Run Anglia: Shipdham runner Trish McCarthy is ready to go Beyond the Ultimate in Sweden
Shipdham runner Trish McCarthy speaks to Mark Armstrong as she prepares to take on one of Europe’s toughest ultra marathon challenges
Be bold, run cold.
It’s a saying a lot of runners use during the winter months as they look to get the miles in.
Dressing for the conditions is something of an art – too much and you’re saddled with several articles of clothing/kit you’ve paid too much for to discard (but want to).
Too little and it’s the kind of uncomfortable experience you got clubbing as a youngster when you couldn’t be bothered to take a coat out because of the queue at the end of the night to get it back.
Well, the recent cold conditions are nothing to what Trish McCarthy, from Shipdham, will be experiencing next month.
The 47-year-old, who is originally from Belfast, is taking part in a race called Beyond the Ultimate Ice Ultra – an extreme footrace through arctic Sweden. She will be making her way through 230km across five days in an environment, which is described as “Europe’s last remaining wilderness”.
Temperatures could drop as low as -40 degrees and to make matters just that little bit more difficult, the runners have to be self sufficient. If you want it, you carry it – think Marathon Des Sables… but a lot colder.
Oh, and runners should “expect long periods running in darkness”.
“I’m not afraid of it – I know that we will be cold and there will be times when the only thing you can see are a few torches in front of you,” she said.
“The only thing that will stop me will be injury or frostbite. I’m quite excited by the overall challenge.”
Trish was in the planning stage when I met her. Every detail of her trip is contained in a Mr Men notebook, which perhaps makes light of the seriousness of the challenge in front of her.
Her bag for the trip is already packed, but she is happy to get it all out for me to have a look at. I get the feeling this won’t be the last time she lays out all her gear on the kitchen floor.
This is part of the process to make her feel as prepared as possible because, when you’re taking on a challenge of this scale, nothing can be left to chance. Control what you can control and the rest will, hopefully, fall into place.
Trish is experienced enough to know the kind of mental and physical battles that lie ahead.
This time last year she was in the middle of a planned 17-day expedition trying to be the first group of British women to cross the Finnmark Plateau from north to south.
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However, by day nine her party had slowed, and with a storm coming, their guide decided to call off the challenge, and they were self-evacuated.
It left Trish with a sense of unfinished business and she set about planning her next challenge and the race element of Beyond the Ultimate appealed to her.
Whilst she will be working within a group of other competitors, the success or failure will be purely down to her.
“I love being round people but I’m also a bit of an introvert,” she said. “I’m happy in my own environment and in my own head and this challenge suits my personality style.
“It’s a bit more structured than before where I know straight away that I’ve got to do 38 miles on day one.
“There was less control over what your day was (in the Finnmark Plateau Challenge) because it was based completely on the weather and other elements like how quickly you got the tents down in the morning.
“With Beyond the Ultimate, I know for example I have to be on the start line for 6am so you know you are working to that time and then there are check points along the way.
“You are together as a group and together as a team but it’s about your individual performance. That’s better for me and who I am.”
This sort of challenge is nothing new to Trish, whose love for endurance events comes from her father, Leo McCarthy, who has completed hundreds of marathons and ultras.
He would regularly take Trish into the mountain ranges around Belfast and she remembers as a 10-year-old promising her dad that she would go trekking when she was older.
She’s certainly realised that ambition. Whilst Trish can claim to be a seasoned marathoner, she has also taken part in the Everest Marathon, climbed Mount Elbrus and is a regular competitor in the Original Mountain Marathon each year. Throw in the odd Ironman and you get the sense that when it comes to endurance, she knows what she’s talking about.
Training for such events in Norfolk can be difficult thanks to its flat terrain but she will be replicating the feeling of running on snow this weekend by heading to Holkham to run on sand.
Her partner of 21 years, Rob Evans, has grown used to dropping her miles away from home and seeing her several hours later at their front door. You also get the feeling he’s probably used to seeing Trish lunge and squat her way through the house as she looks to get the strength in her legs for the challenge that lies ahead.
But this is the break from the commercial world Trish operates in. As a corporate training consultant she loves the opportunity to be challenging herself in the raw elements of the Arctic.
“That’s what gets me through,” she said. “I love doing what I do and when it gets really tough I just think in a week’s time I will be back in my normal routine, walking the dog, talking to the people I normally talk to every day. That’s what keeps you mentally strong.”
And helps keep the cold out…