What a few months it has been! I never expected how much my whole existence would have been taken over by the adventure I will be embarking on in just under a week! This adventure I am taking on is the Marathon des Sables, a 250km footrace through the Sahara Desert.
Training for this started in early November when I signed up to run for Walking with the Wounded. Most runners commit themselves to this with around 2 years to prepare,. I had 149 days. My life changed over night, it had to. My first move was to go and visit ultra marathon running legend Rory Coleman, with 10 MDS completions and multiple world records under his belt I knew I was in safe hands. So, on day 1 of my training I jumped on the train to Cardiff to go and meet the marathon running Welshman. Who instantly told me I was fat. Great. At 5.9′ and just under 10 stone I didn’t class myself as massive but as Rory so blatantly pointed out “fat fries” and as I was going to the hot plate of the planet I was advised to shed the pounds. He also wisely told me to break both the training and the actual race down into manageable chunks and to not think to hard about the enormity of this challenge, which would inevitably send me into a mad panic.
From November to Christmas the focus was to build up the miles in my legs and to do some serious cardio in the form of “Power Hour” – an intense hour of running, cross training, rowing and cycling to get the heart pounding, sweat pouring and to train my brain to be able to keep pushing my body to the absolute limits. Many a time did I have to lower myself off the gym equipment as my legs had turned to jelly. All great stuff and I quickly felt myself getting leaner and fitter. I also found out that if you want to train for something like this you need more hours in the day, 5:45am became my standard wake up time – 6 days a week.
Cooling down my weary legs in a fish pond after a 28 miler!
One thing I learnt very rapidly was the importance of looking after yourself. Throughout this whole time I have put my body under immense pressure so I owed it to myself to eat correctly, strengthen my muscles, stretch before and after and try to get some sleep. This is all very well but definitely easier said than done. In December I got injured, I also got the flu and therefore pretty emotional. Over Christmas my leg muscles were so tight I physically couldn’t run, this was not fun at all. But, MDS is not a ‘running’ race; it is a ‘foot’ race. I may not have been able to run over the Christmas break, but I could walk. So I did. For miles and miles I walked across the countryside, my parent’s dogs have never been so fit in their lives!!
Back to work and to my wonderful Osteopaths – Barrie Savory and Stephen Sacks. Both who worked their magic and got me back on my feet. The distances quickly went from 10 – 15miles to 35 miles. I completed my first Ultra marathon and the week after did another one, then the week after that… another. Hours and hours in the rain and snow were spent padding around the UK getting those miles into my legs. This is such a wonderful thing about running, you can go exploring – I been lucky enough to see so much of England during this time.
‘Great Hill’…Something no runner likes to see!
I have been challenged with injury recently but as I write this with one week to go I am confident that my legs and my determination will carry me through. I don’t think there is anyone heading to the desert that has had a 100% perfect lead up. I would love to have done more miles, more sand practice, got lighter kit, experimented with food more but sadly injury, job and money have restricted this. What will keep me going is the why I am running. Walking with the Wounded is a charity dear to my heart and with so much relevance to the MDS. As I am hauling my tired body over the dunes and probably feeling immensely sorry for myself I can take inspiration from our brave service men and women who face challenges like this every day, all because they put their lives on the line for us. This has been a constant reminder to me of just how lucky I am to be in the position I am and I hope that people continue to donate to such a worthwhile cause.