UoB Alumni to take on 156-mile Marathon Des Sables

Sport Editor, Nicky Withers, interviews two Bristol Alumni who are set to take on one of the world's toughest challenges.

This April will see two Bristol alumni tackle the challenge of a lifetime in the form of the Marathon Des Sables (marathon of the sands). Jamie Kelly and Ed Beazley, who both graduated in 2017, are taking on the six day, 156 mile challenge through the Sahara Desert to raise money for two charities. I spoke to Jamie Kelly about why on earth they’re taking on this insane challenge.

Have fun and be proud of this personal challenge 🌵 💥 #MDS

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NW: What inspired you to take on this event?

I first heard about the MDS aged 10 when a teacher at school did a talk on the event having just completed it, his name was Shem Banbury. I hope that somehow he comes across this, no doubt it would make him smile.

Ed was more keen to sign up and knew that I might be persuadable after a few too many pints so after a number of weeks of persuasion, the decision to actually sign up for the event occurred in the Brass Pig on a Monday night around June 2017.

NW: Have either of you done anything like this before?

We have both done a handful of marathons over the years but nothing as challenging as this. The amount of time and dedication it takes to prepare oneself mentally and physically for this event should not be overlooked.

Courage for this new adventure!... #MDS ☀️

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NW: How on earth do you prepare for it?

Preparation for this event comes in comes in a number of stages. The first is to get ‘running fit’. By this I mean to the point where we could fairly comfortably run a marathon. Beyond this, we then trained with bags of rice in our rucksacks in order to prepare for the weight of our kit bag. Combining these two has hopefully enabled ourselves to be fit as well as strong enough.

We have found that time on feet is paramount as our feet will be carrying us all 160 miles. We have embarked on numerous weekend trips where we have done a combination of hill walking and running for up to 30 miles a day. Finding the time to train for this whilst holding up a job has proved somewhat challenging!

The final stages of the preparation comes in the form of heat acclimatising. The two methods of this without going to a hot country and running in the heat are Bikram Yoga and Heat Chambers. Bikram Yoga is essentially a series of yoga exercises in a room with temperatures up to 40 Degrees. The Heat Chambers (sound fairly horrible) is a small room with similar temperatures to the Bikram yoga but we run on a treadmill.

The idea behind this madness is that after a few sessions your core body temperatures gradually acclimatises to the heat and your heart rate drops thus meaning that the body doesn't have to exert as much effort whilst running in the heat. These sessions happen in Kingston University where they have a heat acclimatising centre.

NW: What are you planning on packing?

During the week we carry all of our food and kit. This means that the less you take the lighter your bag will be throughout the week. As a result, the weight of everything you take counts for a lot. Every item and pack of food is measured down to the last gram. The minimum weight of each competitors bag is 6.5 kg. We are using a company called Expedition foods that produce lightweight highly calorific foods such as spaghetti bolognese and porridge. We cook each morning and evening using a small stove and snack on foods such as peanuts and beef jerky throughout the course of the day. Aside from food we will also be taking numerous blister plasters, vaseline, suncream, sleeping bag and roll mat. We are also required to take a small first aid kit, emergency flare and pen knife.

NW: Is there a personal significance to the charities you’re supporting?

I decided to take part in this challenge because I needed a reason to raise as much money as I can for WWTW (Walking With The Wounded), a charity close to my family and one that works extremely hard to help rebuild the lives of ex veterans across the country. The effects of war have long term impacts on the human body, both physically and mentally and often these are invisible on the outside.

Many ex veterans without a home, a job or external support are put back on their feet through a number of successful programs run by WWTW. I have met a number of people whose lives have been turned around by WWTW and doing the MDS this has given me opportunity to make a huge impact on many people’s lives, both now and in the future.

NW: What is your fundraising target?

I am trying to raise £15,000. An ambitious target that is very much achievable through the help of so many individual’s kind enough to offer a bit of support. Every pound adds up and can go a very long way.

NW: How can people sponsor you?

Here is the link to my Virgin Giving page. If you have been kind enough to read this far, thank you! Please donate if you can, it would mean a huge amount.

Ed is running for Anthony Nolan, a fantastic charity that is very close to his family as he very sadly lost his father in 2013.

Every day, Anthony Nolan saves the lives of people with a blood cancer or blood disorder. They do this by matching incredible individuals willing to donate their stem cells, to people who desperately need a lifesaving transplant. They also carry out cutting edge scientific research, fund specialist post-transplant nurses and support patients and their families through the transplant process and beyond. They won’t stop until they save the lives of everyone who needs a stem cell transplant. Every penny you donate brings them closer to that day.

If you'd like to know a bit more about the incredible work that Anthony Nolan do please have a look at their website.

Featured Image: Epigram // Sarah Beazley

If you are in awe of their 156 mile, desert-conquering mission donate to Jamie's cause here and Ed's cause here.

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