Marina Ranger pushes her body to incomprehensible limits in ways many of us could not imagine. Marina is an ‘ultra runner’ and the huge distances that ultra runners run, mean that they have to have both an unbelievably strong mind and body to partake, let alone finish. Ultra running typically sees its competitors run no less than a full marathon. This August just gone, Marina and her running partner Lucia Leonard completed running the length of the Netherlands- a total of 500 km’s -in just under 5 days! For those looking to be pushed outside their comfort zones, read this eye opening piece and become inspired.
Name: Marina Ranger
Date of Birth: 06/10/1990
Running the length of the Netherlands – I’ve just got back from my biggest challenge yet, running the length of The Netherlands in just my underwear for breast cancer! The total distance from the north to the south of the country is 500km and we did it in just 5 days, running 100km a day! It was hands down the toughest thing I have ever put my body through. I’ve run through the Sahara and Kalahari desert before so I’m no stranger to pushing my body to it’s limits but this one was peaked to a whole new level! What puts it on such a different scale to any of my other running exploits is the sheer distance we had to run in such a short amount of time. On top of this, we had to organise the whole thing ourselves from logistics to PR and sponsorship. These factors both led to a level of stress on the body and the mind that I never anticipated.
We ran a total of 500 km (311 miles) in 72 hours!
The Training – Both Lucja and I took part in the Marathon des Sables in April so our main base of training came off the back of that. I usually run between 40 and 60 miles a week plus some yoga and strength sessions. During the week I focus on shorter, high quality sessions like hill repeats, stair sprints (in my office block seeing as I have no big hills near me in London), tempo session and speed sessions on the treadmill. On the weekend I usually fit in two back to back long runs. I always make sure I have one rest day a week and fit in at least one strength session, which is usually with my personal trainer. If I have time, I try to do some yoga too to help with my flexibility.
Why I did it – I had been thinking about doing a self-organised challenge for a while and planted the seed in Lucja’s mind when we were talking one day. Lucja then came up with the idea in December and without thinking twice I said yes! I love challenges and adventures and find it very hard to say no when someone asks me to join one! We also chose to do it for breast cancer because as two young ladies we thought it is very important that people check their breasts regularly to catch any signs early.
Relationship between me and Lucja – Lucja and I met 3 years ago doing our first multi stage ultra marathon in the Kalahari desert. Since then we have been great friends, traveling around the world together to take part in ultra marathons. I live in London and Lucja lives in Edinburgh so we don’t get to see each other that much but it makes for a great excuse for me to visit her in Scotland and take a trip to the beautiful highlands where there are some amazing running routes.
The Good Bits
Holland is surprisingly diverse and beautiful! I love to run in areas I have never been before so it was great to see all of the traditional Dutch houses and immaculate gardens. I also got to eat all of the nutella I wanted and we tried lots of Dutch specialities which is always exciting in a new country. The week was made for me by the amazing crew, especially my boyfriend James and my mum and dad. Their support got me through one check point at a time and I felt grateful for be able to make them proud of me. Lastly, the finish line of course! Neither of us could quite believe we had made it but it was such a euphoric feeling to finally get there and not have to worry about anymore running!
The Bad Bits
Gosh, there were so many! I remember hugging James (my boyfriend) goodbye on the morning of Day 2 and wanting to burst into tears because I was terrified about the next 4 days ahead. On Day 2 I suffered from bad mid-foot discomfort. Luckily one of our crew had a friend who by coincidence happened to be at the right place at the right time and managed to realign something in my foot that had been displaced. Day 3 and 4 were also a huge struggle for me. Mentally, we both hit rock bottom at 250km. We were exhausted on 5 hours sleep a night after running 15 hour days. The body was struggling to regulate heat, our legs were sore and heavy and our feet were very tender and swollen with a lot of blisters. I ran for at least 2 hours that day in tears and think managed to really frighten my parents! By Day 4 my knee that had been playing up the previous day was starting to become excruciatingly difficult to move on. Each step felt like a battle to fight that didn’t get any easier!
What I wish I had known before I started the journey
I wish I knew how much my feet were going to swell as I would have brought bigger trainers and would have had a lot less feet problems. I suppose I wish I knew that I was going to get an injured knee because then I would have stretched properly (but I guess that’s not really possible and I should have known anyway!).
Advice to someone considering doing this
I would tell them to prepare for the toughest experience of their life. I would emphasise the importance of planning in the months leading up to the challenge. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail! That goes for training too. You need to be strong and fit and have experience of running back-to-back long days. Not only do you need a strong body, more importantly, you need a strong mind. I’ve never fought so hard mentally for so many days. The pain will never get any easier so its important to accept that, keep your head strong, remember why you are doing this and what the finish line will feel like.
Would I do it again…
I’m afraid not. It really was a once in a lifetime experience. Reaching the finish line was all I wanted and I gave it everything I had so I’d have nothing more to prove if I went back. The next thing will have to be different, even more exciting and challenging in a different way!
Twitter and Instagram handle is – @mranger90
Marina’s blog can be found here
Marina and Lucia’s JustGiving page for the Holland run can be found here
If you would like to read Lucia’s blog it can be found here