7 Marathons, 7 Continents, 7 Days

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(L to R: Kristen, Sharon and Maria)

We speak to the UAE team who are taking on one of the toughest challenges of all… They will be running seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents to raise funds for the Maria Cristina Foundation

Seven marathons on seven continents in seven days is enough to leave anyone weak at the knees, but three women from Dubai plan to take on the 777 Challenge this November. Charity fundraiser Maria Conceicao will be joined by mother and daughter duo Sharon and Kristen De Sousa to help raise funds for the Maria Cristina Foundation (MCF), which helps school children who live in the slums of Dhaka. Starting in Antarctica, the women will then race in Africa, Europe, North America, South American, Australia and arrive in Abu Dhabi on 2 December for the final marathon.

“Mental burnout worries me”
Maria Conceicao, 36, from Portugal is pushing her body to its limits to raise awareness for this cause

“The credit crunch has played havoc with fundraising in the UAE so we needed a wider audience. We needed a global platform and what’s more global than running the seven continents? I have taken on extreme physical challenge to raise awareness and funds for MCF programmes. I recently summited Everest, but marathon running is a different skill set, so training wise I feel as if I’m back to square one.
The logistical challenge will be as tough as the physical one. We will be combating marathon fatigue, flying fatigue and fluctuations in extreme temperature. Plus we also have the pressure that if we miss one flight the whole challenge will be ruined.
I train six days a week. I do yoga for flexibility at Gems of Yoga, strength training sessions with Taif Delamie from Up And Running and speed sessions with Coach Tom Woolf from Nike. On top of this I do spinning and swimming for cardio.
My biggest challenge for 777 is mental burnout. I’ve just returned from Everest and now I am training for another extreme challenge. But when you have 600 children’s lives at stake, giving up is just not an option.”

“I’d only run 10km before”
Voiceover artist, Sharon Theresa De Sousa45, from Canada has always stayed in shape, but this is the first time she has run over 10km
“Before I started preparing for this challenge the most I had ever run was 10km, so I decided to train for the Muscat Marathon in January 2013. I work out six days a week. I will do one long distance run a week, two strength training sessions, two interval training sessions and a 10km within the week. The long distance run is my favourite part of the training. I just go at my own pace and listen to my favourite music.
Apart from the extreme weather in Antarctica, the biggest challenge will be running seven marathons back to back. But when I’m having a tough moment, I just think of why I’m doing this. I think of the beautiful children from Dhaka that I am doing this challenge for and the adversities they have to overcome every day. It motivates me to get up and train and it will also help me complete this challenge.” 

“I will be the youngest 777 competitor”
Dubai college student Kristen De Sousa, 15 from Canada hopes to be the youngest ever competitor to finish the 777 challenge.
“I am blessed to lead such a wonderful life and sadly, not everyone is as fortunate as I am. The 777 Challenge gives us the chance to raise awareness and funds for the children of Dhaka.
I play a lot of sport, but the only marathon I ran was an unofficial one near my home so I could see it I could do it.
I train around one to two hours, six days a week. And as well as doing speed and endurance sessions with Coach Tom, I go swimming, do pilates and play netball. Like most teenagers I love sweet things, but I’ve had to ditch sugary, fatty foods and increase my protein.
The biggest challenge for me will be having the mental strength to keep going when I feel physically exhausted. I know that the third and fourth marathons will be the most difficult in the challenge as I will be exhausted and still only halfway through the challenge. This is when I’ll need test my mental strength the most. To help boost my mental strength I set goals every time I train. And I push myself not only to meet these goals, but exceed them.”


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