Browse content similar to Helen's Ultimate Challenge. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
I've come to Namibia in southern Africa
to take on one of the toughest challenges in Blue Peter's history.
The Namibia Ultra Marathon
is among the hardest endurance events in the world.
I can't believe I've got sunburn!
If I'm to complete it, I'll have to cover 78 miles in 24 hours
through the oldest desert on Earth.
It's so, so difficult.
I'll have to battle through the extreme heat of the day
and the total darkness of the night.
I don't want to stop, I really don't want to stop.
Namibia is 5,000 miles from the UK in southern Africa.
I heading out to the camp where I'm staying till the race starts.
And this is probably wrong, but I don't feel nervous
I just feel excited.
This place is amazing.
It seems like a really beautiful country.
The whole thing is worlds away from where I started back in January.
'My preparations began in the depths of winter.
'Most ultra runners start training as much as a year beforehand.
'I had just three months.
'After finishing my first race, I called my coach Rory
'to tell him how I'd got on.
'I was in for a surprise.'
-I'm running quite happily. I don't want to stop.
SHE SCREAMS Ha-ha!
'Rory hadn't come to celebrate with me,
'he'd come to get me to do even more miles!'
-Are you kidding or not?
-No, I'm not kidding.
Oh! I was glad to see you two minutes ago!
This is not fun any more.
'I didn't find it easy but I knew I needed to be constantly pushing
'how far I could run.'
I know there's not far to go. I know I have to stay positive...
And I want to.
'After that first training weekend things intensified massively.
'Within a few weeks, I did my first long distance run -
'a 26.2-mile marathon through the streets of London.
'I enjoyed my first marathon.'
-It feels so good when you've done it.
But much tougher times lay ahead.
These hailstones actually hurt they hit me in the face so hard.
'The most intense part of my training took place in Cumbria,
'where I grew up.'
'And I've got a day of running ahead of me.
'This was where I attempted my longest single run before Namibia -
'50 miles in one day.'
We're going to run for about the first 50 minutes,
-then we're going to go into a run-walk...
..all the way to the football ground. It's a long, long way.
'Having my friends and family there to cheer me on
'helped me through the final miles.
'After 12 hours, I made it to the end.'
Three weeks before coming to Namibia, I went to Morocco
in North Africa.
My ultimate challenge takes place in a desert
so I needed to find out IF I could handle running in the heat.
It wasn't long before I started suffering.
This is happening and I am going to Namibia to attempt to run 78 miles.
It's going to be like this, only harder and hotter!
'I got through my marathon in Morocco but I knew the Namibia race
'would be three times as long in temperatures far hotter.'
I know I can do this!
'After three months of training I'd covered a total distance of...
'I'd trained for...
'Now there was just one challenge left.'
The 2009 Namibia Ultra Marathon was now
just hours away. For the 23 others who were going to attempt it
it was time for final preparations.
Steve, the race director needed to make sure
we all had the right equipment in our backpacks.
OK, Helen, shall we go through your kit?
-This seems like a lot of stuff.
-So, the running shoes...
'I'd be carrying all my own food and cooking equipment,
'enough water to get me between checkpoints,
'and emergency supplies like a first aid kit.'
-It's a lot to carry, isn't it?
-That's why it's a tough challenge.
Next was a medical briefing from Amy the race doctor.
I knew what I was about to do was extreme
but Amy left none of us in any doubt about the dangers lying ahead.
The first thing with this race is it's an endurance race, 24 hours
Or 15 - 20 hours, depending on how fast you're running, and it's hot.
All of you have experienced the heat. Heatstroke is the most severe
of all the heat-related illnesses. Your symptoms will be headache -
all of you will suffer a headache - nausea and vomiting.
Vomiting is a particularly important sign, OK?
Let us know if you're vomiting. Muscle cramps.
We pulled a guy last year, he had spasms so agonising he was in tears.
Dizziness, confusion and irritability -
those are late signs and are significant signs as well.
We need to act on those.
So please, please let someone know if you feel unwell.
I think the medical briefing was meant to...
..make us all take this really seriously.
It has actually really freaked me out.
I needed reassurance, so I spoke to the runners
who came first, second and third in last year's race.
You're letting yourself in for a shock.
It's like being in an oven.
It's an incredibly beautiful place but it's hard to enjoy
because you're struggling with heat exhaustion
and you're carrying all that weight of water and food and equipment.
Focus on the positive things that you've done in your training,
the results, and you focus on that as you go into the race.
If it's very difficult, think about a couple of positive mental points.
There will be times when you will be very dark, but
then you can also bring yourself out of that.
'I went to bed that night with a lot on my mind.'
My head is scrambled right now.
This is the biggest thing I've ever taken on in my life.
And I can't mess it up.
I really don't want to mess it up.
It's less than an hour until we start the race, so I have
some recorded messages from my friends and family that I'll watch
and hopefully these will give me a boost and something to think about
when I want to quit.
I know that out of anybody that I've ever met in my life,
you are going to do it. I have no doubt.
You're going to do this.
You're a winner. Eye of the tiger, stay positive!
Hi, Helen. We're really proud of you.
And I know you're going to do it cos you're so determined.
OK. Love you loads.
Having support like this is what's going to get me through it.
I haven't done the years and months of training that these lots have.
It is in my head whether I can do it or not.
It's about whether I can...
be positive and get myself to the finish.
She's been training for the last four months or so
which is a short period for a race like this.
I'm looking at one or two runners coming out
for probably heat-related illness problems. Maybe an injury too.
So that can often stop someone running.
'The race was now just moments away. Ahead of all of us,
'a 78-mile route divided into six stages
'by checkpoints every 13 miles.
'We'd have 24 hours to get to the finish
'on Namibia's Atlantic coast.'
SHRIEKING AND LAUGHTER
'This was it!
'The race I'd been preparing for
'for months was underway.
'And although I knew it was going to be hard
'it felt great to be getting stuck in.'
It's really warm already and it's just the start of the race.
And the thing I didn't think about
is how sandy and how difficult underfoot
it's going to be. There are holes and branches
and all kinds of things. The grass is knee length.
Not the easiest of running.
It's weird. I'm actually enjoying this.
I just feel like I have been preparing for this
for three months now and this is the end - this is the final challenge.
So I'm just going to enjoy it.
'Not everyone was enjoying themselves though.
'The raise was still in its early stages but already
'some of the other runners were struggling to keep going.'
I felt wiped from half an hour in. Absolutely spent -
like I haven't slept for days.
It's just the heat. It's like being smacked.
'The heat had claimed its first victim. Steve's race was over.
'Checkpoint 1 was a wake-up call for everyone taking part in the event.
'We were only a sixth of the way through the race
'and runners were already dropping out.'
Two runners have pulled out. One has just been a bit slower.
He's feeling the heat. The second has a heat-related illness.
He is not able to cool his body down.
He's needing a lot of water. These are the early signs of heat stroke.
'No-one expected this many casualties so early on.'
On we go.
'And as I was about to leave the first checkpoint another shock.'
Are you all right?
'One of the strongest runners, Andy, had hurt his back
'and was out of the race.'
That actually quite shocked me. Andy did this last year and came second
and he was helping me through this
and he's just pulled out of the race because he's struggling.
And...one of the guys who was leading - he's pulled out, as well.
this has just stepped up a gear, hasn't it?
'It was now the hottest part of the day.
'The temperature in the desert had risen to 43 degrees.
'I needed to pace myself to have any chance of surviving the heat.'
If I run now, I'll be exhausted and I won't be able to do the 78 miles
but if I walk in this bit of the day, I should be able to finish.
It's hard because I want to run
because I want this to be over. I want to get through it.
But I've got to be sensible
and the fact that people have dropped out already
at the first checkpoint proves that...
you can't take this lightly. You've got to be sensible about it.
I put loads of cream on this morning. I don't normally burn
but then I don't normally hang out in Africa.
I can't believe I've got sunburn!
'I was desperate to push through the heat
'so I decided to run again. Bad idea -
'before long I started to feel sick.
'My body simply couldn't cope.
'My race was about to grind to a halt.'
I'm so hot and so thirsty and I feel sick and...
I feel really sick.
I can't talk about how hard it is
because it just puts my head in a really bad place
but, please, take my word for it, this is...
so hard. It's so, so difficult.
My legs are burning.
I don't know what to do either. I've been drinking all the stuff but...
Look like I've lost the plot, don't I?
I kept saying before, "Every time I put my feet to the ground,
"it's one step nearer to the end."
Actually now, it feels like every time I put my feet to the ground...
You know when you stub your toe? That's what it feels like -
EVERY step. Stub, stub, stub, stub, stub.
I am going to do this in a minute.
'One of the other runners,
'Fran, caught up with me. It was time to get back on the move.'
-OK, rock'n'roll, baby.
'Being with Fran was just the distraction I needed.'
How far do you reckon to the next checkpoint?
'With the worst of the heat over,
'I pushed on to checkpoint 2 - the 26 mile mark.'
You look better than the rest of us.
-That's a marathon.
'This was a massive relief.
'It didn't take long to see that I wasn't the only one suffering.
'By now, six of the original 23 runners were out of the race.'
This is likely to be a good point to read some of your messages
because, quite frankly, I need the motivation.
Everybody's saying, "Believe in yourself. just keep going."
And you're right - I've got to keep going.
And I will. I promise.
'With your good luck messages in my head
'and some clean clothes, I was ready to set off again.'
I've dealt with the heat - only just -
and now I've got to deal with the night.
'Ahead of me, ten hours of darkness
'and two more marathons.'
I got a real boost coming out of that checkpoint
because it wasn't just me, everybody found it hard.
I'm concerned that everyone that was behind me
has either dropped out or been stopped.
So it's kind of like time's snapping away at my heels
so I've really just to get on with this.
Phwoar! Oh, my Lord, this is hard!
'We were closing in on the next checkpoint,
'the halfway mark of the 78 miles.'
Come on. Come on. Come on.
Positive. Positive. Positive.
I can do this. I can so do this.
-How are you going, Stew?
-How are you? How's your feet?
Oh, agony - I just stubbed my toe.
-How's your blister?
-Oh, nice(!) Come on, Stew, we can do it!
'Checkpoint 3 at last! We were 1½ marathons in.
'It was here that you could really see the toll this race was taking.
'By now, a third of the field had dropped out. Those of us still in it
'were suffering with tired bodies, broken spirits
'and, in my case, battered and blistered feet.'
Oh, that's so sore.
'With a hot meal inside me, it was time to push on.'
Being in there is really making me realise how tough this is.
But it's motivating me. I'm going to get through.
'I was feeling positive again
'but within minutes the pain from my blisters became unbearable.'
Honestly, my feet are unbelievably sore.
I've never had a single blister. Why have I got 10 or 15 today?
Oh, my God!
Every step is agony and every time I step on a rock...
it feels like someone's shoved some sort of razor blade into your foot.
This is intense pain
'I was in serious trouble.
'I desperately needed the pain in my feet to go away.'
Cannot quit, I cannot quit, I cannot quit.
-Do you want those blisters popped?
'I was running out of options.
'Amy the medic offered to pop and drain my blisters
'in the hope it might give me some relief.'
'Amy had done all she could for me but the agony continued.
'For the first time,
'I had to seriously consider quitting the race.'
I don't think... This moment in time...I can't keep going.
I can't put my feet down.
I don't wanna stop, I really don't wanna stop.
'The pain in my feet was terrible
'but the thought of giving up was even worse.'
Checkpoint 4 wasn't far.
If I could get there, I'd be two thirds of the way through the race.
Where is everyone?
They've all come and gone, nearly.
-I'm gonna have to sit down for two minutes.
-Yeah, lie down.
I'm worried about time.
Yeah. We're on about 3.05 at the moment, 3.10.
'This was bad news. I'd arrived at Checkpoint 4
'half an hour after Amy had planned to close it.
'I was still in the race, but only just.'
-OK. So I've got to pick it up.
-A little bit.
I can't not do it. I can't not finish.
Get yourself sorted with water and food.
And then think about the time.
I'll never eat a cereal bar ever again.
'This was now a race against time. I'd been awake for 21 hours.
'It was 18 hours since the race started
'and I still had a marathon to go.
'If I was to have any hope of finishing the race in time,
'I'd have to run the final 26 miles
'quicker than any marathon I'd done before.'
I've just seen Fran go by in one of the support vehicles.
He's either stopped or he's been stopped.
And he got me through the hardest part of the race
so I'm gutted that he's finished.
And I'm pretty sure now there's no-one else behind me,
everybody's dropped out the race.
I'm up against time so I've got to get on with this.
I don't want to be the next person stopped.
'It was now day two of the race.'
Come on, me!
'I was closing in on Checkpoint 5.'
Come on, Helen.
Come on, come on, come on.
I can do this.
This is it. It all comes down to this last half-marathon.
I've got one half-marathon to go, I am so close.
I cannot stop. I have to do it.
I just keep thinking about all the nights I spent in the gym,
staying in there on my own till half nine, Billy No-Mates!
Getting up early to go for a run or fit in training before work.
It's come down to this and that's why I did it, so...
I've really just got to push on.
One half-marathon is so do-able.
Checkpoint 5 - the final stop before the finish.
Well done, Michael. Well done, Helen.
-The smile's back.
-Well done, Helen.
Brilliant. Very proud of yourself.
Thank you. I'll see you in a bit.
'At previous checkpoints, I'd stopped for as long as an hour.
'But this wasn't the time to stop.
'After a two-minute break, I was back on the move.'
There's a long way to go, so I shouldn't get carried away.
But... I'm feeling good.
Soon, I'll be into single figures!
'The final few miles were hard,
'but I kept telling myself that the worst was over.
'The finish line was now so close quitting was not an option.'
One final push and this is all over.
'The finish line was in sight. After 23 hours and 50 minutes,
'I made it, with just ten minutes to spare.
Oh! Thank you!
You all right?
Oh, it's you! Do you know what, Freya?
Freya's been with us all week and I kept thinking,
"If I don't finish it, she's going to think, 'Why?'"
And I could just picture your sad face!
That is the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life.
And there were two occasions when I thought, "I can't do this."
I thought I was gonna pull out twice.
-Well done, you!
-Absolute granite. Absolute granite, mate, well done.
'With the last runners across the line, the race was over.
'But there was one more surprise for me.
What you doing here?
'She'd come all the way from the UK to see me at the finish.'
I had no idea you were coming!
Well done. I'm so proud of you.
You would never get on a plane to Africa!
She doesn't like long flights.
What she managed to achieve
with the short time she had for training was absolutely incredible.
She came eighth out of 23.
I think if you finish this, it's mainly down to your mental strength
She had the attitude, "I've just gotta finish this race"
She did that with a lot of pain in her feet as well.
She did fantastically well on this event.
When I started this,
I kind of wanted to find out something about myself.
And I kind of wanted to know what I was capable of.
But...it soon became about not letting people doubt you.
And do you know what? If anyone says you can't do anything,
just get your head down and get on with it.
Cos you probably can.