Fitness Challenge: The Washie 100

Gigi Young’s dream goal was to the complete the oldest 100-mile marathon in South Africa - read her story here
Gigi
Gigi
Gigi on the “road from hell”
Gigi on the “road from hell”
Speeding trucks forced Gigi off the road
Speeding trucks forced Gigi off the road
Gigi made it in the end
Gigi made it in the end

The Washie 100 Miler isn’t a race, it’s a journey; a journey that involves huge commitment, support, effort and compromises from family and wonderful friends. I’ve been preparing for this journey since September 2010. All the training events started to fall into place: the Athens Classic 2500 Anniversary Marathon in October, the Dubai Marathon in January and then the Boston Marathon in April had all gone to plan.

I have a professional training coach so my programmes had been specifically designed to fit me and my needs. Training includes running six days a week, building my mileage from 90km per week to the peak week of approximate 150km per week. I do interval and hill training and one long run every week.

To beat the intense Dubai summer heat, running entails getting up 3am or 4am every day to run hills (often twice a day) as well as some night training sessions somewhere in the desert with my crazy friends Samantha, Rosemary, Marek, Julie and Noel.

These cardio workouts are boosted by two strength training sessions in the gym which include interval sessions followed by Long-Slow Duration (LSD) strength training on Cybex, which is a piece of equipment that includes a host of weights and pulleys.

I usually eat something like a bagel or a piece of toast or banana before I head out to run. Rehydrating before and after each run is a very important issue in Dubai. After training, I will have a full breakfast – oats, cereal or porridge. I am a vegetarian, so my diet is very heavy in carbohydrate anyway. I eat lots of fruit and vegetables and ensure that I include plenty of hummus, tofu, eggs and Greek yogurt as my protein intake.

Often people ask me what time I go to bed and I have to say it is not early enough! Training for something of this magnitude is a big commitment which calls for plenty of compromises, especially when we are in the heavy training stages. The feeling was great as both mentally and physically I became prepared for the Washie – otherwise known as “The road from hell”. I also had the back-up of my Washie team mates John, Noel and Julie, so while I was extremely nervous I was ready to face this personal challenge.

Then four days before the big day I started to experience an abnormal pain in my hip flexor which I hoped was just nerves or a tight muscle. I told myself not to worry, to rest and see how my fitness took me, especially since my training preparations had all gone so well. In my mind there were only two things left: to get to the start, and to get to the finish

I was overwhelmed with the support and warmness shown by other South African runners and supporters. Floods of support also poured in from other Washie runners including 10-time Washie competitor Jimmy Parsons as well as my coach Marcel.

Noel noticed the day before the race on an easy 5km run that my strides weren’t looking right but I assured everyone there was nothing to worry about. However, once the race started I experienced significant pain in my hip flexors at around 32km and had to tell my team that I was injured, but wanted to carry on.

Our revised goal was to get to the finish line between 25 to 26 hours. I told them that whatever happened I would run, walk and crawl to the finish. I told them I hoped this pain was temporary – quitting would last forever! After coming all this way I was determined to complete it.

The payoff
Mustering enough energy to run through the finishing line I completed the race in 24hr 31min. My Seconds had made the impossible goal possible – the trophy should be shared among the four of us – and the joy and sense of achievement I felt at that time will last forever!