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From first 5km to Marathon des Sables in just 2 years #RunWithMe

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Posted by Rose K of Walking With The Wounded under Ultrarunning on 19 May 2014 at 11:00 PM

Rose K MdS Runner

Rose Kingscote is an old-timer here at Tribesports, since joining in 2012 she discovered running in mass-participation events. Whilst Rose was always sporty, she ran her first official 5km race in 2012 and in just 2 years has now completed the Marathon des Sables, raising over £18,000 for Walking With The Wounded.

We caught up with Rose to find out what made her take on this epic Challenge!

First off, can you outline your running experience before you entered the Marathon des Sables?

In October 2013 I completed my first half marathon. I have always been active; cycling to work and doing the odd sportive and cycling to Paris. I had done several 5k’s and a few mud runs. I was not a professional ultra runner that is for sure!

Usually runners will have to wait 1 or 2 years to secure their place and fundraising - what made you decide to take on this challenge with only 6 months to prepare?

I had always had MDS in my sights but hadn’t yet registered my interest or entered. Several events happened all in one day which gave me no choice but to do it:

  1. One of my greatest friends called me to tell me she had cancer, it was everywhere. Because of her determination and strength she had plugged on with life and when the disease was finally found it was too late. She had months to live and sadly died 2 weeks before I headed to the desert.

  2. Later that afternoon I received another call saying one of my school friends had committed suicide. Why was life being taken from these girls so soon? From that moment on I vowed to myself that in honour of my beautiful friends I would live my life to the fullest as they never had the chance.

  3. That evening I discovered Walking with the Wounded had a space in the MDS. It wasn’t much time until the actual race (106 days) but having learnt all too painfully that day, life is precious and you should grab opportunities and seize the challenges. It wasn’t about me, it was for my girls so that day I got stuck into my desert preparation.

You teamed up with Rory Coleman to help with your training - what did that involve?

Food Supplies for MdSHaving signed up with very little experience and not much time I thought it would be best to go to the expert. Rory had completed the MDS 10 times (now 11!). There is little he doesn’t know about it. I jumped on a train to Cardiff to spend the day with him. He started off giving me an overview of the race itself, the history and what makes it ‘the toughest footrace on the planet’. We then went into his dedicated MDS room in his house where he has all his kit laid out – we went through the entire compulsory kit list and how to get it as light as possible. Rory is a stickler for weight, your bag must be as light as possible. He encouraged me to go to the extreme of especially ordering a 200Euro note (we have to carry this on us at all times) instead of 4x 50Euro notes - this would save 4g. 

We then went through the training, we worked together to write out a comprehensive plan from November to January. The focus on getting fit and losing weight - the less weight you carry (in your bag and on your body) the better. 

I lost just over a stone, taking me from 10.2 Stone to 8.10 Stone in around 5 months. I didn’t cut down the quantity of food but was very careful about what I did eat. The average day would look like this:

  • Breakfast: Porridge (about 3 table spoons dry) with water, 1 banana, Coffee.

  • Snack: Apple

  • Lunch: Protein – chicken (no skin) mainly but sometimes eggs, lots of veg – mainly kale, spinach. Sometimes I would have  chunky soup but was very careful that there were not too many calories, some of the ready made ones you can buy in the shops are full of calories!

  • Supper: Chicken/Fish or steak, mountains of veg.

Each day, I would aim to be eating 5 portions of veg and 2 fruit.

Other rules to follow:

  • No drink apart from coffee or water
  • No sugar 
  • No alcohol
  • Carbs only at breakfast (unless running a long distance the next day)

This was mainly what I stuck to during the week. I would usually eat a bit more the night before my long weekend runs but not that much more, maybe just adding a sweet potato to supper.

During the actual running I would experiment with what I wanted to take with me to the desert.

Salty food - freeze dry spag bol

This is my Expedition Food - in the comfort of my kitchen, I wasn't that keen on it, in the desert, these 800 calorie bags were like fine cuisine!

There are some very strict guidelines on what you need to take with you for the race, can you run us through it?

The main reason for the compulsory kit list is to ensure we were safe. Most things on the list were not needed but that may be because I was lucky – if I had been bitten by a snake I would have been glad to have my venom pump, as it was I didn’t see a single bit of wildlife the whole week.

What was absolutely necessary were the salt tablets, we were instructed by the medical team to take them every 30 minutes which I stuck to religiously. I did see a few people in very bad ways and it was usually due to the lack of salt. 

How did you decide what to wear for the challenge? 

Rose Kingscote Marathon des Sables trainingIt is very hard to decide what to wear in the desert with an average temperature of 50 degrees when most of your training is in sub zero temperatures while being snowed on.. It did take a lot of experimenting to find something that is just right. I had decided from the beginning that I was going to go long sleeved – the Sahara sun is too hot to gamble with, best to cover up.

I went for the long sleeved Tribesports tech tee - it is super light and the seams were comfortable, I didn’t want to run the risk of any rubbing. I was very happy with my decision, however after 7 days in the desert I did override the anti oder technology… I smelt baaad, but it wouldn’t be MDS unless you came back stinking!!

What sort of distances were you running each week of your training?

With my training I tried to shake things up a bit. Firstly to save myself from injury – pounding the pavements isn’t the best for the old knees but to also prevent boredom. I varied between running short distances but upping the speed or long, slow runs. There are so many elements to prepare for: food, trainers, rucksack, water etc… so that was all factored in when deciding my training plan. 

Rose K training run

On several occasions I ran 20 miles a day for 5 days in a row to up my endurance.  Which would then be followed by 3 days of complete rest. Other weeks I would concentrate more on strength by doing pilates. 

Of course, the extreme distances are just a small part of the MdS challenge - how do you prepare for the heat and the self-navigation?

Marathon des Sables training - heat chambersHeat was a big concern, I am not good when it gets hot – this is something that passed me by when making the decision to do this! I had heard horror stories of super fit competitors heading to the desert and wilting in the heat. I saw this as a huge priority so decided to take my heat acclimatisation very seriously. As you only stay acclimatised to heat for about 2 weeks I booked in several heat chamber session in the final days leading up to me departing for the desert. There is a heat chamber at Kingston University which allowed me to run for an hour in 45 degrees. In hindsight I would have wanted to train in 50+ as it was that hot in the desert and even after a lot of heat training I found the extreme temperatures hard. 

Another thing the heat training helped with was the food – it tastes very different when you are that hot. The first thing I did after my debut session was eat an entire packet of salami in about 5 seconds – because of this I made sure my food was of the salty variety!

Heat Chamber training

Heat Chamber Training

Self-Navigation… that is a different story. My dad gave me one compass reading lesson where I headed happily off in the completely wrong direction. Luckily I wasn’t in the lead at any point in the race (surprisingly) so I always had someone to follow.

Once you landed in Morocco, what was going through your mind?

LETS DO THIS!! People often ask me what the hardest thing was about all of this and my answer is: getting there. Once I was in the desert, to me all I had to do was put one foot in front of each other and repeat. It was so much work getting there but once in the desert, all my kit was prepared and ready, my food was in daily bags and I had done all my training. Excitement hit me the moment I got to Gatwick and saw all my fellow competitors – I was going on an adventure!!

Rose K with Walking With The Wounded MdS team

We'll be catching up on part 2 of Rose's journey later this week - for now, check her awesome photo albums in the Marathon Des Sables Runners Tribe!

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