How the mind carried the body throughout a 240 km race
Following fellow Mr Stirrat’s unique journey amongst the scorching Sahara dunes from start to finish, the role of a strong mindset will never appear so vital.
How would the idea of running a 240 km marathon in the baking dunes of the Sahara Desert appeal to you? For most people, this challenge lies way beyond their capabilities. Every year in the Southern Sahara Desert in Morocco, the ultra marathon of 240 km is held over the course of 6 days. Its harsh extremities, challenges and unique landscapes the marathon offers, attract over 45 nationalities and 900 runners internationally, to compete annually. Through the scorching sands and dunes, running in temperatures varying up to 50 degrees, this marathon appears to be the ultimate challenge to take on, providing each individual the opportunity to discover one’s’ abilities and capacity to endure through such extremities.
Throughout this article, we will depict the journey of a UWCSEA maths teacher, Mr Stirrat, and his experience of participating in this marathon, amongst the ultimate challenges he faced throughout. From a young age till now, Mr Stirrat always enjoyed running both as a form of relaxation and competition, every year seeking a new challenge to face. One factor that strongly influenced Mr Stirrat to take on this challenge in 2014, was UWCSEA. He said how in comparison to other places he’d previously lived and worked in, UWCSEA had inspired and given him the most initiative to take such extreme risks.
Mudstacle.com – the Sahara Summit
The ultimate preconceptions
Mr Stirrat had long known beforehand that this ultra marathon would be a challenging one. Thus, huge amounts of time, dedication and sacrifices were yet to be made in order to be best prepared. Financially, this race was at high cost- savings and investments were mandatory to purchase all necessary equipments including a tent, daypack, bottles and more. Being a self-sufficient race, Mr Stirrat had to ensure he would be physically capable of carrying such equipments throughout the race, at all costs. Whilst many months of preparation and training in advance would appear orderly prior to such race, Mr Stirrat stated how his training consisted of 5 months training beforehand. He chose to train this way as he wanted to maintain utmost focus throughout the whole course of the training without any distractions, over this short span of 5 months. Whilst some wouldn’t go down this path, Mr Stirrat stated it was an effective, suitable training for him.
As he trained, Mr Stirrat had to make sacrifices, giving up football, dedicating his time to running. Other forms of activity at lower intensity such as swimming and cycling appeared as useful alternatives from constant, hardcore running. Mr Stirrat emphasised the importance of “maintaining a strict and balanced diet”. This meant incorporating a variety of superfoods such as kale, and high consumption of nutrient rich foods containing fibers, proteins, and vitamins. Other forms of fats, carbohydrates or sugars were eliminated, including alcohol.
The journey: Depicted
Having covered the essential backstory to Mr Stirrat’s training, we will now look further into his experience and emotions throughout the race. Now, upon personal reflection, Mr Stirrat would portray his feelings as an “emotional roller coaster”, with ultimate peaks and troughs.
Prior to his first impressions and encounters of the atmosphere, people and scenery, Mr Stirrat described the race as a “Romantic Vision”, the scenario and landscapes so unique and unconditionally real to be experiencing. However, despite his positive approach and adrenaline towards the race, Mr Stirrat simultaneously asked himself “Can I start, and finish alive?” Was this hard work all worth it? Well, that could only be answered later.
The first two days of the marathon began on a high for Mr Stirrat, at peak confidence. Having engaged in 5 hours of running on the gentle dunes, he claimed to have coped well, both physically and mentally. Similarly, having run a slightly further distance over more time on the second day, Mr Stirrat sustained his optimism, despite the underlying challenges. Consuming an average of 3000 calories and limited to 5L of water daily, it appeared crucial to sustain such endurance and great resistance through such conditions, with a positive mindset.
It was on the third day of the race that Mr Stirrat’s self-esteem fell terribly low. After collapsing under a shaded tree, suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration, such conditions lowered his overall impulse and motivation towards the race. At this point in time, Mr Stirrat had specified, “I nearly gave up on the race”. Experiencing such extremities and discomfort amongst running 38 km in 7 hours, Mr Stirrat found it inevitably difficult to endure through such challenges. Lack of grit and determination was engraved into his mindset, restraining him from pushing any further. The importance of a positive mindset here was crucial, as the mind undeniably had the potential power to surpass the physical incapability, enduring through it. It was one of his friends made amongst the journey who helped him get right back up to his feet, pushing Mr Stirrat past his limits, tolerating the pain.
Fstoppers.com – the extreme conditions of le Marathon des Sables
Having eventually reached the last benchmark in which a medical tent was located, Mr Stirrat started to take immediate consciousness of the surroundings around him. Observations of people suffering through harder conditions than him, such as one almost experiencing a heart attack, he realised that his case held such little concern and importance, comparatively to other patients. He’d personally acknowledged he wasn’t “suffering”, but his body was simply fatigued, knowing that the mind was the one thing capable to carry it throughout the remaining of the race. All he needed was to reestablish and enforce his approach, starting off strong again and striving to succeed. Alongside a drip that boosted his energy levels and physical form, Mr Stirrat rose again, stronger than ever, envisioning a successful finish.
Telegraph.co.uk – the Sahara’s extremities
A strong mind leads to a strong finish
As pledged prior to this great downfall of self esteem and resilience, Mr Stirrat finished the remaining days on a high. The following day having partially recovered from his exhaustion, he stated to have “cautious optimism”, with a positive vision over the following obstacles to come. The last days were plenty of contentedness and overwhelming joy, of having completed such a tiresome, staggering race.
When facing such difficulties in tough situations, we see how the role of a positive, healthy mindset plays great importance when striving to finish what you started. Personally, being a young runner participating in many races and intense competition, sustaining a determined mindset has always helped me in moments of complete doubt and exhaustion, encouraging me to never give up. Relating to Mr Stirrat’s fascinating story, we see the importance of a good mental approach towards all challenges is crucial. This, undoubtedly, is an important life lesson for all.
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