COMPETING in the Marathon des Sables, a gruelling ultra-marathon through the Sahara Desert, has ended in a stint in hospital for Southland marathon runner Jan Taylor, but she says she still enjoyed every moment of it.
“One of the highlights was realising I was capable of something I never thought I would be able to do. I enjoyed the whole experience,” she said.
The 52-year-old kindergarten teacher took part in the annual event this month. Completing the equivalent of five and a-half marathons, or about 230km, over five days.
She was one of five New Zealanders among the 1287 competitors from around the world taking part in this year’s event.
After successfully completing the first four stages, totalling about 187km, Taylor was on the final leg of the final day of the race with only 10km to go to the finish line when she was forced to pull out because of heat stroke and dehydration.
Stage five was 42.2km, which had to be completed within 12 hours. The previous stage was 86.2km long.
The organisers pulled her out of the race, she was not given a choice, she said.
“Sometimes it takes someone else to take you out.
“I was a bit gutted, but I am still happy with where I got to. I went further than I thought I would.”
Although she did not endure any major sandstorms or have run-ins with snakes and scorpions, the temperature, which reached about 50degC most days, was one of the major challenges she faced, she said.
Taylor admitted she did experience some dark times during the race, but said she never considered quitting.
“It was my Christian faith that got me through those times… and focusing on completing one section at a time.”
At the end of each day she looked forward to reading the messages of support she received from family, friends and the Southland community, something she really appreciated, she said.
Taylor is now in Southland Hospital receiving treatment for infected blisters on her feet and swelling in her legs.
“It is nothing that is not going to resolve over time.”
Despite her injuries, Taylor said she had no regrets having taken on the challenge and it had not put her off the sport.
Before the Marathon Des Sables, Taylor had completed six marathons on six continents and seven half-marathons in places including New York, Paris, South Africa and China over the past seven years.
Although she is still recovering from her last experience, the mother of two said she had already set her sights on her next challenge – the Antarctica marathon in February next year.