When I first heard about the Marathon Des Sables 2017 Women’s Team, I knew immediately that I had to apply. Opportunities like this don’t come around very often; the chance to take part in the most epic, legendary race AND to be part of a group of incredible women doing something incredible for women’s sport. I sent in my application form and kept my fingers tightly crossed.
Six weeks passed before I heard anything, by this point I’d assumed that I hadn’t been successful so when I got a note from Jenny to say that I had been shortlisted for the team, I was shocked but really excited – I don’t know why – but this opportunity just felt like it was meant for me.
Marathon Des Sables is one of those races I’ve always dreamed of doing, it’s not the type of race I normally go for, my background to date has been more in mountain racing, but it just looks like the most amazing adventure and experience. Don’t get me wrong – I know it’s going to be hard – extremely hard: 6 days, 250km, scorching desert heat, sand, and running with a pack with all your food, sleeping gear and clothing for the entire trip. I’m not sure that I can do it, but that’s what makes me want to try. I like to be pushed outside my comfort zone, to experience new things, to explore new places, and whatever the outcome of the race I have no doubt that this will be a challenge that will leave a lasting impression on my life.
I’m also really looking forward to spending time with the other women on the team. Aziza, Didi and Jenny are all inspirational, incredible runners and it will be amazing to get to know them and show the world what we can do as a team, and hopefully inspire women around the world to take up sport.
So how do you even start training for a race like Marathon Des Sables?
Well, to date, I’ve been focusing on developing my speed and strength. I haven’t been running any huge distance weeks so far. But my training has been consistently increasing in volume and intensity over the past 3 months. I’ve been running at least one interval session a week, plus a tempo run or a hill-rep session, and hitting the gym twice a week to work on my flexibility, core and stability. The rest of the week involves steady runs, some strides and a longer run at the weekend. Throughout December I’ll continue to increase the distance of these long runs to try and prepare myself for the long day at MDS (usually an 80+km beast of a day). I’ve also been jumping into a few local trail races to build my confidence for racing again, so far so good, I’ve had three wins and a second place. I even found a race up the biggest sand dune in Europe, which happens to be in South Wales – the Merthyr Mawr Christmas Pudding Race!
Next year I’ll start to focus more on developing my endurance, my strength specific to running with a heavy pack and heat acclimatization ahead of the race – more on that in a future blog!
As part of this challenge we are raising money for the charity Free to Run, the mission of which is to use sports to empower and educate females who have been affected by conflict. It’s not just about sports, it’s a chance to experience a full and free life. If you would like to donate to this amazing cause please visit our Just Giving page at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/womensinternationalteam