APRIL 24, 2017: ROUGHING ITOUT AND PREPARING FOR THE WORLD’S HIGHEST MARATHON!
It’s about embracing the challenge, time and again. Take the 777 Marathon Challenge, in which we competed last February. By “we”,
I mean ‘The Omni Athletes’, a team of four guys: my brother, my two best friends and myself. The 777 Marathon Challenge is a multi-event marathon competition that involves completing seven full marathon races on seven continents in seven days. And we did it all to raise funds for a gravely ill Syrian baby called Hajar.
The total running distance is 295 kilometres. Having started out in Melbourne, we were off to Abu Dhabi the next day, followed by Paris, Tunisia, New York City, the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, and, on the final day, King George’s Island, 75 kilometres off the Antarctic coast.
The 777 Marathon Challenge is, in one word, gruelling, both mentally (due to the constantly changing time zones) and physically, not least because of the limited time you get to recover between each event. You need to use your time on the plane to the next destination to recover, have a decent meal and catch up on sleep – which I can tell you is not easy! This also messes with the preparation process, as we had a fixed training schedule to which we committed six days a week. Besides helping Hajar to get more and better treatment, our team also demonstrated that no matter what you’re trying to achieve, you can do it – don’t let anything hold you back!
Our next challenge is the Mount Everest: the Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon, to be exact, the world’s highest marathon.
It’s a trail run across the Himalaya Mountains, with the highest point, Kalapatthar, located at 5,545 metres. I’m really looking forward to it. Here, too, we’re competing for a good cause. Since we’re expected to reach a relatively high point within a short space of time, good preparation is essential. I use a special oxygen mask at least twice a week – for example, when I’m working from home or when using the treadmill. I also sleep in an altitude tent (i.e. an oxygen tent). You can adjust the level of the generator, so I’m currently at an altitude of 4,000 metres, acclimatising from 1,500 metres.
I move this up by 300 metres or more a day, depending on how my body responds to each level. I monitor this very closely using an oxygen meter, since the oxygen level should not fall below a certain percentage. If this does happen, I turn the meter down a notch. During my training (for example on an incline trainer, which I set to 40%), I focus on timing rather than distance. My goal is to get the level up to more than 5,000 metres by the time I leave the Netherlands on the 5th of May – a date that’s getting dangerously close! We head for base camp on May 12th and are due to start the marathon on the 15th.