As Monaco Life reported earlier this year, Ben Rolfe and his eldest daughter, Emily, 16, will be running 250 kilometres across the Sahara Desert, from April 7 to 17, for the Marathon des Sables.
The dad-and-daughter duo are taking on “The Toughest Footrace in the World” to raise more money for Diabetes UK. When the Rolfe’s middle daughter, Alice, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in December 2013, it was Diabetes UK that became the family’s only source of advice and support.
On Thursday, March 30, Ben and Sally Rolfe are hosting a Curry Night Fundraiser at St Paul’s Library (22 avenue Grande Bretagne) from 7 to 9 pm. Space is limited, so booking is essential (email: email@example.com), with a suggested donation of €20 per person. All proceeds going support Ben and Emily’s campaign for Diabetes UK.
During the evening, Mr Rolfe, who’s very grateful to St Paul’s Monte Carlo, will give a short talk about the Marathon Des Sables race itself.
Monaco Life caught up with Mr Rolfe to talk about training and tapering for the 250 km race across the Sahara Desert.
“The fabled Marathon Des Sables is split into stages, every day a different length, and we’ll join the other 1,200 runners trying to run to the next bivouac every day,” Ben said. “No showers, no loos, no change of clothes. We’ll be sleeping in Berber tents – essentially just a rug on a pole, and the organisers will give us water. Other than that we have to carry everything we need for the week.
“Having successfully completed a hilly 55km Ultra Marathon last weekend, Emily and I are now tapering, with purely maintenance runs of 5 km and 10 km to keep everything ticking over. Anyone who has participated in an endurance event will be aware of the concept of tapering. When training for a race, there’s little point in putting in heavy mileage in the two or three weeks prior, so that you can go into the event fully rested and the body has recovered from the heavy workload in training.
“We are also fine-tuning our kit. Last weekend we repackaged all of our dried foods into vacuum-sealed packs to reduce the bulk and weight. Everything is about weight – even our toothbrushes have the handles cut off to save weight. Any unnecessary straps, labels, packaging, has all been jettisoned.”
In just over a week’s time, Ben and Emily will start their journey from Monaco to the desert with a flight to Paris, then another to Ouarzarzate, Morocco, followed by a 6-hour journey in an army truck to the middle of the desert. But that will just be the start.
“It has been a journey getting to this point,But that will just be the start of our journey.
“It has been a journey getting to this point,” Ben said. “Take yourself back to when you learned to drive. It was always much easier to take instruction from a driving instructor than from a parent or relative. At one point, I did have to tell Emily that she should not consider me her father for the purposes of training.
“I have also had a trainer to come to the house one evening a week for us to train in hot conditions, but also work on core and upper body strength, which will be invaluable when scaling dunes or the odd desert mountain, as well as having to carry heavy packs. I have noticed a huge difference in Emily physically, but also mentally. During the Ultra Marathon she had a low point at 33 km and was full of doubt about her ability to finish in the time allowed. But she managed to pick herself up and get the job done.
“That ability will be key to whether she finishes the Marathon des Sables at all.”
Emily may well be the youngest participant in the Marathon des Sables, but sticking with the exhaustive training for such a monumental physical challenge, and working through it with her father, makes Emily Rolfe a champion on all accounts regardless. Ben and Emily have raised an astonishing £14,493 of their £20,000 target.
Donations to Ben and Emily’s Diabetes 1 campaign can also be made directly on the secure Justgiving fundraising page.