A journey to the sand…Boot camp participant and cave dweller Guy Hope reflects on being part of the JWPT community and how this has helped him to prepare for the world’s toughest footrace.
As the Cheshire cat said, ‘every adventure requires a first step’. In this instance it was a decision made whilst sat on my backside, with a glass of wine in hand, on a summers evening back in July 2017. Well actually, it was more of a pledge to fulfil a lifetime ambition to complete the infamous Marathon des Sables in April 2019. Whilst polishing off the remanence of that cheeky Malbec, I took my second step and paid the hefty race deposit. No going back now!
Labelled the toughest footrace on earth, the Marathon des Sables is a 156-mile, six-stage footrace across the Moroccan Sahara desert in temperatures topping 120 degrees Fahrenheit! Participants carry all their own kit for the duration of the race, including essential survival equipment, food and daily water rations.
Where do you start when it comes to preparing for this type of challenge? It is a lot of steps in anyone’s book. Back to that Cheshire cat!
Physically, I was in ‘ok’ condition. A past life as a professional sportsman had left me in reasonable shape,although it is fair to say, when it came to my cardiovascular fitness levels there was much work to do. I was plodding along with the usual sporadic weight training sessions at the gym and on reflection, had got myself into a bit of a training rut. I weighed 90kg, was carrying too much body fat and the prospect of running even 10 miles felt daunting. It was time to plan, set targets and map out some goals.
Training would need to replicate the relentless nature of the challenge ahead and focus upon the two fitness components that I lacked the most, cardiovascular and muscular endurance. A friend of mine who has also spent most of his life working in and around the performance end of sport recommended a consultation with a personal trainer called Jake Wood. He had started attending The Cave and felt reenergised and back to his old self, enjoying his exercise and the environment Jake had created. On meeting Jake for the first time, it was clear why my friend had recommended him.I was immediately impressed by Jake’s professionalism, knowledge and enthusiasm. He quickly understood what my personal training needs and aspirations were and how this fitted into the bigger picture of completing the Marathon des Sables.
There is an ‘All Blacks’ saying, “Good people make good teammates”; it quickly became apparent that in Jake, I had found ‘a gud un’.
A standard weekly training schedule usually consisted of three runs of varying distances and up to four muscular endurance-training sessions. Two of these always being a weekly dose of Monday night boot camp and a Friday morning cave session. Jake’s sessions enabled the opportunity to gauge improvement, but more importantly, they kept me fresh and chomping at the bit to improve. This was thanks in part, to Jake’s expertise as a trainer and motivator, but also down the culture he has created within the JWPT community. Young/old, male/female, folks of all different shapes/sizes and training experiences, supporting each other and giving it their best effort, whatever that looks like. Turns out that boot campers make good teammates too!