Last year a Brit – Tom Evans – came 3rd in the Marathon des Sables (MDS). Well, this year another Brit came 3rd and we wanted to celebrate this achievement. Here’s our interview with the brilliant Gemma Game.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your MDS experience this year?
There was a little bit of everything this year – sandstorms, heat, breath-taking landscapes, fierce headwinds and even a few drops of rain on the last stage of the race. I signed up on a whim to escape from some pressures in my personal life and found the whole MDS experience to be incredibly therapeutic. Stripping life down to the basics of running, eating and sleeping was heaven. The camaraderie and friendships formed both in the camp and out on the course make the MDS a truly special race. I wish I was back out there!
2. This wasn’t your first time at MDS was it? You came 4th in 2015. What did you learn that first time that you put into practice in 2018?
The MDS in 2015 was a first in a number of ways – first ultra, first trail race, first time I’d raced a distance longer than 200m…I was incredibly green and made lots of mistakes. For example I didn’t take enough food with me for the long stage in 2015 and ended up having to eat into my next day’s ration. This year I made sure that I had enough to eat with me! Also in 2015 I had no idea how to train for MDS. I had no training plan and ran exclusively on the streets in London – not ideal preparation. This time around I had a coach emailing me a weekly training plan and tried to get out on the trails at least once a week.
3. What’s harder at MDS – the running bit or the dealing with the conditions bit?
I love both – I’m addicted to running free in the desert but also really enjoy the roughing it element of MDS. I spent some time living in rural Uganda as a teenager so am used to living a simple life.
4. When did you start ultra running and what has your journey been from then to now?
Running is fundamental to who I am. I had some skeletal issues as a child and one of my first memories was wearing these horrible boots and calipers. Eventually, the boots came off and I’ve been running ever since! I love that sense of freedom, of moving across a landscape and cutting loose.
I started ultra running as an adult, signing up for MDS2015 after the birth of my second child. Since then, I have been escaping to the wilderness as often as possible. I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew and ran the TDS in 2016 with no specific training. Technical trail running is something I am particularly bad at, and I ended the race hallucinating and coughing up blood. So I asked a coach to help put together a training plan for the TDS in 2017, spent some time running over various Canary Islands and went back to Chamonix last summer to reclaim the bits of me I’d left all over the Alps…Having got that out of my system, I was looking for the next race and impulsively signed up to MDS18.
5. What do you do for a day job and how do you fit your training in?
I work in an office in the centre of London, dreaming of the trails…Fitting training in is a challenge as my job is quite demanding and I have two young children. So all my training is done very early in the morning.
6. What are your future racing plans?
I don’t really have any – I don’t run to race, it’s purely selfish escapism…
7. What’s your ultimate ambition – any epic races or challenges on the cards?
My ultimate ambition is to carve out the time and find some help to address my (many) weaknesses, get stronger, get faster and run as much as possible. And have as much fun as possible doing it. I hope to be heading out to run the Lavaredo trail later this year and would love to return to Chamonix again for one of the UTMB races. Beyond that, the world is a big place and I’m keen to run over as much of it as I can…