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The Next Epic Adventure

I’m sitting in my sister’s office on Borana, Kenya, discussing how to start this blog post. My suggestion; holey sh*t. Her suggestion; holey fu*k. Good to know we are both on the same page.

What’s Hollie up to now you ask? Well, I have just entered my biggest race to date, probably in my lifetime, called the Marathon des Sables. Described by National Geographic as ‘the Toughest Footrace on Earth’, this isn’t a race for the fainthearted. Five days covering approximately 250km through the sand dunes of the Sahara, 40-45 degree highs dropping to zero overnight. You must carry everything you need for the entire race, apart from your water which is rationed each day and a tent. Just writing this down is giving me the heebie-jeebies!

About five years ago when I was living in New Zealand, I went and listened to Lisa Tamati talk. Known as NZ’s Queen of Ultras, she was in the process of running the length of New Zealand (2250km) in 38 days, averaging over 50km a day. I may have developed a slight girl crush as I remember being in total awe of her adventures and achievements, one of which was running the Marathon des Sables (or MdS to those in the ‘ultra’ world).

Entries for this race opened in June and sold out in minutes, which I, unfortunately, missed out on. I put my name on the waiting list and wrote that race off, telling myself there was always next year, but still felt a little gutted. After speaking to Sam, Flis’s husband, and two of his friends, we decided we would do it together in 2016. Plenty of time to train too, which seemed like a great plan.

That was until last week when I received an email from the organisers saying there was a spot available if I wanted it. Heck yes, count me in (agghh.... exciting!). I made a phone call to Sam who had a minor freak out, but I managed to persuade him that six months was pleeeenty of time to train (not too sure who I was actually trying to convince here) and before you know it four of us were now entered in MdS 2015. Three guys and one girl, I needed more female power! I knew just the person, so a Skype call to a friend in NZ, Jacq Manson (who also came with me and listened to Lisa talk) and our crew was now five. Team 'Running for Rangers' was formed!

Rangers protecting the Rhino. Image: Sam Taylor

How did we come up with name? Simple. As many of you are aware, Borana is home to the endangered Black Rhino, of which many hours are spent protecting these amazing animals. As with everything like this, there are substantial ongoing costs involved, so over the next six months, we aim to raise money and awareness to provide the rangers with the vital equipment they need to carry out this very demanding job successfully.

For the last five days that I have been here on Borana, Sam and I have run every morning with these guys. My routine involves being woken at seven with a cup of tea (I know, heaven!), pull on the sneakers and then head over to the Headquarters where we set off on our run. I am always met with lovely smiles and 'jambos'; you would never know these guys are just ending their working day having spent the entire night out watching and protecting the Rhino. They are amazing, and once again I am incredibly privileged to be helping in any way I can. So now it’s on to sponsorship, with the aim to raise as much as we can in the upcoming months. How many tea towels can one sell in the U.K…??

The serious training starts now (actually yesterday). I have just checked the MdS website; 203 days, 00 hours, 39 minutes and 34 seconds and counting. Best to shut that page down and check back again in a few months! Not too sure that the English winter is an ideal training environment, though I have read that I should wrap myself in rubbish bags when heading out for a run!

Over the next six months, I will bring you the highs and lows involved with training for this epic ultra. And if wrapping myself in plastic actually works. Oh, this is going to be amusing…

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