Week 19 – Wings for Life!

On Sunday 7 May, I, along with 155,000-odd people took part in the Wings for Life charity run (for spinal cord research) which is held in approximately 100 different locations around the world.

It’s a simple concept. At exactly the same time all over the world, runners gather at the start line, be it day or night, rain or shine (and in our case extreme heat) at the start time. The whistle blows and everyone all over the world starts to run. There is no finish line though… 30 minutes after the start time, a ‘catcher car’ is set off at 15km/hour in each location and it has to catch the runners. Every 30 minutes it increases speed gradually; 16km/hour, 17km/hour, 18km/hour, and then it sits at 20km/hour for 2 hours. And the people are still running out ahead of it. Well, most of them anyway.

Under the UAE flag at the start line in Dubai

When the car eventually catches you, at whatever distance you have managed to reach, you have to stop running and you are recorded at that distance. Some people make only a few km’s – in Dubai specifically there were many people pulling out before the car even set off or managed to catch them, due to the heat.

Catcher Car

But soooo many runners are able to push the limits of running and keep going for hours as the car tries to catch them, and the last person standing – worldwide – is declared the overall winner. Of course, there are winners in each destination, but to be the last person standing is a massive accomplishment… and in this year’s case, the overall winner was not standing. Instead, he was in a wheelchair, and he pushed himself 92km’s before the car caught up with him!

And to top it off, he was in DUBAI! Where the temperature was approximately 41 °C at the start at 3pm!!!! An incredible accomplishment in so many ways!

I managed to round up 4 people, plus myself, from my work to get out there in the crazy heat and run for those who can’t, and I’m proud to say that we had 2 runners who did exceptionally! They made 16km’s and 11.5km’s…. I followed not too far behind at 8km’s, and then we had a 7km finisher and one runner, unfortunately, had to pull out at 5km’s, before the car even caught him. But an incredible run by everyone considering the extreme weather we endured for the run.

Me, at 6km’s… didn’t think I’d make 7km’s so took a photo at 6 🙂

I hope I am able to take part in this event next year (although it would be great to do it in slightly better weather!), and I urge everyone reading this to get involved too! It is a wonderful event for a great cause, and it is so inspiring to be part of this!

Run, walk or crawl – but do it for those who can’t!

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Week 50 – Are you tough enough?

This past weekend, I found out that I’m not that far off!

Tough Mudder, an internationally recognised obstacle course challenge, recently brought their event to the desert sands of Dubai. And boy was it tough. And muddy. And did I mention fun?!

I rounded up a few friends (team of 4 of us in total) to take on this mudder of a challenge to see if we had what it takes to be tough. And muddy.

Ready for this!

Ready for this!

You have the option of either an 8km course, or a 16km course. The (similar) Desert Warrior Challenges that I’ve done in the past have all been 10 km’s so I was quite happy for us to just tackle the 8 km for this – not sure I was quite ready for 16 whole kilometers of obstacle challenges!

We all arrived on the morning of the race challenge, a little unprepared, but all quite eager to get stuck (literally) into it 🙂 We arrived shortly before our wave was due to set off which was great – no time spent idling around… just get straight to it! As you start entering the Start chute, they’re playing “Highway to Hell”, which brought about a few giggles, and you then hang about for a few minutes while they get you pumped up, run off a few safety tips and eventually, set you on your way.

(Image courtesy of Google search)

(Image courtesy of Google search)

The first challenge was a nice ease into things – simply jumping over haystacks. But that was the last of ‘easy’. Things got progressively harder, tougher, muddier and more challenging from there on out.

From crawling under barbed wire, to sliding down sewer pipes into cold water, and trying to run through mud puddles, there was no shortage of hard work. But, working as a team and helping each other along when anyone was feeling the burn from running on sand, or just needed a breather, we stuck together and helped each other along.

There were a couple of obstacles that require assistance from other teams around you which we gladly accepted – all 4 of us are not the biggest, most buff people around and the extra bits of strength were always welcomed.

(Image courtesy of Tough Mudder)

(Image courtesy of Tough Mudder)

Pretty much everything involves a little bit of water, then heading out onto the sand, which means that by the end of it, you’re literally caked in mud, your shoes are 4 kg’s heavier, and your clothes will need a serious wash.  And then you reach the odd obstacle that involves a huge puddle / dam-type-effort-thing of water and you splish and splash around in that for a few minutes, trying to get yourself to a reasonable level of not-so-muddy. But boy was it all so much fun!

We didn’t try kill ourselves out on the course – we wanted to push ourselves and attempt every obstacle (happy to say we all managed to complete every obstacle!) but we also wanted to have fun while doing it. Running on the desert sand for 8 km’s was not easy, but Tough Mudder were brilliantly organised and they provided loads of aid stations where they provided water, energy drinks, toilets, medics etc.

One of Tough Mudder’s most well-known (notorious, maybe?!) obstacles is the Finish Line obstacle… the electroshock. This involves running through a muddy swamp, with electric wires suspended above you that you have to run through… or you can drop down on the ground and crawl through the mud to avoid the wires. Unfortunately though, as we neared the finish line, we were told to turn left which takes us away from the electroshock… the 8 km racers do not go through that obstacle 😦 Obviously rather relieved that we’re not subjecting ourselves to electric shocks, we were still rather disappointed that we did not get to at least try this signature obstacle.

But, we still all held hands as we saw the finish line ahead of us, and ran through it, proud, strong, dirty and extremely happy with ourselves and team mates for an excellent effort out on the course!

Tough Mudders!

Tough Mudders!

And this is what happens to your shoes… post-race, to post-wash 🙂

2015 racing comes to an end

This past Saturday I ran in my last race for 2015, but that doesn’t mean that running is over for the year… and  next year will hopefully be a much better year than this one was.

So, Saturday’s race – it was a 12 km race out at Meydan. I’ve run the 8 km route of this race a whole bunch of times, including getting my 8 km PB of 42 minutes in one of the races. But, I’ve not run the 12 km version of it so I was looking forward to how I’d fare in the race.

A few weeks back I ran 12 km’s at home and felt fab during the run so I knew that this one wouldn’t be too tough.

Friday was spent chilling on the couch at home, watching movie after movie after 4 episodes of Vampire Diaries 🙂 and then early to bed (oh, and don’t forget the carbo loading with ice cream that was thrown in 😉 )

My alarm went off at 5:30am on Saturday morning, much to Emmett’s disgust, but there was to be no cat-cuddling this morning. I hopped out of bed and got myself ready and headed out the door.

It was freezing! (Well, at least in Dubai terms it was… a cool 15 °C)

I arrived at the venue, did what I could to warm up in the chilly weather, and was then surprised when I heard my name being called and it was my friend Nat! We did some more warming up together and then headed for the start line.

At this stage I was feeling pretty neutral – there were pretty much no thoughts running through my head regarding this race.

We got counted down and headed off…. my first km was pretty fast at 5:28 so I knew I had to slow it down a touch, and did the 2nd one in 5:48. Much better.

But by the 3rd km, although my time was still decent, my head left the race completely. I just did.not.feel.like.being.there 😦 And I had only 9 km’s to go…. harrumph.

I kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to just focus on my music so that I wasn’t thinking about the race, and got friendly waves from Nat each time we ran past each other (she was way up ahead of me). 4 km’s done, 7 km’s done, 8 km’s – final lap of the 4 km loop.

I just kept going because at this stage I knew that if I stopped I’d actually give up so I pushed… and eventually turned the last corner – only to hear Nat calling my name from the side line. What a relief 🙂

I managed to cross the finish line in 1:05:something-or-the-other which I was very happy with considering how mentally awful this race was for me. But to make it a little bitter-sweet, I came in 5th out of my age group 🙂

I now have a few runs left while in Dubai, and then will get some runs in while in Johannesburg for the Christmas holidays too – and then the big focus comes for RAK Half Marathon 2016. Their 10 year anniversary! I have to do well in this one!