Day 4, Wednesday 28 March, 70.5km
Here it is, the big one. The MdS is all about today for most of us.......
a chance to meet our inner demons and the start line is noticeably livelier as a consequence. The top 50 runners will set out 3 hours after the rest of us, my once chance to run with the leaders for a minute or two. The usual routine on the start line though – a few words from Race Director Patrick Bauer, Birthday lists, comments on the course and the usual music to fire us up. Today started with an uphill sandy climb, and I pole up to the top.  More climbing, more sand. We crossed the first hill and you can see an expanse of sand/salt flats ahead of you, maybe 5 miles across with a load of sand dunes after it, and that’s me for the next hour or so. My plan is to keep going all day to the finish and hopefully finish around midnight- 1am and I walk for most of today, with very little running.
I ran out of water for the first time on the way into CP3, which wasn’t great, particularly as this was in the dunes. The leaders overtook me at CP3, at a pace that I would tackle a half marathon on the road without a pack. I stopped to eat at CP4 as it went dark and then headed out back into the dunes again. I had turned off my iPod now and this was quite a low point. Other than the first day, I have been generally alone through each stage. At CP5 I had 4 Nurophene, 3 Panadol Extra, 4 salt tablets and a peperami; no more low points!

Like each day so far, I only look towards the next check point and no further. Each day is broken down by the number of 10-12km sections. Today, with 6 check points, leads the way.

The darkness changes the environment, leaving us walking around a frozen seascape in the dune areas. This is fairly bizarre, you can literally walk into the dunes as you don’t get the perspective and suddenly find yourself going upwards. Also, during the day, you can take the best line and maintain height, whereas in the dark you stick to the route as the crow flies and therefore spend a lot of time going up and down, up and down…..

Everybody carries a green glow stick in the back of their packs and so the route is initially lit up as I progress downhill from CP4. To keep everyone on track, a green laser rises into the sky from CP5 to guide everyone home. In some respects this is worse than the checkpoints on the horizon during the day, akin to chasing the end of the rainbow; it just never comes!!

Now that I’ve plugged my iPod back in, my mood rises, as does my pace. While I’m not running, a good speed march delivers a similar pace and I’m beginning to gain a few places here and there. I now know I’m going to finish this in one go, and I breeze through the last two checkpoints without stopping.

The final stage is only 6.5km through sand dunes. We take a bearing and keep to the line. I had been worried about the navigational aspects of the race before we started out, but it has not been a problem. Even at night, the footsteps of those before me let me know I’m on the right track, and every few hundred metres the route is marked by a light stick, albeit that in the dunes these aren’t always visible.

Finally, the finish line is in sight, lit up like a red Christmas tree; but then it’s back down a dune and it drops out of sigh for a few minutes. This is the pattern that follows for a while, surely I’ll soon be there, and I am. I crossed the line in 16 hours 28 minutes, in 466th position today. It’s around 1:30am and I head off to find Tent 100.

I’m surprised to find I’ve come in before Keith today, who normally has been sat around for a few hours before I stagger in; I hope he’s OK. This is the only time I faced any kind of real pain; my legs are screaming out, the bones ache, my muscles hurt and my joints are on fire. Still, I guess it didn’t take too long for me to drift off.

The big day was OK. I had expected, and perhaps even hoped for a desperate moment where I really came up against my inner demons. Arguably, if I had moved faster, I may have done. However, as my feet were holding together well, I kept a happy pace and never felt as though I wouldn’t finish.