“I just had to tell myself that it was going to end”

“I just had to tell myself that it was going to end”

20 Sep 2013

Dubai-based professor Dr Catherine Todd not only ran the world’s most gruelling race, she won it, enduring hours of pain to help a seriously injured friend

Badwater Ultramarathon is dubbed the world’s toughest foot race, with competitors expected to run more than 200km through California’s Death Valley in temperatures topping 50 degrees. There’s no distinction between day and night – they simply have to keep running. To even apply, entrants need to have completed at least three 100-mile races in the last two years. Many don’t even finish. But Dubai’s Catherine Todd, who lives on The Palm Jumeirah, set out to win the epic challenge – and she was victorious!
“It was a life goal for me, and it’s an ultimate goal in running. It’s hard to get into to start with, and it’s very hard to get a good time,” says Catherine, 34, “but it’s the best race I’ve ever run; emotionally and physically. I trained so hard for it.”

Girl with the Digit Tattoo
Catherine finished in 29 hours, 55 minutes and 29 seconds, the first woman out of around 20 taking part. It’s such an achievement that she had those numbers tattooed on her back.
“Thirty hours is very hard to get,” she says. “I had such a good race. You’ve got to be in a positive frame of mind, you’ve got to be sensible, you’ve got to be consistently taking in your oxygen. It’s all about managing yourself.”
Catherine didn’t even pause to eat, but grabbed fruit and sandwiches on the go, as well as taking salt tablets. And while many of the runners needed medical attention, the only mishap faced by Catherine was easily dealt with by her support team of four. 

Open Wounds
“I got an open wound on the back of my foot from ripping off a band-aid on a blister, but we dealt with that,” she said. “I was really lucky. About 95 percent of people ended up needing medical help. Either they weren’t breathing properly or eating properly, or they ran too fast.”
Catherine says she wanted to win so much, that it’s what kept her going. “Sometimes you get a little tired, but you just need to tell yourself it’s going to end. When I overtook first place I had 45km to go. Yes, it was really mentally challenging. But you just think to yourself, ‘This is my one chance’.”

Friend in a Coma
Catherine had a special reason to keep running. She was raising money for a charity called Back on Your Bike. As reported in Ahlan!, it has been set up to fund the rehabilitation of Richard Holland, 30, a South African expat left in a ‘waking’ coma after being knocked off his bike in Dubai in October 2012. Catherine knew Richard. “We used to play touch rugby on the beach together,” she says. “Any one of us could be in that situation at any time in life.”
It was Catherine’s second attempt at the race, and this time she was an incredible six hours faster. She hopes to take part next year and aims to beat the world record of 26 hours, 16 minutes and 12 seconds. And she has another epic feat planned, too: Catherine hopes to run from Dubai to Muscat, Oman – a distance of 440km. She says: “It’s a challenge for myself! I’m going to try and do it in under 72 hours.” 

Celebrity Runners


Josh Duhamel
Hollywood hottie and new dad Josh Duhamel is often spotted jogging on the beach in order to keep in shape.

Kellan Lutz
The Twilight star joins a host of Hollywood stars who prefer to hit Venice Beach rather than the gym in order to get a daily dose of exercise.

Julianne Hough
As if dancing 24/7 wasn’t enough, actress, singer and former Dancing with the Stars professional Julianne Hough likes to get an extra burst of cardio from going on regular jogs around LA.

Miley Cyrus
As well as fitness classes, gym bunny Miley loves to enjoy some downtime and take her much-loved dogs for runs.

Jennifer Lawrence
Playing an action star in Hollywood blockbuster The Hunger Games means it’s essential Jen stays fit and running is her cardio of choice.