“The Transalpine Run is an extreme stage race across the Alps which takes place over eight days. It’s like running the equivalent of nearly a marathon a day from ski resort to ski resort and climbing a total of 16,000 metres of elevation – much of it above the snow line!
“You can run the race in pairs or in a team. I buddied up with my best friend Freddy who was up for an eight-day adventure together. I’d never run for more than three days before, so it was a bit of a step up and I hadn’t done much mountain running either…
“Each night you stay in sports halls where you bed down alongside everyone creaking and moaning as much as you. You can stay in hotels, but that didn’t seem quite the right spirit.
“Sadly, Freddy picked up an injury on day one, which by day five had deteriorated to the point where he had to drop out. I continued while he joined other runners who had to leave the race by cheering me on at key check points and sharing a few beers each evening.
“I made a major discovery on the Transalpine Run: after four days of mountain running my body stopped feeling stiff. I woke up on day five feeling great. Ever since, when I’ve done a multi-stage event, I know if I can get to day five I’ll be fine.
“The camaraderie and social atmosphere hold this event together. At the sharp end of the field they’re running for rankings. The rest of us just had an eight-day running holiday.
“It has a unique place in my heart and was the first to go into my book 50 Races To Run Before You Die.”
“When people ask me why I did it, I ask ‘why not’? I was as fit as I would ever be, I could take a sabbatical from work, I had a bike and The Andes were calling.
“I cycled with a companion and our aim was to cover the distance but take our time and immerse ourselves in our surroundings. It was a feat of endurance but not a race. Time was on my side and I planned the route and the daily distances to be sure to live every moment fully.
“I adore cycling – there is no better way to travel. I’d done a few 500-mile holidays and a 3,000 mile tour before but nothing on this scale. I averaged about 100k/65 miles a day, depending on the terrain, my energy and where I wanted to stop for the night. I had at least one day off in six and often more for sightseeing.
“I didn’t train specifically and learned to listen to my body and be aware of my range day by day. When you are fully loaded the physical experience is very different and riding becomes its own training.
“We were welcomed with curiosity and warmth everywhere: cycling is such a good conversation starter!
“The top of every hill was a highlight! I’d made it, the views were breathtaking and I could then sweep down the other side on a route clearly mapped out before me. There were surprises every day; every turn in the road brought something new.
“I felt immense satisfaction when it ended: I’d lived on my wits, overcome physical and mental obstacles and toughed out the challenging days.”
See Ruth’s story at her blog: www.contoursofacountry.com.
“I became the 715th person and the 229th woman since 1875 to swim the English Channel when I swam from Abbott’s Cliff to Wissant on the 24 July 2004. The swim took me 14 hours and 15 minutes and I started just after 3:00am.
“I’d wanted to swim the Channel from an early age, but various constraints kept me from attempting the challenge until 2004. Once I’d made the decision and the contacts to book a swim that year, I took my background as a pool swimmer, and applied what I’d learned from years of training for long-distance running events in order to prepare. It was exhausting, but I did it.
“I’m not sure why I did it again [in 2008]. All I can say is that I just felt like I had to! I didn’t tell many people beforehand (even my parents only found out just before I swam). I’d been training anyway, for something else (which didn’t end up happening), so I booked a Channel slot as a ‘just in case’ or maybe an ‘as well as’. Sometimes I like surprises.
“On an almost perfect day, I set off at 2:15am and swam for around three hours in the pitch dark before marine twilight started to light the sky. With my two Channel swimming friends and training partners on board my pilot boat, I swam for a total of 14 hours 27 minutes before standing (and promptly falling over!) on the sandy beach at Wissant. It wasn’t too far from where I landed the first time, actually, although I’d covered more ground because I swam on a Spring tide this time (as opposed to a neap).
“I saw: jellyfish, big tankers, bizarre swathes of seaweed, seagulls, ferries. I did not see: sewage, sharks, David Walliams, fish. The swim made me the 83rd person to swim the English Channel twice.”
Read more about Nicola’s journeys: www.thefitwriter.wordpress.com