Mandy Foyster speaks about taking on her greatest challenge yet at the Thames Ring 250
Archant Norfolk 2015
Norwich Road Runners' Mandy Foyster spoke to Mark Armstrong about taking on the Thames Ring 250 - her greatest challenge yet
As you tucked into your cornflakes this morning somewhere along the Thames Mandy Foyster will be around 150 miles into her latest ultra challenge.
The Norwich Road Runners member is currently taking on her greatest task yet - the Thames Ring 250 - a 250-mile trail race that started at Streatley-on-Thames and follows a route on canal and riverside paths.
Mandy is hardly a newbie to the ultra scene having excelled in 50K, 100K and 100-mile races before but this challenge is on another level and has been on her bucket list for some time.
The race is held every two years and has a completion rate of just 40 percent - with 44 runners taking part in the event that equates to just around 18 people going the full distance, which must be completed within 100 hours. You aren't allowed any support with you beyond the checkpoints that are placed every 25 miles "or so" according to the website.
Anyone who knows Mandy wouldn't back against the 52-year-old although her preparation was disrupted by an ankle problem sustained after the spring marathon season, which saw her run both Manchester and London - the latter dressed as a sheep to raise money for Mirkwood Rest Home for Retired Sheep.
Rest, along with the help of both Charles Allen and Neal Reynolds, helped overcome the issue and, despite suffering a fall last weekend at Catton parkrun, somehow she made the start line.
It would take more than a few grazes and a bit of bruising to keep Mandy away.
"I'm nervous and excited," she said earlier this week. "I've done challenges before over very long distances but never in a race environment so this will be a bit different. I'm used to keeping going day after day but this is a big leap up."
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The heat is likely to be Mandy's biggest foe although there are all manner of challenges that could present themselves over such a long distance.
"It's going to be very warm in the day but it can really drop at night so you need to make sure you've got enough layers as well," she added. "You've also got to guard against potential feet problems. Naturally doing such a long distance can lead to problems but I've been speaking to Carmine De Grandis (ultra runner who completed the Dragon's Boat Race last month) about foot care and he's been really helpful.
"Then of course there's the sleep issue. I've spoken to previous competitors who have hallucinated as a result of not getting enough. I've never done that before so that could be interesting!
"You have to try and recognise the difference between being tired and sleepy. Of course, we're all going to be tired after a while but you don't always feel sleepy.
"I've never had to deal with that before because when I did my other challenges I would normally run around 30 miles and then finish for the day to get some sleep. Obviously in a race like this you can't do that."
Mandy knows there will be some dark moments when she feels like she can't go on. But she hopes she has enough coping strategies in her armoury to get her through whatever journey her race takes.
"Sometimes things go wrong that you can't account for and it's about how you react to that," she said. "I don't know if I can do it - but that's what I like about it.
"I've got a few fun things planned because I always feel it's important to make sure your running has a fun element.
"I know the statistics are against me - this time next week I might be thinking about why it didn't work out and planning to do it again! But I just love running and taking on new challenges… and I'm very determined…"
Mandy is raising money for Mirkwood Rest Home for Retired Sheep - anyone wishing to donate can log on to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mandysheepyfoyster