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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 Blogs

Tick-tock.... 30 days to go and the fundraising is underway....
30-Jul-2014 03:52:15 AM [(GMT+02:00) Harare, Pretoria]

**This posting is a copy of the fundraising letter I've sent out today to all friends and family - a total overshare I'm sure, but I really want them to understand where I am in my life and why..... too bad I can't put all my pictures in here as well! .......... One month today I head out on what I hope will be the adventure of a lifetime: A 250km, 7-day, unsupported (carry-all-your-own-food-and-gear) race in Madagascar (www.4deserts.com). The race is set up in 6 ‘stages’ with approximately 40k per day for the first 4 days (Stages 1-4), 80k on the 5th and into the 6th day (Stage 5), and finally 10k to finish up on Day 7 (Stage 6). The race organizers will have water points every 10km, and water at the camp at the beginning and end of each day (hot and ‘cold’). They set up the camp each day, we’ll have about 8 people in each tent (there’s around 250 competitors). The organizers do not provide anything else – we’re completely independent in terms of clothes, sleeping bag, food, first aid, etc. Well, they do have a medical person at each water stop and at camp also, for more serious help if needed. So, you may ask how I got here – what was I thinking, and why would I do this?? Well, here’s the short story made long: I got hooked on running about five years ago. I’ve never been a runner. I played field hockey in high school (as goalie!), and soccer in college. I never thought I could run. I wasn’t skinny enough or fast enough or fit enough… or so I believed. But one day someone threw my assumptions out the window, and challenged me to try transitioning my daily walk to a run. So I did. I started by running from one electricity pole to the next… literally 100 meters at a time… and then walking until I caught my breath, and trying again… Within a few months I could run 5k without stopping, and I knew I’d found something which would bring a whole new dimension to my life. It’s not always been easy. I’ve struggled with repeated injuries, and I must admit I have a daily battle with self-discipline and motivation to get my butt out of bed and go running, especially if it’s still dark or cold. During the entire process I’ve learned a whole lot about myself and about balancing my faith, my family, my fitness, my nutrition, and my workload… I’ve not always succeeded. In fact, I’ve definitely failed more often than succeeded at keeping a healthy balance across everything at once. But I have also had some of my biggest breakthroughs for both work and personal challenges come from this daily time of reflection where your mind roams and wanders and comes back at you from unexpected angles while you’re out running. My family has definitely also benefitted from the ‘feel good’ endorphins released on a run, which set the day up for good things by putting a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. Early last year I started thinking about training for something big. There are very few options in Malawi for races or other events to participate in. And flying out of Malawi to get to a race is expensive. It doesn’t make sense to travel for something that isn’t a big deal to me. I started exploring what multiday races were out there, and stumbled across the ‘4 Deserts Series’. I signed up for their 2014 ‘roving race’, which is held in a different country each year…. This year is Madagascar. I also found a wonderful coach (Amanda McIntosh) who I was fortunately able to meet with while on holiday in the US last year. She’s been running ultras for over two decades and has a wealth of knowledge to share. She assigns my weekly workouts and we skype at least once a month, and frequently email back and forth. Thanks to her, my injuries have been dealt with one at a time physically and mentally, keeping them in perspective and keeping on going to be ‘ready’ for Madagascar (well, as ready as I can be given all of the above). So, now the time has come, and my breath catches every time I think about the fact that my race is only four short weeks away. The fear of failure looms large. The fear of pain looms even larger. And quite honestly the fear of embarrassment if I do ‘fail’ looms the largest – hello, who knew my ego was at play here too??? (Probably everyone but me… oh well). I guess that fear is residual from my experience in England a few months ago – I went all that way for a 3-day race and ‘failed’ to do days 2 and 3 because I pulled a hamstring on Day 1. I still struggle to believe that even completing Day 1 (45k) in mud and rain and the freezing cold was an accomplishment – I just feel like I failed. And I don’t want to go there again – not physically, and not mentally. But, ego and fears aside, I think I’m ready. The many many many hours of training over the last 18 months are paying off. From the experiences gained from my “mini-Madagascar” a few weeks ago, I’m well aware that these 7 days will require more mental stamina than I’ve ever needed before (See my blog posting ‘The Neno Knee-breaker’ for details of that weekend: http://www.4deserts.com/blogs/md_competitor_blog.php?pid=MjIwOA==&blog=129). I now realize that the pain getting through this 250km will likely be far more than anything I’ve ever experienced – yes, ladies, including childbirth, which I did ‘the natural way’ last time. I’ve never felt such constant pain as I did on the last day of the Neno weekend. When I got home the last day, I went to bed with the thought “I hurt so very much, and this was only 135k and only 4 days – how on earth am I going to get through 250k in Madagascar?!?!” But I learned something truly amazing about the human body when I woke up the next morning: 95% of the pain had gone, and I could have gone out again that day if I needed to. That was a major breakthrough moment for me, and I think it’s that kind of knowledge gained over the last 18 months that I’ll need to draw on when I hurt. Now, that’s the story of how and why I got to this point…. the most important part of all of this is something I have yet to mention, and is the reason for my overshare above. My friend Karen is doing this race with me – She’s the co-founder of Child Legacy in Malawi, and I’m one of their board members (www.childlegacy.org). Together we’re using this race to raise funds to buy an ambulance for their clinic, which is about 30km outside Lilongwe in an under-served and under-resourced area. The clinic is now transitioning into becoming a hospital with full maternity and surgical services. The population they serve rely on donkey-carts and bicycle ambulances to reach the clinic in a childbirth emergency, and this just isn’t good enough. The clinic needs this ambulance to bring in patients, and to get patients into Lilongwe if there’s a major emergency. To buy an ambulance which will withstand the rigors of Malawi roads, we need to raise $45,000 – this will buy us one like you see here on our donation webpage: https://www.childlegacy.org/ambulance. So far we’ve raised about a third of this, so ‘only’ $30,000 to go. It does sound like a lot of money! But we’re in full fund-raising mode now, and so the ball is in your court – please do consider contributing to this cause. Every penny raised will go towards the ambulance – not a penny will support our cost of participating in the race, or even the cost of running Child Legacy. Even if you only have $1 or MK500 kwacha to give, your support will be deeply appreciated. For those of you in Malawi who can’t do credit card donations, we can also accept Malawi Kwacha cash or cheques, as well as US Dollar checks, and receipts will be provided by the Malawi office. For those in the US, if you donate through the website you’ll receive a (US) tax-deductible receipt. Thank you for helping us raise enough money to buy the ambulance!

Zeana H

Posted: 31-Jul-2014 05:30:51 AM

Hi Beth, I really enjoyed reading of your training struggles - sometimes it can be so difficult to muster up the motivation, especially when you are tired from all the training you have been doing. This is a wonderful charity and great cause you are supporting. Thank you for sharing this letter with us. I look forward to meeting you in a few weeks. Zeana, 4Deserts Team

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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 competitor


Lived in Malawi, Kenya, Botswana, US and UK.
Education in Public Health: Behavioral Sciences and Epidemiology

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Why are you competing?
I'm always up for a new challenge and this fits!

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