co-founded by Bono and other campaigners, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African policy-makers and activists.

My next blog post will provide more information about the Ultra Africa Race.

You can follow my progress during the race on the organiser’s Facebook page.

Also follow updates about my desert races on my new Facebook page – Desert 2 Desert – Running for Social Causes and Campaigns – as well as on Twitter at @david_barnard, and #DavidDesertRun4ONE and #desert2desert.

For more information about the ONE Campaign, please refer to www.one.org, https://www.facebook.com/ONE, https://twitter.com/ONECampaign or https://twitter.com/ONEinAfrica.

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