Running Marathon des Sables

Yes, the one in the Sahara

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You know you love running when embarking on a 230km race in the hostile heat of the Sahara surrounded by sand and scorpions sounds like a challenge you cant wait to face.

Enter 29-year-old hair stylist Sophie Grant - she loves running – we spoke to her as she prepared to take on the toughest footrace on earth.

When did you start running?

About 8 years ago, at first I could only run for 15 minutes!

And now you're taking part in a grueling marathon in the 100 degree Sahara desert?

I just fell in love with running and after a while it stopped being a chore and became time that I treasured. I also realised I could combine running and travelling to amazing places. My fiancé entered me in the Marathon se Sables as a surprise birthday present, I was ecstatic - everyone else thought it was cruel!

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How many km is the race?

Approximately 230km and I would love to complete it in under 30hrs. They change the course every year but we are guaranteed lots of sun, sand dunes and a grueling 80 km long stage on the 4th day.

What are you taking with you?

Not much - around 16000 calories of food in the form of energy gels, dehydrated meals and powdered carbohydrate, ultra lightweight wind jackets and trousers. Every item has been weighed and stripped of any excess. The compulsory kit consists of anti venom pump, sleeping bag, distress flare, blister kit and cooking supplies. All in my 15 litre pack weighs 6.8kg, which is just above the minimum of 6.5kg

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Is there any space in your backpack for a luxury?

The only luxury item I am taking is a great camera, I could have left this out or got a lighter one but I think it is worth the weight (240g) to capture and share this incredible experience.

How do you prepare for the heat?

My amazing fiancé built me a heat chamber in our garage so I could acclimatise to the hotter temperature. I’ve actually enjoyed running on the treadmill in the 40 degree heat whilst it’s snowing outside!

What are you most scared of?

Blisters and scorpions.

How has running changed your attitude towards your body?

I was a size 16 when I first started running and I am now a size 10 but it has done much more for me than help me lose weight. I really enjoy being strong and fit and knowing I can go the distance, no matter what is thrown at me.

Do you listen to music while you run?

Drum and bass like Netsky makes me run fast and Fat Freddy's Drop is great when I don’t want bass pounding in my head.

What will keep you going when you feel like you can't go on?

When I was younger and hiking with my family my dad used to tell me to 'dig it in' so that’s what I say to myself when it gets tough.

How do you intend to celebrate once you have completed the race?

With lots of good red wine and then hopefully running the London Marathon the next week if my feet are OK!

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