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Wednesday May 10, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI's Catie Friend, is taking on the challenge of her life. Training through the summer in the mountains, she's doing the Half Marathon des Sables in Fuerteventura in September. NEW

The course is 120km long, in three stages, over four days.

Athletes must be totally self-sufficient and the challenging terrain takes them across beaches and dunes of the Canary Island of Fuerteventura as well as over volcanoes.

How did someone who didn't take up sport until she was nearly 40 end up thinking that this was a good idea?

Half MdS in FuerteventuraHalf MdS in Fuerteventura










One memorable evening in 2002, during the hazy days of working hard and partying harder, I heard the very inspirational Chris Moon speak about his experience of running the Marathon des Sables (MdS) after having lost an arm and a leg in a land mine explosion.

For the uninitiated, the MdS is a 250km race spread over six stages in the searing heat of the Sahara and is dubbed the "toughest foot race on earth".

Not for the faint-hearted, competitors have to carry all their own food and kit and sleep in communal bivouacs, whilst contending with horrific blisters, dehydration and a multitude of other discomforts.

His was a heart-wrenching tale of self-belief and perseverance against the odds and I was completely inspired - for about two days.

And then, because it's all I knew, I carried on working crazy hours and partying.

I didn't "do sport" and certainly not at that level.

Fast forward a few years and two things happened to change that; firstly, I had my kids and secondly, my insanely sporty husband and I moved to the Alps.

Suddenly, the tall, slim genes I had been born with weren't quite strong enough to battle the totally unexpected baby weight and I found myself surrounded by glorious, accessible terrain and, most importantly, by people who took advantage of it every single day.

The turning point came when I saw my friend, lifelong un-sporty person and mum of two, take up running and become really hooked and happy.

So I started road biking, for which it turns out long limbs are quite useful.

Catie FriendCatie Friend
















I loved it from the beginning but couldn't do more than ten minutes up a slight incline without stopping or whinging.

The feeling of exhilaration when I finally made it to the top of that first hill, without stopping, was incredible.

Sa ColobraSa Colobra




















That was five years ago and subsequently my body shape has changed, my attitude has changed and, after several phenomenal winter seasons of ski mountaineering, I now know what it is like to go on "the journey" that athletes of all abilities talk about.

St BernardSt Bernard




















However, I still have long periods where I do very little.

What I need is a BIG SCARY goal to sharpen my focus.

Which leads me onto my crazy-town plan.

Fifteen years after first being fascinated by the Marathon des Sables, I have taken the relative baby step of entering the first ever Half MdS in Fuerteventura this September.

A mere 120km over 3 stages, with the same self-sufficiency, it is the entry level MdS, but will be the mother of all challenges for me.

These are the things I feel three days after I made my decision: shocked (how did this even happen?), a bit self conscious (will people think I'm mad/stupid/incapable? Will they snigger if I fail?), worried (will my dodgy knees and hips and my notoriously easily blistered feet hold out?), proud and determined (because, well, why not?).

Weirdly, though, I am not scared.

I feel like I should be, but maybe the enormity of it just hasn't sunk in yet.

So, why am I doing it?

I will get blisters and lose toenails.

I will sweat buckets and cry and I will definitely be very scared on the start line.

I know it's a cliché, but it's because I really really want to see if I can do it.

I want to recreate that feeling I got the first time I made it up the hill on my bike without stopping.

I would like my kids to be inspired.

Partcularly, I want my daughter to remember that Mummy did something completely mental and not be afraid to challenge herself.

Catie FriendCatie Friend




















There is one last reason.

Last year my running friend, who finally inspired me to take all this up, lost her mum, Liz, after a short and aggressive battle with cancer.

She was only 64.

In the savagely short time she had between diagnosis and losing the fight, she never, ever, not once in the whole time the hideous disease wracked her body, complained or moaned or gave up.

Right until the end, she remained positive and fought on.

The injustice of it made me sad and angry but it also gave me a lot to think about.

Again, forgive the cliché but it really made me want to live life to the best of my ability.

So, with the permission of Liz's family, I will be shuffling through the arid landscape of Fuerteventura in her memory and I am hoping to raise some money for the charity that helped get her home to spend the last few days with her loved ones.

I will try not to complain or moan or give up.

I also happen to know that, despite high levels of running fitness, Liz shared the same "princess feet" affliction as me and would be very sympathetic of the inevitable blisters!

Now I have my big scary goal and the training has begun in earnest.

I am not a whippet-like trail runner (those long limbs don't allow for that) so there is a good chance I will be on the course for a VERY long time over the four days.

The former party girl will definitely make an appearance once it is all over, only this time I will probably be wearing slippers rather than six-inch heels.

Catie FriendCatie Friend
















Catie will be running in aid of The British Red Cross - if you want to donate then see here.

Half MdS in FuerteventuraHalf MdS in Fuerteventura















See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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