In our first post we introduced Tanida Poffley and Chris Eato’s plan to run 250km across the Gobi desert in Mongolia to raise money for a charity working to end modern day slavery (there are currently over 40 million people living in slavery). In this post, we’re looking into just how much preparation goes into running 250km across one of the worlds least forgiving terrains.
Chris and Tanida are pretty keen runners. As part of his training Chris recently ran the T42 Marathon, which has plenty of hills in it, finishing in 4:56 and coming 1st in his age group. Tanida wasn’t far behind finishing in 5:37, which she did carrying a quite painful knee injury for the last 7km. So they like distance and they like a trail but how much more is the Gobi desert going to ask of them?
To find out, I did a short interview with each of them and it’s clear they have very different approaches to their preparation. While Chris is training 3 times a week to avoid overtraining, Tanida is training five to six times a week plus conditioning work. At time of interview, Chris hadn’t yet started thinking about his dietary needs on the run. Tanida has a spreadsheet; ‘it’s a work of art Jimmy’. If you ever want to know about the calorie value/kg of different foods, speak to Tanida.
That is the first key difference between what Chris and Tanida are doing and a normal marathon. Marathon runners have a calorie plan for their race, they carb load in the lead up, but they don’t need to know that couscous has much better calorie/kg value than rice.
Speaking to Chris, the running part of his preparation isn’t too different to other long distance races. He’s just getting the k’s in, getting his body used to running marathon distances regularly. The two things that make this race different are that you have to run marathon distances day after day after day, and you have to carry your own food, that means you’re pretty much carrying your final few meals almost the entire 250km. They also need to be able to carry at least 2.5L of water as drink stations are only provided every 10km (that’s not a lot in the hot desert). Did I mention you have to carry your sleeping matt and sleeping bag? Tents and fresh water are the only things provided at the camp each night.
Being able to run a marathon a week doesn’t even make table stakes here.
Recovery rates are key and to get themselves ready and test out their race readiness, Tanida and Chris are doing a weekend double in June, one marathon distance race each day. The Hilary Trail is the perfect training ground. Rugged terrain, more track than even they need, and it comes with beautiful scenery to keep things interesting.
Managing their food, training to run carrying all that food & water and getting as many k’s under their belt is they can is all they can do to be ready. Because they can’t train for the hardest part, keeping yourself going once you’ve pushed yourself beyond your training. The mental strength to keep going, when you’re four days in, your tired, sore and you have a three quarters of a marathon still to run. You have to push on, despite the hell it feels like you’re in.
What they will go through is hard, but here’s the reality of what they’re doing – it’s nothing compared to what people in slavery go through every day – some for their entire lives. Please sponsor Tanida and Chris and help put an end to modern day slavery and human trafficking.
(For those still concerned about Chris, he has now planned his race diet, he’s even ordered it all from America)