Life at the moment seems to be on the fast forward button—everything is happening so quickly that sometimes I feel as though I won’t be able to catch up with myself!
I’m building up to the biggest challenge of my running career: A 2,350km run along the Freedom Trail in South Africa over 32 days. So, perhaps you can understand why my life is moving at such a fast pace!
The Physical Toll of Being an Ultra Runner
In January of this year, I took part in a 268 mile non-stop race along the length of the Pennine Way National Trail in England where I unfortunately got my foot caught between two slabs causing my knee to go the wrong way—OUCH! 150 miles later I pulled myself out of the race, feeling positive and strong, but it would have been stupid for me to have continued. Unfortunately, the injury meant I wasn’t able to run for at least two months and even when I was given the go ahead to start training it was still causing me issues.
Thankfully, all that is behind me now and training has been going well. But I hear you ask, how do you train for such a huge event?
Foremost, my World Records and previous long distances races have helped enormously, giving me a very good base line to work from and I know that my body, with the right training, is capable of achieving a lot more than I give it credit for.
Over the last few months my distances have been slowly increasing, building up from running five sessions a week (two of which are 2-3 hours in length), to running six days a week, including three long sessions that are between 4-6 hours in duration, together with medium length, shorter but faster runs of 15 miles and some speed work. My longer training runs give me a chance to experiment with different types of food as my tastes always change the longer the event—I tend to go off sweet things and crave salty foods. My favorite foods at the moment are baby bell cheese and pepperoni (weird combination!). Every four weeks I enjoy a recovery week; this gives my body time to recuperate both physically and mentally for the next hard cycle.
Most of my training tends to be done on my own, which can be a bit lonely on occasions, so you can imagine my delight when I joined a group of fellow runners doing 80 miles non-stop along the last section of the Pennine Way. I jumped at the chance, great training!
Mentally I feel I’m very strong because of all the other big events I have done. Before each race I spend time talking to people who have taken part in the race or something similar and look at photos to build a picture in my mind of what lies ahead. When things get really tough I have an image in my mind of the finish line with my family there cheering me on. That really keeps me motivated. I never think of the whole distance (otherwise, I sometimes may not get out of bed!) but will break it up into manageable chunks, usually to the next check point or, if I’m really struggling, it could be the next tree or lamp post—anything to keep me moving forward.
There will always be bad moments both in training and races; I try to think about these scenarios before hand and work out ways of how I’m going to cope. People will often hear me getting cross and talking to myself. I know, a “sign of madness”, but it works for me!
Preparing for the Run of a Lifetime
My run across the Freedom Trail in South Africa with fellow Ultra runner Samantha Gash is going to keep me focused over the next few months, not just in terms of the training but the motivation for running this ridiculously long distance in the first place.
Our plan is to run 64 back-to-back marathons over 32 days, approximately 50 miles per day. Samantha and I are no strangers to long distance running; to date the furthest I have run is from John O’Groats to Lands End (850 miles) when I set the Female World Record and Samantha has run across the Simpson Desert in Australia (234 miles), but for both of us this will be the toughest and longest challenge either of us have undertaken.
The purpose for the run is to raise awareness of an issue that is often overlooked and a subject that people find embarrassing to talk about. Girls in South Africa miss between four to five days of schooling each month once they reach puberty because they cannot afford sanitary pads. Instead, they remain at home using anything from old rags, rolled up newspapers, or sometimes nothing at all, eventually dropping out of education altogether. This is just unacceptable.
We are working with Save the Children South Africa and Australia to raise funds to establish a social enterprise business in the Free State where we will employ and train women to manufacture affordable reusable sanitary pads that will be distributed to the girls in the community. In addition, the creation of an education program covering subjects such as health, hygiene, sex education, puberty, and HIV.
I’m so lucky and absolutely love what I do. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I can put one foot in front of the other and run. That is why I feel it’s important to help and support other people where I can; everyone deserves a chance to improve their lives.
For more information, please visit www.freedomrunners.org.
We at Wigwam want to thank Marvelous Mimi for taking the time to share her experience and thoughts with us and wish her great success on such a daunting and worthwhile endeavor as the Freedom Runners Project!