Atacama Crossing Blogs 2023

Christopher Stark



Atacama Crossing (2023) blog posts from Christopher Stark

29 September 2023 05:01 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Javier the course director is a sadist, I'm sure he's a lovely fella, but be under no illusions, if there's a big ol' bastard of a hill or series of terrible terrains, we're going there. 
Yesterday was 72km - the first 14.4km were over the worst terrain, the crumbly untrustworthy 'salted broccoli' - so of course I tried to run that.  Fell over at 5.3km - slashed my thumb and hands - claret everywhere. Had to de-pack to do a repair job on my left thumb which was spraying - ended up with a kakhanded bandage under one of my gloves -looking like Michael Jackson until the first CP. Was trying to get over the big dune at 40km before it got really hot - failed - but at CP3, didn't hesitate for 3 secs to down the offered Coke. Tina 1-0.  
At CP3, met Sonia my running buddy and we spent the next 42km powering right along - over the big dune with David; down through CP4 into The Valley of the Moon (omg - astonishing place) and then hammering down the flats across the valley to CP5. Refuelled; re-confirmed pace and progress expectations; loaded up on Macadamias and water and bombed off again. The path to CP6 included the most fun hill ever - running with the sun going down and the biggest full moon rising - had to stop for the camera guys to do some arty poses with me against the backdrop. I flew up that hill and pushed my revs from the whole day at about 110-130BPM to 180-200BPM and just loved letting my hill training kick in. Good surface, cool air, felt like I was running free again. Made it down to CP6 with only 9km to go - it was dark; teh navgiation through the desert at full moonlight was just awesome and so we powered into camp together - I think I was 33rd(!) overall and got home in 13:45hrs or there about - AMPED! 
Starting shaking badly becuase the temperature had plummeted so cut off my other favourite pair of Injis and just collapsed into my bag. Woke up at 330am to celebrate all my tenties arriving - Rob pretending he was about to die (such a drama kween) but he did an amazing job of just toughing it out and grinding his teeth and getting it done. HE's walking around like an old man today which is quite gratifying - but full creds to the man, he wasn't happy 1hr in and just never gave up. That's pretty fricking amazing. 
So - not sure if I'm happy that this is all coming to an end; or just so desparate to stop smelling like a Llama's bumhole and to clean under my fingernails and to treat my feet to a bath and a massage and something other than heat and dust and the 45mins I spent on blister management this morning. 
Be under no illusions, it's a massive priviledge to be here - in this remote and desolate and utterly beautiful place.  Everywhere we run is somewhere utterly unforgettable, I've taken less photos than I wanted to - but I'm so proud of how once I get the motors working and the feet numb the pain down to manageable how I/we keep that 09:45/km pace going. The teams to support us here are amazing - going to miss that level of care and dedication - and the thought of trotting into San Pedro on Satutday is no big deal. Going to spend the rest day just chilling (in 30+deg heat) and woking out what I can throw away. 
My hands are messed up; my feet have more tape than skin; my legs are bullet proof and probably the hardest part is not blubbing like a fat kid who's had his cupcake taken away reading all your messages and feeling the love and support from so far away. It means so much to feel connected - even out here at the end of the world and you've been an integral part of how utterly wonderful this whole odyssey has been.
Love to you all - Long March done in style. I suspect San Pedro's showers will run black on Saturday and the levels of pisco will reach nigh on critically low levels (pisco sours!! Just a tequila cocktail which is only vaguely drinkable because you're in Chile! Yay!!)
Stark out.  

Comments: Total (10) comments

Mike Mantis

Posted On: 02 Oct 2023 10:25 pm

Hey Chris - wow. You are absolutely amazing. What an incredible journey. I am so impressed you held it all together through these extreme conditions, with so many injuries, crazy heat, impossible terrain and all the rest....yet you pushed through it all with a great pace, kept your sense of humour, and wrote the most brilliant blog this prose for your memoirs! For now, I hope you can rest, heal and enjoy the wonderful feeling of completing this most difficult (semi-insane) ultra marathon. Safe travels home and I look forward to toasting your success back here in Blighty. All the best my friend.

Stephanie Cox

Posted On: 01 Oct 2023 02:08 pm

Congrats Chris! Outstanding week. You pushed through and created a memory to last a lifetime. It has been a blast reading your blog and cheering you on. What a race!

Jeannie McKeown

Posted On: 30 Sep 2023 07:08 pm

Whoooohooooo!!! Congratulations Chris! You star madman 😄❤️ I can only imagine how glorious the supermoon must have been up there - you made it to the moon, and lived to tell the tale 🤗🤗🤗❤️

Robby Ninefingers

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 09:46 pm

You are a big, bold inspiration my friend. And you know I rarely do the "quote" thing (I'm just not that eloquent or well read) but here's something that I strangely - but perhaps fatefully - came across today ... "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Goethe Enjoy the finishing line moment and the start of everything that comes after xx

Joe GO

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 09:37 pm

Not quite sure why 5 comments appeared. Must be the sheer quantity off badassary praise you deserve. 🤘

Joe GO

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 09:35 pm

You hard bastard Chris. Keep up the work mate, love the blogs. Power through it!

Joe GO

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 09:35 pm

You hard bastard Chris. Keep up the work mate, love the blogs. Power through it!

Joe GO

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 09:35 pm

You hard bastard Chris. Keep up the work mate, love the blogs. Power through it!

Joe GO

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 09:35 pm

You hard bastard Chris. Keep up the work mate, love the blogs. Power through it!

Joe GO

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 09:35 pm

You hard bastard Chris. Keep up the work mate, love the blogs. Power through it!

27 September 2023 10:01 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Today was always going to be tough - 44km at any event is a beast (not for many of the competitors here perhaps) but for me it feels like a big, big deal. I re-taped my feet (total blister badass now - including sub-dermal, sub-bandage drainage - whoo!) and set off to walk and detox after yesterday’s power ranger mania. It starts badly - 10km of uphill sand-dunes and ‘typical’ courses that ultra-race directors like to see - and then I met up with the Canadian WonderWomen (TM) - Sonia and Lu. After CP1, the whole vista opens up into the kind of desert I thought we’d see more of - miles and miles of sandy FA - hard packed and great for powering along to. I caught up with my Tentie, Rob, who was having something of a whinge about his ankle (Brokers?! Jeesh) but we hooked up and nattered about the state of the world. We then get to CP2 - just before the salt-flats (total misnomer) - and he just fucked off - zoomed in to final camp in 25th place or something - a complete legend performance. After girdling many loins at the CP2 - and being quizzed directly on whether we thought we had this in us, we three left - and brother? It was the hardest surface I’ve traversed - and it was 14km long. Sonia just took the lead - navigated us through the shit and I spent two hours, head down, just focussing on Lu’s heels as we blasted along in single file. 
Whilst all this is going on, we’re completely unaware of the temperature, we nearly ran out of water, but Dr Lisa was on a horse, with a water bag (US medicine for the win!) some 2km out from CP3. So - we made it to the semi-CP; then battled on to the next water break station - and by that time, the terrain had flattened out and it’s a 10km bimble back to camp. With a monster headwind and all the while, everyone else has been bussed back. 
So - whilst it was a good day on the feet, getting through that f*ck awful salt-not-flat-not-level-not-even-fricking-ground was a real character test and something that will eventually mean something about personal growth and stuff. Or not. 
Now, I’m in camp, I have a iron-bar where my shoulders used to be - and I’m off to have a foot-soak and to double check that all my blisters are “poppers” and not needing anything else before what ever is happening tomorrow. I don’t know what’s going to happen - but I have 100% faith in Sam Fan - her, and her team are just amazing and whilst not everyone is going to like every compromise, I felt safe and within the bounds of acceptable risks even though the traverse across the desert today could have been very scary. 
I’m seemingly 37th; told Scotty that I’m making my move and I want my leader’s bib back (he seemed nonplussed and not all that concerned - fair enough) and despite the dust, the heat, the state of my shoes(!) and my feet, I’d never change what I’ve gone through and what I’m still going to do tomorrow and for the rest of the week. 
All the messages are so appreciated - #baddonut - and I can’t wait to bore the tits offa the next person who I see who isn’t sand-shaded and slightly malnourished like everyone around here. 
Am I a badass? Yeah, on the balance of probability I am. Am I worried about the Long March - only academically - being out here is a privilege and no pain or deprivation will change that. 
My love to everyone - Scott, dont’ believe a bladdy word she tells you - she’s a fiend for Piscos and can’t be trusted. 
From the hottest, driest desert full of mad folk who are all just wonderful - 
Stark out. 

Comments: Total (10) comments

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 07:16 am

Chris, I have loved reading your blog. Wow, it was a tough race this year. Can you believe that it was unseasonably cold at last year's Atacama Crossing. You are all heroes. You are all going to love the finish line. Relish the accomplishment. Mary

Tina Albrecht

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 03:50 pm

Incredible. I am so looking forward to hearing all this shit (in more detail please!) over BOTTLES of wine when you're back. Keep at it, my bad-ass friend x

Cathy Wal

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 12:27 pm

Hi Chris, This is simply extraordinary! As are you! WOW! Loving your blog posts and cheering you on in spirit!

Lucy (Bell) Wal

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 09:34 am

Chris! You're a legend! I've loved reading your blog. Sterkte for today, you got this!

Char Nicholson

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 09:00 am

My husband can be a right a$$! Can’t believe he left you there. He’s been enjoying your company, thankyou so much for the bants with him. Tell him if he complains about his ankle when he’s home, I’ll cut it off!

margaux revol

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 07:41 am

Just catching up with all the posts!!! Oh my god this is more epic than epic, it sounds unbelievable. We’re in awe and also so happy for you that you can do this after preparing for so long. We can’t wait to hear it all, we can book ourselves in the Painswick suite above your bedroom for a week and listen to it all. Amazing amazing amazing. Sending lots of love.

Jeannie Wal

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 07:15 am

Chris, you mad bastard - I'm proud of you! All three of you ❤️❤️❤️ Still think I'll get my spiritual ad personal growth lessons from therapy and meditation, but you make blisters and extreme conditions sound almost palatable 😄 Sterkte and strength to your legs, feet, shoulders and especially your mind, cousin xxxxxxxx

Robby Ninefingers

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 06:53 am

Mate, sat here genuinely wondering what to write. I’d love to tell you lots of motivational stuff but frankly you are your own best motivation. Always have been. You put your mind to it, dig in, and get it done, whatever it is. It’s sounding tough, it’s sounding hairy, and it’s sounding like more than an overnight at the Gwesty Minffordd for a short walk up a slight hill ;o). Brother, you got this. You’ve got this far and have frikkin excelled as always. Proud of you and can’t wait to toast your success. Yet again … you got this big man. Fookin prawns xx

Sara Beaumont

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 04:41 am

Hey Chris. I’m Matt’s (#99) wife. I bloody love these blogs giving us real insight into what you guys and gals are going through. I’m impressed after all the shit you’re putting yourselves through you can still sit back and think what a privilege it is to have the ability to tackle it all. Keep up the great work and all the best for the rest of the mission.

Stephanie Cox

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 02:18 am

Hello Chris, What an unbelievable day. Congrats on what you accomplished! Scotty could get worried….. Keep up the momentum and those blisters will heal someday. Looking forward to Day 5’s adventure. You are doing phenomenal. Stephanie

26 September 2023 07:06 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

I dream of boulder hopping along the wet and misty causeway to the Worm’s Head on the Gower Peninsula;
I dream of being in a pool in Caunes drinking nameless but delicious rose;
I dream of Friday night G&T’s at 5pmish with ice and lime; and
I dream of how amazing it will be to have cold, sparkling water again. 
Today was 40km-ish - I came 30th. I can hardly type that without getting all emotional - the top 15 athletes here are just next level - like seriously - so for some fat old geezer who huffed and puffed around bloody Rudge Hill and the beacon and the woods above Sheepscombe to do that is amazing. 
So. Today was brutal. Again, Sonia was my buddy - she’s a frickin’ formidable Canadian and a total badass - so  it wasn’t a chatty day, the terrain was savage but we just got our heads down and looked out for each other.  The last 4.4km was a freak show - nearly vertical ravine drops down dunes with a concomitant big hill to the other side - you could see camp and then you dropped into a glorious oasis / ravine - and sacrificed over 200m of elevation to literally crawl up a sand dune to make it to the line. Sam the amazing race director just poured two bottles over my head - which was handy, because firstly seeing Tim at CP2 was pretty emotional -seeing Shell waiting at the line having withdrawn nigh on sent me over the edge. I’m going to be a big soggy flannel come Saturday…my legs are fucking strong; my head and lungs are clear and working well; today my shoulders got a little moany and I know now how much blister pain is acceptable. 
Tomorrow is another 44km - bring it b*tch -I’m going to take it real easy and have another chatty-cathy day-  didn’t take a single photo today - which I’ll rectify on the road tomorrow. As I sit here, high up on an escarpment and feel the slow process of recovery taking place, I have no fear of finishing - barring something extraordinary happening - I feel like if it all gets rough, I have the guns to cope and no long march or effing stage 4 is going to derail me now. I do get all the messages - which are so welcome and needed - so thank you everyone for those. 
Lastly - I dream about the reception of the Singular Hotel in Santiago on Sunday, and seeing you again….xxxxx
Stark out.  

Comments: Total (6) comments

Kara Taylor

Posted On: 27 Sep 2023 08:18 pm

Go Chris!!!

Mike Mantis

Posted On: 27 Sep 2023 02:41 pm

Rock and roll Chris! You are as tough as an old piece of biltong found behind the sofa. Keep it up mate - I am SO impressed!!

Jeremy Smith

Posted On: 27 Sep 2023 07:32 am

I am in awe. So much hard work. So much commitment. And look where you are, what you are doing, how it is going... thank you for doing this so we don't have to. I'll raise a glass of nameless rosé each evening to relishing your daily victories vicariously. Love from Bouvet Island. Wherever on earth that is.

Robby Ninefingers

Posted On: 27 Sep 2023 05:57 am

You have soooo got this my friend. Every day your performance has been remarkable and awesome. The prep that has gone in - physical and mental - and the sacrifices along the way are truly paying off. There’s a list at Sager & Wild to get through when you are back x

Stephanie Cox

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 11:22 pm

Congrats Chris! 30th is amazing! Looking at the competitors it is no joke. Incredible the terrain you are all experiencing. Keep going ! you are doing phenomenal! Stephanie

Orlaith Palmer

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 10:27 pm

Amazing well done we're all behind you every step. Go for it 👏👏👏

25 September 2023 09:46 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Sad to say goodbye to Tim - totally understand the reasons, but still, big loss to see the big man go.  
If yesterday was a long hot slog, this was the day where the training and the time and cost all paid off.  Weeping creeping Jesus that was the most stunning experience you could have had here in the desert. Ended up smashing in through the Slot Canyons - met up with Scott, Lu and Sofia - and we nattered and power walked together all the way to the top of the ridge, climbing the amazing hills and going through the mining tunnel - and then along a jaw dropping ridge to get to the money shot: The Biggest F’ing Sanddune decent you’ll ever see. Tired legs? Pah ! Went flying down - actually skied at one point, these things are totally vertical.  Then there was a big of an ugly grind for home - but met up with my roomie Matt and we ground the fecker down and got home in 8.11hrs. Legs, lungs, head, shoulder are all tiptop. Had some amazing care and support from the Docs to see to my blisters - my feet are taking all the pain - which I think I can live with. 
Can’t wait to bore the whiskers off anyone who asks about this (or doesn’t actually ask about it) because today was simply astonishing. 
Saw Shell come home; she’s a tough-as-guts mofo and I am super proud of her. 
Love to all - I do get the emails - Daisy - so glad to hear  you’re getting vrot in Cardiff (!) and I can’t tell you how much every message matters. Suspect I’m going to be a thoroughly soggy mess by the end of this all - but for the time being, let’s keep on keeping on and putting one size 10 in front of the other. 
Stark out. XXXX

Comments: Total (4) comments

Mike Mantis

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 10:31 am

Hey Chris - you mad man!! Rob just told me about this....f'ing hell, sounds like a both the good and bad sense! What an incredible challenge - definitely keep me in the loop and let's get together when you're back. Look after those size 10's! Lots of love from all of us. :)

michael sorrentinomso

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 06:47 am

Keep going dude! You didnt come this far just to come this far! Keep killing it!!!!!

Robby Ninefingers

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 06:31 am

Awesome progress big fellah and genuinely can’t wait for you to bore me senseless with all the stories, photos, and wonders that you are experiencing. There’s a few nights out to be scheduled once you are safely back home! Tracking your progress every day, missing you here, but really NOT wishing I was there ;o). Love from all of us t’up North in blighty xx

Stephanie Cox

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 01:53 am

Hi Chris, You have some fans from Houston. Our brother in law, #61, Jerry Brett Lemley is doing the race - first Time and we are rooting him on. I saw your blog titled “Holy Shit” and was hooked. Congrats on your day 1 and day 2. What an amazing experience you and your wife are having doing this race. I have enjoyed reading our blog posts. Enjoy day 3 and keep killing it! Best, Stephanie

24 September 2023 09:35 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

First day of action, lots of nervous anticipation and then we set off. Tried to truck along to get some work done before the heat - was going great guns running with Rob, Scott, David - and just spending 20-30mins completely out of sight alone. The weather is blowtorch hot - none more so than when I hit CP3 (the last one) with only 5.7km to go.  I have never suffered so much running in my life. The 5km was a bastard 7-12% incline - in a canyon which blocked the breeze and turn the air into an oven. Felt like blowing chunks from 2.5km in, could feel the blisters growing on the outside of my heels and big toes - nothing too severe - off to lance and tape them  - but ended up trudging with Rob as we ground to the end. Wow.  If that’s day 1; day 2+ is going to be astonishing. So many good folk here - it’s just fab. 
Scenary is just mind bending - when you’re not so hot and tired you want to cry - no thoughts of pulling out; just mindful that this is a proper physical toughie and  my shoulders hate my backpack already. 
Getting the tent first gives me privileges like choosing which bit of the stony ground I get to sleep on - and will be sparko tonight. 
Read the emails - thank you for those. Love you all.

Comments: Total (0) comments

23 September 2023 08:05 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Arrived in Camp: - Christ all frickin’ mighty. This place is so mind blowing and so gorgeous, it’s a trip to just sit outside with my Tenties and eat food and feel the heat and the wind and the altitude. 

I may well become serially emotional as the sheer scale of how I got here starts to become real. The ground under the tent floor is stony and hard; the smell of the woodsmoke and murmur of folks is so soothing and lovely. 
They’re predicting a heatwave in the Atacama - so the next seven days are going to kick arse. My legs feel like springs - but my heart rate and VO2 max readings are off the scale wonky. 
Have turned all tech and commas off - other than this little tent (the blue one - with the low roof) that’s going to BAKE in heat - I am so gloriously on the edge of the world and it feels amazing. 
Big big love to you all - ABD, G+G and the peeps out there - make an attempt at coming to Atacama - just wow. 
Tomorrow is 37km. I don’t feel anything other than excited. 

Comments: Total (3) comments

Lisa Roads

Posted On: 24 Sep 2023 07:45 pm

Well done for making it through the heat and terrain of day 1

Gail + Jeremy Perkins

Posted On: 24 Sep 2023 05:28 pm

So proud of you Sparkles, great day today! G + J xxx

Orlaith Palmer

Posted On: 24 Sep 2023 10:56 am

Everyone is so proud of you Chris, well bloody done!! Good luck for the next bit xx

17 September 2023 10:30 pm (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London

Departing 12h30 tomorrow to get to T5 at Heathrow and then on to Santiago, Calama and finally San Pedro de Atacama. 

Taken the last two years to get here; the desktop countdown app can be deleted or archived; I can stop obsessively waiting for updates from the RTP site / team / youtube channel and can hopefully reduce my running tech-porn shopping down to a more sustainable level. 

I'm very lucky to have the kind of family and networks around me that support and motivate me to do this - so thank you to you all.

See you in Santiago Mrs S - xxx C

Comments: Total (0) comments

25 August 2023 07:00 am (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London

So, it's about 25 days to go until we depart for Santiago; it's 6 days until I shut down for two months as a 'sabbatical' to clear the decks to participate in Atacama 2023 and things that occur to me that I wasn't quite thinking of when I set this all in motion:

- LATAM do like to change flight times - a lot - and seldom with my best interests at heart;

- Training fatigue - bored of training now - want to just go give this thing a full go and get to experience the whole gamut of heat, altitude, sand, camp-life and so on;

- Packing - was never the best at that - so getting everything into the backpack is still a work in progress - bits can hang off and I'm sure that will be fine;

- Better to know less? Made the mistake of talking electrolytes to a couple of smart people who wanted to know what rate I deplete magnesium at - terminated that convo pretty quickly as if that's required information, then I'm going to have a wonderful time lurching from ignorance to understanding; and

- I think I'm as fit as I can be, given the work done to date - but will it be enough? Really don't want to blow up and join the DNF squad (although that's still entirely possible and maybe even likely) given the lack of any real experience in these things. 

I hope the first cold beer in San Pedro will be as sweet as I think it will be. Look forward to meeting the other 120-or so nutters doing this thing and coming out the other side. 





Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 29 Aug 2023 06:17 am

You sound in great shape physically and mentally. Most importantly now is to stay injury free and keep the excitement going. See you soon!