I don’t have a lot of time tonight as at the time of drafting this, it’s only a matter of hours before I’m off to the airport… time to get to the States for the next part of my challenge, so a brief update really.
Racing the Planet / 4 Deserts – Roving Race – 250 km across Madagascar
If you had to sum up a whole experience into one word, that is what springs to mind when I think of what I’ve just done. Followed by silence as I think of how to adequately describe what has been just an absolutely amazing time in my life.
It was not easy and I think that overall, it was a good job I had no experience to base my expectations on, because if I’d known quite how tough it would be, how ill I would feel in parts, and some of the mental challenges, then I may not have been so quick to sign up. That being said, I think it went really well for my first stage run… and yes, I finished it.
One thing I really liked was the comms/cyber tent package… it meant that not only could you read emails from people who wanted to send you support and to let you know they were thinking about you, but I also had a blog, so folks back home could not only see updates from Racing the Planet/4deserts, but also get to have a brief snapshot of what you were experiencing. We didn’t have access to it after the end of Stage 5, so if anyone has sent emails that I haven’t acknowledged, my apologies. They will be sent to us once the admin staff get a moment to catch their breath. If anyone hasn’t read them, wants to, or wants to read my thoughts during the stages, as well as an extra one I added last week once I was back in the country, please go visit this page, and click on my surname:
It wasn’t all running… on some of the terrain that was not possible… there was walking, a bit of climbing, wading through rivers, trying not to get stuck in mud and rice fields, fall off log bridges, and hopping around on the spot when stung by some kind of buzzy thing… there were tears, laughter, a lot of smiling… there were falls, injuries, sickness… there was walking and star gazing through the night, fantastic awesome scenery, there were blisters… my god how many blisters… nearly everyone I think had some and by the end of the week as everyone went to get hot water for drinks and dinner, it seemed as if everyone was hobbling.
But over and above that, I believe there are two things which make these events what they are… one being the individual’s drive to challenge themselves, to not give up, to achieve… to battle whatever dark moments they have, to enjoy the lighter ones and then often reaching out to others to help them do the same… and the main one, quite simply, the people. Because it’s the people you meet, how you get on, that create the whole experience: both the individual aspects and the collective: your tent mates, the people you talk to a little bit, the people you talk to a lot, those you help and those who help you… an experience like this, it seems to strip everything away… all the materiality, the day to day aspects of life that often we allow to pile on top of us until what we truly want, who we truly want or crave to be, gets swallowed whole by responsibility, belief patterns, expectations of the self and others, by the necessities of the life that we have created. On an experience like this, we can strip that away and see who we truly are… it allows us time to be reflective and face our fears, our worries, our demons… it gives us space to think, to feel… to just be. Is it like that for others? I don’t know… these are just my thoughts as I type… I’m sure there will be many more once I actually take time to “stop”, let everything assimilate and review the whole journey I’ve been on.
I am extremely glad I jumped into this, and that Madagascar was a starting point for me… what a wonderful adventure to start with! The memories it has given me, the experience for what I am thinking of potentially doing in the future… but mainly, the amazing people I’ve met and become friends with and who I hope will be in my life for a long time to come, and not forgetting the overall memories that I am left with. If anyone is considering doing something like this, then I would say absolutely, go for it, without a shadow of a doubt.
Now, it’s time to get psyched up and ready for Grand to Grand! 273km from the Grand Canyon up to the Grand Staircase. The feet are still somewhat painful… the shoulders are still bruised, and the pack this time seems even heavier… I blame the increase in my blister kit rather than sweets in my daily rations 😉
And once again a reminder… that I am also trying to raise funds and awareness for the UK charity Refuge… who help people get out of domestic abusive / violence relationships and to safety. If you would like to share on social media, with friends, with family… my charity page link is: http://www.justgiving.com/michelle-payne4.
And so the time is rapidly approaching for Challenge 2 to commence… 250 km across varied terrain in Africa. The last email I read from Racing the Planet brought more information, including the fact that 4 members of staff had had their luggage lost so it was a good idea to pack as much as you could into your hand luggage. There then followed some frantic searching online for hand baggage allowances.
Now this may be a sign of things to come… and doesn’t really bode well for either my packing skills or how much it looks like I will be running with on my back. It turns out the airline has an allowance of 7kg for hand luggage (within dimensions) plus you get a handbag to carry things on. At 2am everything came out of the main bag, scattered across the living room floor and lots of squashing packets into creviches began. I’m not quite sure how well this is going to go down when it’s time to go through those x-ray machines… what if they insist I have to open my back pack up?
There was, of course, no room to put my trainers in the pack. Now if there is one thing you will not be able to replace for a race… it’s going to be this key item. We spend time breaking them in, we send them off to get stitched up for gaitering… there is no other item that you have probably taken as much thought and planning with as what goes on your feet! And that’s not just a race of this type, but any running. Blisters and foot problems make or break a race. There is therefore only one solution… and that’s to put the Converse into the luggage and wear my running shoes. Trail shoes. Woah… what a look to rock through customs LOL!
This then has thrown up another aspect… food! For those that know me, they know I love my food… especially cake. Cake… I feel a Homer Simpson moment coming on…
I have planned my nutrition quite carefully I think… but it doesn’t fit in my pack. I chucked everything into a stuff sack. A 20L stuff sack. It was full. My backpack is 20L. Where will everything else go? And… and… I’m under the daily calorie allowance I was hoping for as well! I’m praying I don’t get hungry… lives will be affected if I get hungry… I love my food… cake…
Doh… anyway… keep the writing on track, no time for cake tangents… it’s time to get to the start line in Madagascar! Hopefully the rumblings from Iceland will not worsen… hopefully my luggage will arrive safely… there are 4 flights to get there but I’m reassured the weather is getting a tad hot (ok so there are murmurings of 40 degrees heat – I’m ignoring those) so I have packed a couple of bikinis for the hotel pool for which there is much logical reasoning! If you want to know what that is, email me via the 4deserts website and I will reply on the blog there and once I’ve been and got taped up, it won’t be long before I depart the UK. Oh yes, that was another little thing… the legs have a few niggles… the plantar has kicked in again, the ankles are painful, swollen and the calves… well let’s just say if you could get rock solid, they’d be harder, so naturally the Achilles has decided to join in the grumbling. Obviously I’m ignoring all these things too, plus I’ve had a bit of help from my coach and fantastic sports therapist to keep me going 😉
So as to links…
If anyone fancies watching the updates of the race, please click here.
If you want to email me to send encouragement to keep me going through, what I have been reliably informed, will be moments of hell, please click here.
If you want to read a response to any emails sent, and to catch up with my thoughts on how each day is going, my blog (along with others) can be found here.
And of course, not forgetting the other aspect of what I’m doing here, highlighting the fundraising and need to get awareness out about domestic abuse / violence, to say that no, it is not ok, please share, donate, and get the message out, my justgiving page can be found here.
I look forward to hopefully hobbling over all stage finish lines… have a guess as to how long it will take me overall, and donate for each guess 😉
4 flights folks… I’m possibly on one of them right now as you read this!
Well after I couldn’t sign up for the Marathon des Sables, I did a little Google surfing… and it was amazing to find just how many runs, races, countries and continents these are run on… I think every country and definitely every continent. Yes you read right, every continent including Antarctica! And no, I’m not going there… I’m not a fan of feeling even a little bit cold… I blame being a summer baby for that!
But I happened to find myself at a website with THE most stunning trailer… in a different country on a different continent and while listening to the soundtrack and watching the most amazing scenery… I got the goosebumps. You know the ones, not just any old I’m feeling cold or something a little freaky has happened and raises the hairs on your arms… this was OMG I have to do this, I have to be there… it doesn’t matter how hard it is (I may regret ever thinking this shortly!)… how expensive… this is a once in a lifetime experience…
170 miles / 273 kilometres from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon up to the Grand Staircase
over 7 days
You get a tent for the night… and water to drink…
self-supported – you have to carry everything else you need in a backpack while you run/hike/climb
a marathon or more every day
(one day is a double marathon)
and longer than the Marathon des Sables.
But a triple continent challenge needs 3 continents… so add the continent of Europe… specifically the London Marathon… 26.2 miles, completed earlier this year, although I haven’t had time to blog about it until now… more on this in the next post!
And for the third continent… it’s back to Africa… for the 3rd time in 18 months… oh yes, I paid a little visit to another African country at the beginning of this year which I figured might help as challenging “training” albeit of a different nature… which I will write about if I ever get the time!… So yes, Africa again … specifically Madagascar… no, not like the film… though if I end up hallucinating I may very well see talking lions and giraffes… hopefully not the zebra though!
And this is part of the 4deserts series via Racing the Planet. Each year they put on a stage race, like the Marathon des Sables and Grand2Grand (or g2g as it’s more commonly known) in the 4 driest deserts: the Atacama Crossing (Chile), the Gobi March (Mongolia/China), the Sahara Race (Jordan/Egypt) and the Last Desert aka Antarctica! They also put on one extra and this is known as a roving race, held in a different country each year with 2014 being held in Madagascar… quite a good job as 2013 was in Iceland and it looked cold.
Again, you get a tent for the night… and water to drink…
and you have to carry everything you need in a backpack while you run/wade (there are river crossings above knee height *eek*) and no doubt walk (lots of walking, I plan on lots of walking).
And just to make it harder… because surely that doesn’t sound hard enough?
The two stage runs (as these type of multi-day events/races are known as) are only a few weeks apart!
Actually they are 15 days apart, from the finish line in Africa to the start line in America… and in that time I have to fly home from Africa, get back to work, college and daily life, recover (heaven help me)… and then fly out to America to get on that starting line.
15 days between the two events… running a total of 324 miles.
Yes, you read that right too… 324 miles, across remote and difficult terrain, carrying everything I need and giving an overall total of, I believe just over 350 miles for the 3 events.
I am of course fundraising for such a challenge… and it’s for a fantastic charity that deals with challenges, survival, motivation, courage, fears (amongst other aspects)… details will be given with the London Marathon post 🙂 so please do take time to visit their website and share information once that post has been blogged.
From new runner in February 2013
to double stage runner in September 2014
Is it do-able?
I’m about to find out.
“You only get one life: aim high and be all that you can be”
~ Michelle Payne ~
Well it’s now been well over a year since I returned from Sierra Leone… and as I’ve previously mentioned, this trip and challenge ended up opening some doors for me… very interesting ones!
When you set yourself a challenge and not only meet it… but, to put not too fine a phrase to it… smash it!… where do you go next? And it’s one thing to train well and achieve a half marathon, let alone finish a full, in tropical heat and humidity… and in under 5 hours 15 minutes 😉 (yes, I’m still proud of what I achieved that day, and I believe anyone could also achieve it if they wanted to)… but anything else would surely be too huge a step up to contemplate seriously! However, I truly believe that if you really want to do something, you will eventually get there… what’s the saying?
If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way.
If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
~~ Jim Rohn ~~
So upon returning home, there just happened to be a half marathon a week later… so I entered, and got not too shabby a time for it. However I already knew I could finish it because 1) walking was possible and 2) I’d jogged the first 11 miles of Sierra Leone non-stop, a PB was guaranteed as it was the first time racing at that distance… and I also had in the back of my mind words repeating from another runner I met in Sierra Leone… who said: “well of course Michelle, once one has completed the Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon, they can only do MdS” (or words to that effect).
For those that haven’t heard of MdS it stands for Marathon des Sables, described as “The toughest footrace on earth”… how daunting is that?!
250km across the Sahara desert in Morocco over a week… a marathon every day, with one day being 80km (the Long March) so that’s a double marathon and a little bit more… and you have to carry everything you need for that week on your back. All that is provided is a tent to shield you from the elements and water to drink through the course.
Daunting actually is an understatement, plain crazy seemed more appropriate… but I watched the trailers, and got goosebumps so I thought I’d sign up. But it wasn’t open. So I couldn’t. It obviously wasn’t meant to be… and I’m not sure if I felt relieved or disappointed… but the seed had been planted… which was then watered with a little internet surfing via Google…
and that next challenge… will be discussed in my next rambling post 😀
Given the news from Western Africa at the moment, please keep the people from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria in your thoughts… absolutely awful news about the Ebola virus and deaths from it. Prayers sent to those affected and their loved ones, and hopefully it won’t spread any further than it has done already.