By Joe Ogden
“I made a bad call in a match and phoned the head coaches after the game to apologise,” explains Carrick. “That isn’t a good feeling but as a referee it’s crucial in those moments to compartmentalise the mistake and try to move on.
“Whenever I have those low moments now, I think back to waking up in the Sahara desert before dawn with hundreds of kilometres of desert ahead of me to run across. You’re thinking, ‘I can’t do this,’ but then you break it down and literally take things one step at a time.”
Carrick ran over 250 kilometres (156 miles) across the hottest desert on earth. Twice! Having spent much of his life leading expeditions to remote jungles in Asia, Carrick has always been one to test his limits. But the Marathon des Sables was pretty extreme, competitors running the equivalent of a marathon every day for six days.
He was balancing running up to 70 miles a week to train with his day job of teaching PE and refereeing every weekend. “I’d never even run a marathon before. But I wanted to raise money for the Matt Hampson Foundation so in 2013 I signed up,” says Carrick.
Four years after completing it the first time, Carrick was back again in 2017 at the age of 53.
“Temperatures can get to over 50 degrees but it is an incredible experience. Getting through it is all about breaking it down into small parts. The pain, the heat, the exhaustion – you have to test yourself mentally to overcome all of those things.
“There was a camel at the back of the race and if it overtook you then you were eliminated. There was a group of women, all over 60, who were doing the event together. Every day they worked together to stay in front of that camel.
“They were the last to finish each stage which meant they had the least amount of time to get ready for the next day but their attitude was incredible and they all finished together.
“There is no hiding place in an event like that and it’s the same in rugby. You have to be honest with yourself and others and to succeed you have to work together. That’s why rugby is the greatest team sport on earth.”
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