I can’t believe it is nearly upon me!  We are now in single digits counting down.  It seems like forever ago that my husband, Dion, and I signed up to complete a relatively unknown Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon.  It is a self-sufficiency run held over six legs in seven days with set distances for each day, ranging from 28km to 75km.  we have to carry all our own supplies, clothes and compulsory safety/survival equipment for the duration of the event.  Overnight shelter in camps, and water, which is strictly controlled and distributed during the race, is supplied.  The event goes way beyond merely covering 250 kilometres in extreme conditions; it is a challenge to get past what normal people would regard as crazy, and achieve one’s personal goals.  The route details are only given to the participants on the day of registration, so there is no unfair advantage in planning.  The route is marked throughout the course, and offers a great contrast for everyone, with landscapes from fertile vineyards to the rocky outcrops, the vast outstretches of the Kalahari Desert, with temperatures varying from mid 40 degrees Celsius during the day to single figures in the evenings.

So why do it you ask?  Well why not really!  Dion had bought me a book for my birthday last year, The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges, so I took that as a hint, A – for me to do something bigger, and B – that he was keen to join me 🙂

The book that started it all!
The book that started it all!

As you might see on some of my previous blogs that training has had its highs and lows, more highs than lows thankfully, and it has been sporadic to say the least especially of late with changing jobs and half moving to Edinburgh with Dion still in Manchester.  A turning point came when we ran the Bacchus Marathon in September (read my review here), to be fair it was a fun marathon with wine every 2 miles, but it was hilly and hot.  We ran with a friend for his first ever so it was a gently pace with plenty of stops, obviously, but after we finished we were both full of beans still, dancing around to the live music and we even ran the 1.5miles back to the hotel.  That really showed me that my fitness has dramatically improved and I feel ready to face The Kalahari!   The training has all been about cross training too, not just running, otherwise I feel I would burn out and be prone to injury, so I have been doing  a lot of cycling, cross fit and most recently Bikram yoga (which I am hoping will help me acclimatise).  See my training plan for further details of what exactly I have been doing to prepare.

Out for a great ride around Mellor near Manchester
Out for a great ride around Mellor near Manchester

Edinburgh has been great for some hill running, of which Manchester itself is not renowned for!  And I have been running with rice in my little Inov8 rucksack, weighing in at 5kg.  The last couple of weeks I have done my runs with my actual pack, packed with all my bits, weighing in at 8.5kg dry weight.  I still need to review this on the weekend and hopefully lose another 300-500g, as I still need to add 3kg of water to this.  The more the pack weighs the harder it is going to be!  After doing  a lot of research, it appears, optimal pack weight is about 12% of your total body weight.  So I am just about right, as I weigh 72kg, so my pack should be 8.64kg in total.  Obviously the pack will go down each day as I eat my food and use my toilet paper!  There is not much in there apart from food.  I have my food taking up most of my pack, then I have a pair of hotel slippers to wear at night (they hardly weigh anything), little shorts, crop top & singlet for when sitting around after running, then compression long sleeve pants & top for the evenings and to sleep in, 2 buffs (1 to wear and 1 to put around my water bottle wet, apparently this is the only way to keep the water coolish), sleeping bag, sleeping mat, sleeping bag liner, blow up pillow, first aid kit, salt tablets, head torch, walking poles (my knees struggle on steep descents especially when tired), 1 pair of socks, mini deo, moisturiser, nurofen, 50+sunscreen, insect spray, toilet paper, Esbit cup (for boiling water) and then I still need to add a camera, watch and Ipod.  As you can see there are very few luxuries included.  For the ladies out there, I am planning on waxing my legs and underarms before I go as the thought of being all hairy and stubbly along with not having a shower for a week drives me crazy!  Obviously I will have my kit on, so I am wearing 2XU shorts, X-Bionic top, Shock Absorber sports bra, New Balance Leadville trainers (see my review here), Injinji toe socks and then knee length compression socks over the top, hat & sunglasses.

Running with my 8.5kg pack around Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh
Running with my 8.5kg pack around Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh
Some of the bits I have been packing
Some of the bits I have been packing

We fly out on Tuesday 19th to Jo’Burg, and from there make our way to the Kalahari.  We start running on Saturday 19th October and you can keep track of us by checking out the Kalahari Website http://www.extrememarathons.com/ and you can email us messages to runners@extrememarathons.com just make sure you put my name Lucja Leonard and my bib number 282 in the subject field or for Dion Leonard bib number 280.  We should get the messages about 24hrs after you send it, and I get the feeling it will make a world of difference to get a message of support along the way.

We are raising money for Pancreatic Cancer as we lost Dion’s father to this horrible disease a couple of years ago, and most recently his boss & mentor as well.  Please visit www.justgiving.com/dionleonard Any donations are greatly appreciated to help this very worthy cause.

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