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Man, I slew you!

Ultra running novice Francesca Eyre took on the Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal, a multi-day 220K race, and ended up finishing fourth female

After watching her sister, then brother, die of cystic fibrosis (CF), Francesca Eyres, 44, was determined to find a natural remedy when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010.

2008 and 2009 had been tough years for Francesca. ‘My brother Nick had been very ill due to suffering from CF since birth. Whilst he was waiting for a heart and lung transplant he passed away in March 2009. Our business partner was also very ill and died with me by her side in December 2009. Then the banking crisis hit and we were in a tough financial position with our business.’ Francesca runs a ski chalet hotel in the French Alps with her husband Paul.

Francesca’s body broke down. ‘I started suffering chronic back pain – I couldn’t even put on my trousers in the morning. Then a growth was found on my thyroid, which had to be treated with radioactive treatment, and finally I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010.

‘I left the clinic that day and have never been back. I looked into a more natural approach to coping with my diagnosis, as I didn’t want to go on medication, and so I changed my diet. I stopped drinking alcohol, came off gluten and dairy and stopped eating inflammatory foods such as potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines. I cut down my meat intake and eliminated caffeine.

Rediscovering my running

‘I had started running when my youngest child, Jamie was a baby, ten years ago. With three children and a hotel to run, I needed some headspace. To make sure I trained I entered a 10K race; I had never done any competitive sports prior to this and I was amazed at the buzz at the race.’

The other massive change Francesca’s diagnosis bought about was deciding to live life to the full and do as much sport as she could, while she could. ‘I needed to add more challenges into my life,’ she says. ‘Running helped my stress levels but hurt my joints too much, so I started trail running. There is nothing more beautiful or more humbling than reaching a summit; running up the mountains meant I could get further, faster!’

During the winter it’s impossible to run in the Alps, so Francesca took up ski touring, where you use skis to run up a mountain. ‘The first ski randonée race I ever did was the Montée du Crot – an 800m run up the mountain over a 4K distance from just outside our house to the centre of Avoriaz. It took the world champion 24 minutes and me nearly an hour.

‘I decided my next big challenge would be the 70K Classic Quarter Cornish Coastal Trail (www.endurancelife.com), in June last year. Even though I had never run a marathon, I smiled the whole way round; the scenery, the people, the terrain was all incredible and when I reached the finish line as the ninth woman, I knew that I had to challenge myself to something even tougher and harder!’

Subhead: I do because I can

Francesca’s motto is “I do because I can”. Feeling fit after her first ultra she wanted to find a race that would give her two points towards the three you need to enter the CCC race (part of UTMB trail race that takes place in Chamonix in August). ‘To gain your three points you have to run in at least two ultra marathons. I scoured the Internet and found the Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal (http://manaslutrailrace.org). This, I decided, would be my next race.’

_MG_8740manaslu trail race

‘It was really hard to find the time to train but a race organiser suggested little and often,’ says Francesca. ‘I tried to run at least 40-80K per week, which doesn’t sound like a lot but 10K over the mountains takes me an hour and a half, depending on the vertical ascent. I entered into a couple of 22K trail races and also did a small amount of road cycling to cross-train and avoid injury.

‘As a woman, mother and someone who has her own business, I put so much pressure on myself re training and I have to remind myself that I’m doing this out of choice. You have to not pressure yourself into thinking that you are a highly tuned athlete whose living depends on it.’

Francesca insists she is just a mum of three that has a competitive spirit and runs the best she can. ‘I have very good endurance, above speed, so if the views are beautiful around me, I am very happy to keep on plodding. I always look around and appreciate how beautiful everything is. I also realised that it is impossible to run the whole distance and that most ultra runners walk up the hills, over a certain distance and incline.’

Feeling petrified!

During the briefing for the race Francesca got to meet the other runners, including many elite athletes. ‘We all stood up to give a short talk about ourselves and the races we had competed in; I told everyone that I was absolutely petrified and wondered what on earth I was doing entering a race like this! I’m 44 and have a business and three kids – what was I thinking?!’

Yet Francesca went on to finish fourth female, and 17th overall (behind Holly Rush in second, in 20.52.48, who represents Great Britain and ran in the Commonwealth Games) in a time of 26.26.08. ‘And through this adventure I raised £6204.56 for cystic fibrosis,’ she says very proudly.

‘Next I’m going to do the UTB (http://www.ultratour-beaufortain.fr) in June, a 104K race with 6400m of ascent. Am I completely and utterly nuts?’

A very inspiring mum of three with a competitive spirit who just runs the best she can.

 _MG_8988manaslu trail race

How tough can it get?

‘The toughest parts for me were running 46K in the heat with a lot of ascending (day 2) and our “rest day” (day 7), a 21K trek up to 4998m to have a picnic on the Tibetan boarder. I had a chest infection and was really shattered that day but knew it was a “one off” that will probably never be repeated, so a must do.  I had also promised a very spiritual friend of mine that I would collect a stone for her from the boarder and promises are promises!  It was worth every step as the views into Tibet were breathtaking.’

 What is the Manaslu Trail Race?

This is a 220K race around the eighth highest mountain in the world at 8163m. You ascend over 15000m, the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest twice. The highest ascent is 5200m. ‘The first stage was 28K; a long slow gentle climb of around 1026m,’ says Francesca. ‘Stage 2 takes in 46.4km with 2156m ascent. Expect 29.6K and 1954m in elevation on Stage 3. Stage 4 involves 24.8K with 1396m ascents, Stage 5 is 30K and Stage 6 is another 12K with 727m ascent. A rest day is followed by two further stages of 22K and 31K.’

_MG_8754manaslu trail race

 

Your dream holiday awaits!

noo noo girl running for David

7.5 ways to get a dream holiday abroad…

The sun is shining, and everything, EVERYTHING, is going well. Yet before you know it, summer slips away, and, well, we all know what awaits us later in the year. And I’m not talking about a champagne breakfast on Christmas Day. Do not fear, I have a plan to make a dream, winter running holiday come true. Just for you.

1. If you saved £50 a month for Xmas presents for the whole year, then told the family that while you were out shopping someone mugged you and stole your purse with the money in; that gives you your first serious chunk towards achieving your dream. Total earning potential: we are talking at least £600!

2. Take all your kids’ toys that measure more than 50cm square, that you/others spent lots of money on and which they have never appreciated and sell them either (in order of possible profit) on eBay, at a garage sale or car boot. Make sure family is not around when you undertake this initiative. Imperative – do not give notice of this to anyone. Suggested: car boot in next town/village/area to prevent possible backlash. If challenged on this one, feign complete ignorance or blame the toy fairy. Potential income? £100.

3. I do not recommend this at all, but some people may well consider this an option. You know your partner has at least three (four, five, or more…) bikes in the garage and shed. In fact so many that you can neither a) get to the tumble dryer all winter or b) get your own bikes out for the daily school run without having to manoeuvre past at least one of these bikes, potentially causing a back injury that could jeopardise your whole running career. Well, if one of these went missing, surely no one would notice? Ah-hum. (Officer it must have been a burglar…) If you don’t tell anyone, neither will I. Potential income? Got to be at least a couple of hundred, easy.

4. For a small, and incredibly reasonable fee, offer to be the driver to all major running events that your club attends for at least a year. If you charge a nominal fee of just £25 per event, both you and your club are on to a winner. You could drive the minibus down to the London Marathon, the car that takes competitors all round a multi-stage, day-long event, even offer to drive at the annual awards night. Come on, if everyone chipped in just £2 each, every time, you would be offering a platinum service at Lidl-style prices. Potential income? £100.

5. Set up a book club. A book club you ask? Yes, a book club! This is one of your more ingenious options. Whether at work, at college, on the playground, whichever universe you inhabit your sole aim will become to convince at least 20 friends, family or acquaintances (even strangers) to join. Create a list of books, then buy them second-hand from AMAZON (for 1p a piece plus about £2:80ish in postage) then sell on to unsuspecting members for full jacket price. You may need to invest in some Tip-Ex and scissors to remove any incriminating ‘Library Copy’ evidence. Twenty times about £3 profit per meeting, every six weeks: total earning potential over one year: £520. (A word of advice – don’t become greedy; once you try and hold the book club every other day, someone may cotton on. Believe me, I know.)

6. By now you are getting desperate. You will do anything to help you achieve your dream. You are going to now need some cunning, and maybe a tiny touch of deception. You need to buy one of those £1 buckets from the, er, £1 shop. Paste upon it a label with very big letters ‘FUNDRAISING FOR THE 2020 OLYMPICS’. Then in very, very, very small (in fact so small that only an owl could read it) letters write underneath: ‘My fund to make my dream come true’. Again, this can be taken to work, to the playground, to the pub, to someone’s house when you go for dinner; where you get your bucket out is entirely up to you. But the more you get out the bucket, the more likely your running holiday is going to become. If anyone asks who the money is for, just say a local athlete who you are sponsoring. What? It’s true, isn’t it? OK… your chances of making any Olympics in your 40s are slight, but we all gotta dream, right? Earning potential: £80-£100 (depending on how long it takes for your spoof athlete to be un-spoofed).

7. Now the crunch: how low are you prepared to go to make that one dream, that one hope, become reality? If you really have left your morals and reservations at the beginners’ course you recently finished, this one is for you. Are you willing to prostitute yourself? No you cry! Well, I’m sorry, but sometimes a woman has to offer the only services she has. Start with ironing… I know, I know, it’s an unbearable sacrifice to even think about, let alone do, but in the words of Dolly, ‘Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…’ If you can keep this up, you could try diverging into oven cleaning, and if you don’t lose the will to live within a few weeks, there’s even full-time cleaning. Why would anyone ever want to sell their soul in such a hideous manner you ask? Kid, if you want that dream to happen, you just have to lower your standards. Goddamit, some women have to do this to make a living, bless their souls. No child would ever think that when they are grown up they are going to have to do this to survive in this life. Still, one to two cleaning/housework-er-ly jobs per week in your local area, and over the year you will be bringing home £2000 plus. You may hate yourself but think of your cardio-vascular fitness.

The .5? I would never, ever, ever do this, but…Advise all children that it is a fantastic idea for them to ask for cash for their birthday and Christmas presents – from everyone! Two major money-making opportunities per year, and depending on how far you went for humanity, this could be up to six lots of, say, £50 over the year. Total earning potential: £300. Hold on a minute you cry, how do we ‘take’ our children’s money to fund our running holiday? Refer to point 1. (Well, if it works, use it).

So there you have it, there’s an easy £3,500 or so for you to spend on your dream running holiday. Now comes the difficult part, do you choose Club la Santa, La Manga Club, the wonderful French Alps (check out www.chillipowder.com) the French Riviera or the Spanish coastline….so many choices…