Run the Sahara

We sat down with Di Farrell-Thomas, a Racefit member, to discuss her upcoming marathon’s in aid of Arthur Rank Hospice and what she has had to do to prepare.

Do you ever eat fast food or unhealthy food?

“Yes, in moderation! Although I do largely eat a healthy, balanced diet – I think the mental battle of trying to restrict yourself from foods that are deemed unhealthy can be far worse than the affects. This is especially the case if you do have a very active lifestyle and you need to make sure you are consuming enough calories to match your output. Balance is key, and making sure you get plenty of variety to take in all the nutrients you need.”

How long does a pair of trainers last you?

“I currently rotate six pairs of trainers, with needing to replace each after about four/five months. With the very high mileage I do and the constant impact of this on joints and ligaments, it is vital to use trainers that still have cushion and support to help keep you injury free. I make sure I then donate worn ones to charity to be re-used or recycled. A little known fact is that all trainers have a suggested max mileage from the manufacturers, for exactly this reason.”

How do you get motivated when you aren’t in the mood? Or it’s cold and you don’t want to get out of bed?

I remind myself of the fact I want to do everything I can to get across the finish line successfuly in the desert. If I cut zero corners and do not make it to the end; at least I would have done everything I could have in my power to hit that target. A good way to help with motivation is to pre-plan; that way you are less likely to be influenced by emotions if training is more flexible.

Do you ever get bored or lonely – what do you think about when you run?

“In all honesty yes, I have been lonely and bored at times which is inevitable when repetition is at the heart of the goal. I run with other local runners when it fits, and try to explore new routes which helps. A lot of people listen to music or podcasts whilst running, but I purposely do not as I will not get this luxury in the desert. I let my mind wander to wherever it wants to go which is something I really benefit from. Both in terms of positive mental health but also work, life and social planning.”

How often do you run / train?

“I currently run six days a week and fit in two strength sessions a week. I am also now incorporating acclimation training through using a heated chamber to lower my core body temperature.
My runs are generally long and steady which builds up my aerobic capacity and does not fatigue my body in a way that would mean I lose condition – much the same as most racehorses would be trained.”

How did you get into running?

“Running has been part of my life since the age of eight where I was picked for the school cross country team. I have always enjoyed longer distances, and although I have played and competed at many different sports, running has been a constant activity. Aside from the health benefits, it has given me wonderful experiences, and I have met so many amazing people too.”

Why Arthur Rank Hospice and why the Sahara?

“Arthur Rank Hospice provided such compassionate end of life care to my dad who spent time there before he died early last year. They gave me and my family a chance to say goodbye to him in a comforting environment; where the staff could not have been more supportive.
My dad was a successful flat jockey during the 60’s-90’s and I have no doubt he would be proud of me doing this challenge. I admired his resilience and courage in race riding – both characteristics I will need in abundance for the race.
I learnt about the Marathon des Sables race in the Sahara around eight years ago and I kept reading more and more about it as the years went on. The more I read, the more the mystery of what it would truly would be like got me hooked. The only way to know would be to experience the race first hand. The strength I will need to exhibit is nothing compared to what the Arthur Rank Hospice staff show every day. I will be keeping them, my dad and all of my supporters in mind whilst I am there.”

“If anyone would like to donate to my challenge in raising funds for Arthur Rank Hospice to help other families across the Cambridge/Newmarket area in dealing with life limiting conditions and end of life care, please follow the link below:
Diana Farrell-Thomas is fundraising for Arthur Rank Hospice Charity (