Last updated: 26-Oct-18
I am a swinger. I confess it. And it is something I really want to give up. Not that kind – I live in a tiny Berber hamlet and would almost certainly be arrested!
I’m either all in or all out; striving towards a goal or lying on the sofa eating anything that approximates to doughnuts and watching the equivalent level of TV, although I haven’t yet touched the drug that is Love Island.
So, I needed a proper challenge for this year and I have it, the Everest Trail Race (ETR) which I am undertaking with the fantastic help and support of RunUltra.
ETR caught my imagination when I handed out some leaflets for it while I was helping out post the 2016 Marathon des Sables. It just looked so beautiful and so immense. 160km around Everest in six days with 15,000km of ascent at high altitude.
It’s taken me a full two years to gird my courage to the sticking point and now I am getting ready to go and the 4th-11th November will, I hope, be a fantastic week in an already wonderful life.
But, and this is a big BUT (and butt for that matter). I am totally out of shape. This last eighteen months, I have focussed on work and have made a TV series and written two books which is brilliant, but in the doing of that I have let myself go wildly to seed.
Now, there will be a lot of you out there who just can’t understand how I could do that, how I could be so undisciplined, but I suspect there are also some out there who recognise what I am talking about. Now, I have a major mountain to climb before I even get to Everest and I am doing everything I can to give myself the best chance.
When I signed up, I was living in the gorgeous medieval Moroccan city of Essaouira, with its endless sandy beaches and moderate climate. Two problems with that: it’s flat and it’s at sea level. So, I committed to this project and packed up my life and moved to Imlil, a small Berber (Amazigh) village at 1750m surrounded by mountains, including Mount Toubkal at 4176m.
I am now living in the middle of an extremely traditional society and am having to learn Tashlaheet as fast as I can as people here do not speak Arabic. It’s already an extraordinary experience, and I’ll be blogging about it to try and capture this simple but beautiful way of life, so far removed from my own Western experience.
What it means, though, is that I have the best possible terrain, short of the actual Himalayas, to train in. Carrying my weekly shop from the local market is a breath-taking (literally) experience and I cannot leave my home without going steeply up or steeply down.
I run for three reasons:
I always feel good after a run but I rarely actually want to do it. I often feel ungainly and not in my element and only rarely catch a glimpse of that flow that folk talk about.
To try and mitigate that and get to have some joy out of the actual movement, I booked a session with Shane Benzie, running guru, who changed my whole posture and gait.
I do feel much more fluid with it and as though I AM actually running properly. Changing everything is not without its issues though, and I have struggled with a flared up Achilles.
ETR will be a lot of hiking as I will basically be climbing a 15km-long ladder during the six days. But, it will be fast hiking up very long, steep hills with few breaks and then as much running down as I can manage. To that end, Andy Mouncey, RunUltra’s coach, is designing a specific training programme for me.
I’m really annoyed with myself for overdoing it on the aforementioned doughnut-substitutes because I am now in the position of having to lose weight while training hard, which is not ideal.
Again, I have called in the cavalry and our nutritionist, Renee Mc Gregor is coming up with a plan for me. I have already noticed that I have been running out of fuel on the longer expeditions into the mountains as I cut down on my intake, so I am really looking forward to that advice.
Sharing the experience
I will be sharing the training and nutrition plans with you here on RunUltra, with very honest accounts of how they actually work for me and I hope that will be useful for some of you in the community.
I will also be sharing how I progress from sub-zero to hero (I hope!) and please do get in touch if you have any advice and help to give me or just for a few words of encouragement.
Also, if anyone would like to come out and train with me, you would be really welcome. I’m just an hour and a half’s drive from Marrakech airport!