MEL Venables took on the toughest race of her career so far over the weekend after making the long journey to China to take on the Changan Ford Gobi 100km International Trail Race.
After winning the UK 100km Road Running Championships in Perth, Scotland back in March, the Leamington runner was invited to take travel across the world to take part in the event in the Gobi Desert on Sunday.
After three flights and 24 hours of travelling, Venables had to be up and ready at 5am for transport to the start of the race at 7am and even that early in the morning the weather was warm and it got warmer throughout the day.
The race involved two 50km laps of a course of over rough sandy desert terrain with very little hard surface to run on.
Having previously finished seventh fastest woman in the five-day Marathon de Sable in the Sahara Desert in 2015, Venables knew that this race had the potential to even tougher despite the fact that there would be aid stations every 5km.
Starting off at a conservative pace, the 40-year-old covered the first lap (50km) inside the top ten in the ladies race and was feeling positive, but calf cramps creeped in at the 60km point, which she put down to a lack of salt.
Venables said: “I was faced with walking for 40km or dropping out and that was definitely not an option.”
Shortly afterwards she was able to get a salt laced drink at one of the aid stations: “I managed to pull something together with a kind of run alternated with a walky run thing.”
Doggedly pushing on, Venables was almost forced to pull out of the race when, close to the finish, her head torch let her down but after tripping over some low scrub bushes she finally crossed the finish line.
Venables’ determination saw her finish in a time of 12 hours and 25 minutes which was enough to secure 11th place overall in the ladies race out of 29 starts.
Several men and women were forced to withdraw because of the tough conditions, while others failed to make the cut off time and were not allowed to continue the race.
“That was possibly the toughest race I have ever done,” Venables added. “Scorching hot with no shade and so much sand and rocks.
“I had planned as much as possible with food, drinks and salt tablets, but still wasn’t quite prepared for how brutal this was going to be.
“For most of the second lap I was mostly on my own between the aid stations. However I am proud of my performance in an International Race.”
One of the rewards on the return journey for Venables was a visit to the Great Wall of China.
Venables will now enjoy plenty of rest before looking towards pencilling in races in her 2017 diary.