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 - Marathon des Sables

So you have signed up for the MdS 2022….?

Last year, Lucy Giles, took on the Marathon des Sables in support of WWTW. This year, she reflects on the incredible challenge and offers an insight into how she prepared for the marathon of a lifetime

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment, that is perfectly understandable!  But let’s go back to the beginning, which for me was over two years ago (summer 2019) when I signed up for the 35th Marathon des Sables scheduled for April 2020.

The first thing everyone will advise, whether an elite athlete or not, is what is your aim for being in this race? For me, it was purely to take part (as it was my 50th year), finish the event, prove to the children that Mummy could do some cool things, and raise some money for a charity that I could relate to.  For others it was to achieve a certain time, to do it in honour of a loved one and there were a few who were revisiting this challenge as they didn’t complete it last time. This motivation is really important to get right as it determines your strategy for the race, influences your training and will keep those psychological barriers in check. If you are an elite athlete or a serious ultra-marathon runner, there is probably better advice out there on your training. However, if you don’t fit that mould and need some reassurance or ‘top tips’, then read on!

Training and Preparation

I was planning to walk through all six stages.

I’m now 52 years old and maintain a basic level of fitness, but I knew that my body was not going to take 250 km of pounding and I wasn’t going to take the time for the level of training required when balanced with my job and family. So walking was my approach.

The MdS Expo in December 2019 was great: I bought some fantastic poles by Mountain King, which were very lightweight and fitted for me at the event; bought a few other bits and bobs and listened to some great lectures. I then spent weekends getting some miles under my belt, often joined by my other half. I did want to test myself out on a longer event, so completed the 62 km Imber Ultra Marathon in March 2020, expecting to fly out the following month.  Well COVID put pay to that! However, it gave me more time. I entered the 100km, 2-day ‘Race to the King’ event in June 2021, which basically consists of two marathons and an overnight stay. I wanted to see how my feet would be with 8+ hours of work, test out my kit over a 16+ hour event (in total) and practice with the Precision Hydration (pH) powders that I planned to use. It was great and I learnt a lot about pacing myself, use of the poles and not faffing about at checkpoints! 

After another two postponements, the event was scheduled for October 2021, which meant that I at least had the summer weather to train in.  This, however, was not going to help my body get used to the heat. I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to acclimatise, so instead, I tried to acclimate two weeks before. This included hot yoga sessions, doing some CV work followed by a sauna in my kit (my local gym was really supportive) and also having hot baths. For me, that was all really helpful.

In summary, tailor your training to your aim and stick to it!

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