(From the Chipping Campden Bulletin. Reproduced with kind permission of Jeremy Green)
Celia Hargreaves enthralled the Mickleton Society at the November meeting when she described her experiences in the Sahara Marathon in 1996.
Celia first became interested in marathons in 1980, competing in the London marathon in 1981. Her interest in the Sahara marathon stemmed from an article in the Financial Times and the fact that a British woman had never competed in this. Celia changed that and entered. She described her training, including running on the spot in a sauna to get used to the humidity and to learn to take in more water.
Finally in March 1996 she was in Casablanca preparing for the ordeal – the Sahara marathon is actually an endurance race. Competitors run specified distances on six successive days, starting with fifteen miles on day one with a maximum of fifty miles and a total over the six days of 150 miles. They carry all their needs (including food) on their backs, apart from tents (which were very basic indeed) and water. There are regular checkpoints with random checks of weights and kit. Water ration was nine litres a day for all purposes -drinking and washing – so conditions were indeed primitive. Sections had time limits – e.g. thirty-two hours and even one minute over time incurred disqualification.
On day five Celia had an accident involving a fall with her backpack; following this she hallucinated very badly and says that she nearly died following the fall on a rock face. Eventually she reached the finishing line. She was the first British woman to complete the marathon and came 33rd of 200 entrants. There was a mud house at the final stage complete with a hot well. She and the others sat in the hot water, laughing and washing off six days of Sahara sand.
This was an incredible experience and an incredible talk – presented without script or even notes and with great humour & feeling, ending by showing us the clothes in which she ran and. with great pride, her Sahara marathon medal.
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