After meeting ultra marathon runner Mimi Anderson last year we decided to catch up with her and see where her latest adventures have taken her.
My latest adventure took place in South Africa, running 2000km along the Freedom Trail in 32 days, together with fellow ultra runner, Samantha Gash, from Australia.
We worked tirelessly for over two years to plan and organise the expedition. This involved not only the charity side but also the logistics, transport, accommodation, support crew and, of course, the route. All this needed to be put in place before we could even put our trainers on and begin running.
We ran for a total of 32 days, running on average 63km per day with no rest days. Not as simple as it sounds, as many of the sections were very technical and covering the terrain quickly wasn’t easy.
The accommodation along the route varied, from small B & B’s to game lodges and, in the more isolated areas, we stayed with local farmers and their families. Everyone made us all feel extremely welcome and looked after us well.
Both Samantha and I knew from the off that we wanted to support South African girls/women living in rural communities. When we discovered the issues they faced trying to remain in education once they reached puberty, we knew this was something people needed to be made aware of and we both wanted to help.
With the support of Save the Children South Africa, the money we raised, (£27,500) will be supporting a women-based initiative, designed to create a sustainable model of income, whereby women will be employed to make re-useable sanitary pads that will be given to the girls. The project should start in March 2015 (once it has been fully developed by Save the Children SA) and will benefit 800 girls over 12 months.
This cause is very important to me. I have two daughters, both of whom knew and understood what would happen to their bodies as they developed. Even though they knew, when their periods started they felt awkward and embarrassed when they went to school, worrying that their friends would notice. However, for them it was never an issue about missing school and each month we could easily pop to the shops and buy the sanitary protection they needed.
Something that most females take for granted.
In rural South Africa, once girls reach puberty, 1 in 3 will miss out on 4/5 days of school each month simply because the family are unable to afford the sanitary pads. Instead, they remain at home using old rags, rolled up newspapers and sometimes nothing at all. Eventually, they give up on education all together.
Issues relating to menstruation are a huge barrier to girls in these rural areas and by providing them with a pack of re-usable pads, that should last for 3-5 years, the girls will be able to remain in education, which empowers them to make choices about their future.
What was the hardest part of the run?
This has to be the final day. We had 50km to go to the finish in Pearl. We knew that this section was very technical and could take us hours, so we set off at 4.30am.
The terrain consisted of river crossings, steep ascents and descents covered in rocks and boulders and scree. In some places the undergrowth was extremely dense, making our progress much more difficult. We literally had to crawl and bash our way through the overgrown trees and thorn bushes.
I was wearing my ankle supports to protect damaged ligaments and tendons from back in 2008. I had to really concentrate on maintaining my balance to avoid twisting an ankle. About three hours into this section we paused for food and I just wanted to burst in to tears. I felt completely useless and didn’t know how to cope with how I was feeling. But, I pulled myself together and managed to get out of the valley in one piece. The mind and the body are a great team!
How long does it take to recover from such exertion?
During the run I was lucky and didn’t have any real issues and came away with only one blister. However, due to the distance of the run I lost a lot of weight, in spite of consuming a high amount of calories on a daily basis. My muscles were exhausted, so I took four weeks off doing lovely walks with my dogs instead. It felt strange to be inside again, as throughout the whole trip, I spent every day outside. By taking four weeks off, my body had the time needed to recover properly and I was able to start running again at the end of November. It felt fantastic to be out running again, albeit short distances.
So what’s in store in 2015?
I have some exciting projects on the horizon which I will be able to talk about when they have been confirmed. If funding permits, I aim to go for the world record for running across America, a mere 3,065 miles!
If people would like to support our cause they can do so by visiting www.donate.savethechildren.org. au/FreedomRunners. The money really will make a huge difference to the girls, so thank you.
Mimi Anderson is an Ultra runner who isn’t afraid to push herself in order to discover what her body and mind are capable of achieving. Mimi holds a variety of course records and world records including the female world record for running from John O’Groats to Lands End, as well as the overall world record for running the length of Ireland. Mimi won the “Physical Endeavour” Award at the Scottish Adventure Awards 2014.