Meet Inspirational Women Fitness Stars in the UAE
“I rowed the Atlantic”
Katie Pattison-Hart broke two world records with the Row For Freedom team
“I’ve always been up for a challenge, but when a UK woman I met at a barbecue in Dubai told me that she planned to row the Atlantic, even I was taken back. She told me that she had joined the Row For Freedom crew (rowforfreedom.com) – a female team that planned to raise awareness and funds for a child trafficking charity, and maybe break two Guinness World Records at the same time. Then when she told me they had a spare place, I jumped at the chance. I had never rowed in my life, but like any other challenge I had been presented with, I decided to go for it.
For the next six months, the six team members trained in our own countries. We’d swap notes via Skype and email each other regularly. I started training with the Mina Seyahi Rowing Club and with PT Shane Rutherford to increase my stamina levels. I would row two to three days a week, and do three gym sessions each day of the week.
When it came to packing for my flight to the Canary Islands to join the girls, I felt a little nervous, but I was ready for the adventure. When we arrived on the island we were hit with our first bit of bad news. One of our team members had to pull out, so we were now a team of five. We were shaken that we’d lost a team member, but we knew that we had to continue regardless.
Bodies covered with sores
We spent the last night planning our routes based on the updated weather conditions and currents.
When we first climbed into the seven-metre long boat I felt an adrenalin rush, and nervous about the challenge. But as the oars dipped into the water, it was an amazing feeling, and as we rowed and lost sight of land, the excitement built.
For the next 45-days we would row for 12 hours a day in shifts of two hours each. This would give us time to sleep, eat and relax until we needed to pick up the oars again.
The first week was a blur. We always felt on edge, expecting the worst. We had sores on our bodies where the sea salt had caused friction, so we rowed in our underwear.
By day three, exhaustion started to kick in. I was bruised, cold, wet and I was suffering from minimal sleep. On top of this there was strong winds, the fear of being hit by flying fish and waves of 40 metres. But we never thought about giving up. Due to exhaustion, we’d go from extreme laughing to extreme crying. But no matter how tough it got, you couldn’t get out as you were surrounded by water. The only way out was to keep rowing.
On 22 January we crossed the line and were elated. We’d raised Dhs464,000 for Row For Freedom and had all made it in one piece. The two Guinness World Records were the icing on the cake.
Have an adventure: See dimc.ae for lessons.
“I ran a 135km ultramarathon”
Catherine Todd took on one of the world’s toughest races in Brazil
“In January this year, I attempted one of the most challenging experiences of my life. The BR135 is a 135km ultramarathon across the Caminho da Fee, a 500km long pilgrimage trail in Brazil. Most break this up into a several day pilgrimage, which is walked, ran or cycled. We were one of the 70 invited to run this brutal path in under 48 hours. Mario Lacerda, the creator of the BR135, took inspiration from Badwater; an ultramarathon in Death Valley. His inspiration for the race was to raise money to create a leisure facility in a girl’s orphanage in Brazil, as the girls wouldn’t get an opportunity to exercise.
It all began at 8am on 20 January. The terrain across the Caminho da Fee is uncertain, and we were faced with several challenging running surfaces along the way. Each contestant is given a car and crew to support them, giving them food and water to help sustain energy throughout the race. We are also given a pacer, someone to run alongside us, and help us to balance out the sprints and the strides. My pacer was Adam, an American runner. We set off swiftly, keeping a comfortable pace and chatting to other runners along the way. The first day of the race was fun. and I felt energised thanks to the dramatic scenery around me.
Every step hurt
As midnight arrived on the first day, I began to tire, my energy levels faded, and I hit the toughest part of my race. The temperature dropped and every step hurt. I knew that I still had a long way to go, and the toughest hills and steep inclines still awaited me. Luckily my amazing crew was on hand and as the sun came up I was given a hot coffee, and the end was in sight.
Everything hurt as I pounded along the hills for the last 50km, but Adam encouraged me to stride up the hills and jog down the flat surfaces. I took his advice and something changed, I started to feel great. Passing the 5th place solo runner in the heat of the Brazilian afternoon, I put my head down, focused and soldiered on. It felt amazing crossing the finishing line. BR135 was one of the most trialing experiences of my life, but also the most rewarding, I was the 2nd Female Finisher, completing the marathon in 30 hours, 30 minutes. And it has only inspired me to keep pushing myself. Badwater Marathon, here I come.
Have an adventure: See brazil135.com.br.
“I walked the seven Emirates”
Rosa Areosa walked seven Emirates in seven days to raise funds for charity
“Sitting in my daughter’s graduation and listening to Maria Conceicao talk about her charity the Dhaka Project (thedhakaproject.org), I felt compelled to help. The project aims to help give children in the slums of Bangladesh access to education.
As I walked regularly, I suggested to Maria that I walk a marathon to raise funds for the charity. But after a brainstorming session between the two of us, this quickly became seven marathons in seven emirates over seven days to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the UAE. And the 777 challenge was born.
During the summer months, I returned home to Portugal, and I tried to do as much training as possible, walking in the Portugese countryside. When I returned to Dubai, we devised a route, starting in Sharjah on 26 November and ending in Abu Dhabi on 4 December – National Day. The Rotana Hotel Group also took care of our accommodation.
Forced off the road
We began early in the morning on the first day in Sharjah. The weather was cool and perfect for walking. We set off strong and the first day passed quickly. The second day, however, we hit our first problem. Walking along the road in Fujairah a van forced me off the road and I broke my toe. Despite the pain I kept walking, focused on what I had set out to achieve. The third day in RAK was really memorable. Passers-by were clapping and hooting car horns, which was a lovely feeling.
However, the fourth day was the hardest for me. We walked through Umm al Quwain, and a lot of the terrain was uneven making it hard to walk.
The next day, we reached Al Ain. UAE flags were flying from the roof tops ready for National Day and it left us in great spirits. We walked through Dubai on the sixth day, and this was extremely emotional for me as I knew I was going to see my children.
I was thankful Abu Dhabi was the last day. My feet were blistered and my thighs burning. Fighting back the tears, those final 26 miles felt longer than ever. As we crossed the finish line and welcomed by the crowd, we were elated. Would I do it again? In a heart beat!
Have an adventure: Visit adventure.ae for details of hiking trips in the UAE.