Time really flies. It feels like yesterday when the start of the 2014 Last Desert Race in Antarctica was still 200 days away. And now it is just 150 days to go…
The urgency around my preparations for the race will increase dramatically in coming weeks. Preparing to run 250km in the snow of Antarctica, and meeting all the goals of my awareness-raising and fundraising campaign in support of Greenpeace Africa, will be more challenging than any of my previous deserts races and fundraising campaigns.
As a result of my participation in a number of desert races over the past few years (maybe a few too many), I have struggled with various injuries and niggles in recent times. Wear and tear, and old age, are not a good combination when you participate in multi-stage events in extreme conditions. So, the race in Antarctica – the Last Desert Race – might also be my last desert race. But let’s see what happens, because once you are a desert runner, there is always another challenge in a remote part of the world waiting to be conquered.
Many people ask me how I will train and prepare for running in the snow in Antarctica at below freezing temperatures.
I am currently on a business trip in a hot and humid Lagos, Nigeria – not ideal training conditions for Antarctica. Living in Africa sometimes has its limitations – we are not blessed with many snowy conditions on a regular basis in easy accessible places! I have not run in really cold conditions, other than early morning winter runs on the Highveld and when it started snowing on day three of the 2013 Namaqua Quest Trail Run. But these experiences are insignificant when compared to the -20 or -30°C temperatures expected during the race in Antarctica.
I know Ryan Sandes trained in an ice chamber in Cape Town before the 2010 Last Desert Race, which he ultimately won. If a similar option is available to me, I will definitely pursue it where possible. Otherwise, my training programme over the next five months will entail lots of running (obviously), building up to a period of intensive training in September and October. At the same time, it is also important not to get injured during this period. Beyond the physical training and preparations, I hope that the experience gained from participating in many multi-sage desert races will also help me overcome both the physical and mental challenges associated with completing the Last Desert Race.
Closely linked to doing the necessary training for the race is the importance of having the right gear and equipment for the unique circumstances which participants will experience in Antarctica. All participants have already received the compulsory gear and equipment list for the race, which includes items such as special sleeping bags, snow goggles, etc. Antarctica is an amazing and unique place, but it is very remote and keeping everyone safe is the first priority of the race organisers. Participants arriving without a mandatory equipment item will receive a time penalty and/or may not be allowed to start the race. I will write more about this closer to the race.
Ultimately, going to Antarctica is about much more than running in the snow. I am dedicating my participation in the Last Desert Race to the work of Greenpeace, and specifically Greenpeace Africa.
My campaign with Greenpeace started on 15 April 2014 – exactly 200 days to the start of the race. In recent weeks we had a number of meetings to discuss the awareness-raising, media and fundraising components of the campaign, and I also had the opportunity of speaking to the Greenpeace Africa staff about the race and how I hope to support their work through my efforts.
Going forward, I will write regular articles about the race and the strategic priorities of Greenpeace Africa. I will also work with the Greenpeace Africa fundraising team in implementing a fundraising campaign linked to my participation in the race – our aim is to raise R250 000, and the Greenpeace Africa media team on a set of issues which will be profiled before and during the race.
I’m excited about this challenge, and invite you to join me on this journey and support the work of Greenpeace Africa.