Lessons in Badassery Marathon des Sables finisher, Natalia Andreyeva jumping

This April, despite barely training, Latvian runner Natalia Andreyeva took on her first ultra, the 32nd edition of the mighty Moroccan footrace, the Marathon des Sables. Five days and 229.3 kilometres later, she finished – coming 27th woman.

I fired 20 questions over to Natalia to find out more about her Marathon des Sables experience.

#1. How did you come to sign up for the MdS?
I enjoy going to the gym and trying new workouts. I love to challenge myself and having completed three Ironman triathlon events, I wanted to try something new. Marathon des Sables was on my bucket list. Prior to the event, the longest run I’d done was a marathon, in May 2016, almost a year previously. I had never run more than 42.2km ahead of MdS.

#2. What kind of preparation did you do for MdS?
As we were moving office at work I had little time to train, so had to rely on my existing fitness from competing in an Ironman triathlon the previous year, as well as some runs around Richmond Park – basically I had to rely on my mental toughness and Bio-Synergy [nutrition]. My preparation for [the heat] was going to Lanzarote for 1 week with my running club, Serpentine, where I did hot weather running. However, I only managed a total of 40km in the whole week!

#3. Most people try to pack as light as possible for MdS – what did you take with you?
I definitely left some luxury items behind, such as shampoo and conditioner, but had all the essentials that I needed to make it happen: Sleeping bag, water bottles, torch, change of clothes, Bio-Synergy Supplements, cooker, sunglasses, backpack.

#4. It was mandatory to carry a minimum of 2000 calories for each day – how many did you pack?
I packed exactly 2000 calories, but struggled to eat it all! Luckily I had my Bio-Synergy Pure Energy to keep me going. I would definitely advise packing a mixture of sweet and savoury items for a multi-day event like the Marathon des Sables.

#5. Did you fuel your ultra-running with specific products?
Yes, I used Bio-Synergy Pure Energy and Essential Sports Fuel, plus peanut butter.

#6. How did you feel in the run-up to the event?
I felt excited at the prospect of completing the challenge and ticking Marathon des Sables off my bucket list.

#7. How many days ahead of the race did you arrive in Morocco?
I arrived 48-hrs ahead of the race.

#8. How would you describe your Marathon des Sables experience?
The 2017 Marathon des Sables was my first ultra and I really enjoyed it. Best experience ever! It was so euphoric – from the experience and meeting new people to being removed from social media. I’m delighted to not only have completed the MDS but be in the top 27 female finishers. I enjoyed it immensely, although at times it was tough.

Lessons in Badassery Marathon des Sables finisher, Natalia Andreyeva

#9. What was the terrain like?
It was mostly sandy with a lot of hills and mountains which I was not expecting, and this made it hard to run. I also met a cobra, which I was definitely unprepared for! The temperature also reached a whopping 58-degrees.

#10. Did you experience any sandstorms?
Luckily the sandstorms were quite light (compared to previous years) and it was pretty cold at night, in contrast to the searing temperatures during the day.

#11. What was the eventual breakdown of distance that you covered each day?
Day 1 was 30.3KM
Day 2, 39KM
Day 3, 31.6KM
Day 4, 86.2KM
Day 5, 42.2KM
Day 6, Charity Stage, 7.7KM

#12. Did you manage to get any sleep in the tent at night?
It was hard at the beginning because I didn’t have a mattress and the ground was very stony. Eventually I got used to it and managed to sleep.

#13. What did you find the most challenging about the event?
The longest stage (day four) when you have to rely on pure mental strength to get you through.

#14. How did the race compare to your expectations?
I found that it was as expected – enjoyable but tough.

Lessons in Badassery Marathon des Sables finisher, Natalia Andreyeva gold medal

#15. Would you consider yourself quite mentally resilient?
I guess I am mentally tough, as I’ve always completed any challenges [I’ve set myself] and always make it happen [completing them], never giving up.

#16. How did you feel on the finish line and on finding out your amazing top 27 result?
When I came to the finish line I was happy and also thinking of what my next challenge would be – I would like run the Norseman [ultra-triathlon event] or to swim [part of] the challenge.

#17. What kit did you run in? And did your trainers last the event?
Compression clothing, cap, sunglasses and Salomon shoes, which lasted the course.

#18. Did you have any sponsors supporting you at the event?

#19. Would you do it again?
Yes, I’d do the Marathon des Sables again if I had sponsorship, as it’s very expensive. But it’s certainly worth doing.

#20. What advice would you give to women attempting the Marathon des Sables next year?
Train hard and, if possible, in a hot environment. If you can, practice in dunes. Use compression wear and good quality nutrition and [pack] a variety of different food.

Thanks Natalia!

 For more information about the Marathon des Sables, visit www.marathondessables.com