Here at Camps we’re a travel-loving bunch who love getting outdoors and are always up for new adventures. No-one more so than our Global Operations Manager Sharon, who is never afraid to take on even the toughest of challenges and inspires everyone around her to push the limits of their comfort zone too.
Today she jets off to Morocco to take part in the Marathon des Sables, billed as ‘The Toughest Footrace on Earth’, raising money for two charities close to her heart along the way – the Motor Neurone Diseases Association as well as our very own Camps Foundation.
We managed to catch her before she set off to ask her all about this incredible journey and what she’ll be getting up to out in the desert.
Tell us about the Marathon des Sables and what it entails.
It’s a stage race that takes place in the Sahara Desert. It’s billed as ‘The Toughest Footrace on Earth’ and no one seems to disagree. In a nutshell, competitors run, walk or crawl the equivalent of six marathons in six days (250km/150m). The first three days are roughly a marathon per day; the fourth day is a double marathon day and depending on how long it takes to complete the ‘long day’ you get the rest of day five to recover before another marathon on day six. Day seven is a cheeky 10-15 km charity stage but it is compulsory and you don’t get a medal unless you complete it. To add to the challenge, competitors must be self-sufficient and carry their food and equipment (except a tent) for all seven days. Water is provided at various checkpoints. About 1,000 people from all over the world are taking part this year.
Training in the heat chamber at Chichester University
Obviously you didn’t just go straight from running novice to an MdS participant! Tell us a bit about what you’ve done before and what’s inspired you to take on this particular challenge.
I’ve always been sporty (mostly netball) and before I joined Camps International full time I was Head of PE. I’ve always been outdoorsy too (mostly mountaineering and skiing). I don’t think of myself as a runner but I have always run. I have completed eight marathons so far although these were dotted over several years rather than squeezed into one week! I love a challenge and especially one that tests my limits. In 2016, I completed the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race which involved paddling 125 miles non-stop in a double kayak.
I first learned about the MdS when I watched the James Cracknell documentary about 6 years ago and I thought that looks awesome! However, it’s really expensive to enter and I couldn’t afford it. To be honest, I still can’t but last year I decided that I wasn’t getting any younger (and neither were my knees) and that if I was going to do it I should just get on with it so I entered and have been saving my pennies ever since! I’d rather have a lifetime of amazing experiences than a house full of stuff.
The kit bag Sharon will be running with for the entire race
What are you most looking forward to?
Meeting other competitors and experiencing the variety of the desert.
What do you think is going to be the toughest part?
Keeping the sand out of my shoes and toes!
Who are you fundraising for and how has your fundraising gone so far?
I’m fundraising for the Camps Foundation and the Motor Neurone Diseases Association. Both are charities that I know make a real difference to the people they support but obviously in very different ways. I’m not very pushy when it comes to fundraising and I guess I haven’t been to explicit about the scale of the challenge but as the race has got closer and I’ve shared more detail the donations have become more frequent. I am blown away by the generosity of everyone.
What’s your advice to someone thinking of taking on a big challenge?
Do it! Do your homework, and prepare as best you can, but don’t let fear of failure stop you trying! I have a motto I saw on a postcard once, it said…”Always do what you think you might regret not doing”.
How can we follow your progress?
You can track me online via the Marathon des Sables official website (click here to check it out). My bib number is 383. It’s all about staying ahead of the camels, there are two that follow at the back of the race however, if they overtake you, you’re pulled out!
If you’d like to support Sharon in undertaking this amazing challenge, you can donate through her Just Giving page here. All funds collected by the Camps Foundation will go directly to support our community, wildlife and environmental projects around the world.
From all of us here at Camps International we wish Sharon the very best of luck – watch this space for updates on her progress in the desert soon.