Natasha Fanshawe: 6 marathons, 5 days, 1 desert.

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Follow the tracks. Photo courtesy of 4deserts.com

Natasha Fanshawe is a freelance project manager from London. Earlier this month, she ran 250 km across the Sahara Desert in Namibia as part of the 4deserts Sahara Race, raising support through pledges on Do Nation.

Together, her friends saved as much carbon as 10,513 bananas. I caught up with her to hear a bit more about this mind-boggling challenge…

So, let’s get one thing straight: how did you find yourself signing up to run across the Sahara?!

I’ve been involved with 4Deserts since 2011 when I volunteered in Chile. I said I would never run a race but the following year completed Jordan 2012. I’ve volunteered since in Iceland and Ecuador. Then, I found myself registering for Namibia.

Doing the races is a positive experience and a great way to eat what you like without dieting.

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Preparing to set off (again).

It seems like it might be surprisingly addictive…! And what made you decide to raise support through Do Nation?

I heard about Do Nation through a friend Paul Coverdale. I felt it wouldn’t be right to do another expensive race without making a difference. I was looking for sustainable, environmental charities. With Do Nation, I instantly saw how great it would be for my friends to make a positive change without parting with any cash.

Bang on. And what were some of the most impressive or surprising pledges people made?

I was amazed that some people made 2 or more pledges. Meredith’s offer to drive at 60mph on motorways helped me through as it’s painfully slow-going when you have a long distance to cover – very apt.

Well, on that note… I’m dying to hear: how did the race itself go?

The race was fantastic. We were in the Skeleton Coast National Park. I breezed through Day 1 – it was cool, with the wind behind us.

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Photo courtesy of 4desert.com

Days 2 and 3 were a hard slog along endless beach. Once, I was so busy helping another competitor with his gear, neither of us noticed the sea come in so we got wet feet. We laughed but it could have led to disaster, as wet feet mean blisters.

Day 4 was meltdown day. We’d headed inland where the breeze disappeared and it was hot. I prepared for the heat (sunscreen, ridiculous hat, electrolytes, water) but got halfway and lay in a patch of gravel, curled up and dozed. Suddenly, a cool breeze came along. I carried on. Completely humbled, I arrived at camp euphoric.

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Photo courtesy of 4deserts.com

The Long Day was awesome. Starting at 8am, the dunes around us got higher and the pink markers eventually led us up a sand dune, along its ridge and then down, filling my shoes with sand. I ate a freeze-dried meal and set out into the darkness. It plays with your mind and the strands of seaweed I stepped over became snakes. I caught up with two runners and we sang our way to the end, keeping the hyenas away with bad renditions of Jungle Book tunes, arriving at 4am for a day of… rest!

Wow. That must have required some serious strength and determination…

Finishing these races is mental. You need the physical fitness but it’s 90% mental stamina that’s important. It’s amazing the limits to which you can push the body. Blisters are nasty. I had two toenails ‘drilled’ to pop blisters that had formed underneath.

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Photos courtesy of 4deserts.com

I trust you celebrated in good style afterwards?

After a week of freeze-dried meals, we celebrated with real food. And beer. A shower. Three fab days in Cape Town with a hot tub and wineries.

Finally – any top tips you’d share with others raising support on Do Nation?

On social media, it’s easy to reach out to friends with requests like Do Nation. It’s a new concept so make it clear you’re not asking for money. Indicate that it’s straightforward.

Write a personal thank you to everyone who pledges.

You can still support Natasha here. I think she deserves it.

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Making friends in Namibia

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