Malawi Diaries Part 1: Mount Mulanje & Street Chef

I found it difficult to write this post as I have SO much I’d like to share about my trip to Malawi, therefore I thought I would break it down into three separate posts (which could potentially end up being 86 posts if I struggle to contain myself.)

This post will cover two of the highlights from my first couple of days in Malawi.

As part of the Sport with a Purpose campaign, we took part in a series of endurance challenges across Southern Malawi led by Dame Kelly Holmes – the first being a 25k mountain run up Mount Mulanje, the highest mountain in Southern Central Africa. We followed the route of The Porters Race, one of Malawi’s most challenging extreme sporting events.

The route is rocky, hazardous, unbelievably steep and incomparable to anything I have ever experienced! It was more of a scramble/fast walk/steady jog than a run, with extremely technical uphill trails and an equally challenging descent.

Mount Mulanje is incredibly beautiful; we were treated to views of spectacular waterfalls, majestic peaks, andddd I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the beauty of the landscape surrounding us so hopefully these photos will help!

Malawi2

Malawi4

Malawi3

My teammates, along with the team that supported us, were fantastic throughout the challenge (and throughout the duration of the trip.) There is something very special about being part of a team of people who all share a common passion, and this set a precedent for the rest of the challenges.

Another key event from my first couple of days in Malawi was visiting Street Chef, an initiative which aims to provide more nutritious food for Malawians using locally sourced food cooked in an environmentally way.

Our visit to Street Chef was an eye-opening experience, and really highlighted some of the key issues surrounding nutrition in Malawi. More than half of Malawian children suffer from chronic malnutrition; this is a HUGE problem in Malawi and one that I cannot even begin to comprehend.

Street Chef have developed stoves that use minimal firewood and are a great accessory for a street food kitchen. These stoves come with recipes and training on how to make delicious food that is locally sourced, cheap to buy, and packed with nutrients.

I can confirm that the food was DELICIOUS (particularly the goat stew!) and it was great to see how inspired and motivated the team were.

Street Chef 2

Street Chef 3

Street Chef 1

Street Chef 4

If you would like more information on Street Chef, or would be happy to donate*, please click here

*To those who have already donated via my personal GoFundMe page – thank you so much! To anyone else who is planning on donating, please could I ask that you use the link above.

The ultimate Malawi Challenge: Sport with a Purpose

I am ever so excited to announce that in October (i.e. next month!) I will be travelling to Malawi to join Dame Kelly Holmes and a team of 20 on the 2018 Orbis Challenge. The purpose of this expedition is to assist with launching a new campaign, Sport with a Purpose, to raise awareness of the importance of nutrition and sport in Malawi.

As the challenge takes place in four weeks, and my place on the trip was confirmed four days ago, I really don’t have long to prepare for what will most DEFINITELY be the most intense physical challenge of my life!! There are 3 key elements to the challenge, which are:

  • RUN: Every year, there is a 25km run up Mulanje Mountain known as The Porters Race. This trail has a 1660m elevation gain (I REPEAT 1660M) and the incredibly hot climate will make the run even more challenging. I’ve never run in this heat before – in fact, I’ve never experienced this heat before and therefore any tips would be much appreciated!
  • CYCLE: We will be completing a 55km cycle across Zomba Plateau, which has an elevation gain of 1800m (I REPEAT 1800M.)
  • KAYAK: There will be a 20km kayak on Lake Malawi (the ninth largest lake in the world!) commencing at Cape Maclear, heading out to Mumbo Island, and then returning to the mainland.

We will be visiting several community initiatives in Malawi to support this years Sport with a Purpose cause. Our main focus will be raising awareness about health and wellbeing in Malawi.

One of these initiatives is Street Chef; a small, local initiative designed to get healthy local grown food onto the streets of Malawi. Street Chef have created environmentally friendly stoves that use minimal firewood, and come with recipes and training for the business street chefs on how to make delicious, locally sourced food.

This is such a fantastic initiative, and I feel SO privileged to be taking part! However, I would really REALLY appreciate your support; ideally I need to raise at least £2,000, but I am aware that at this late stage it may not be an achievable target. If you can help, anything at all, I would be ever so grateful: The Orbis Challenge

Do you have experience of running in the scorching heat? If so, I would love to hear your words of wisdom – please do get in touch!

Running Nutrition – My Biggest Mistakes!

Nutrition for Runners, and nutrition in general, is something that interests me greatly, particularly as I previously lived off a diet of cheese & wine & mojitos & Greggs sausage rolls (I now eat what I hope is a more nutrient-dense diet!)

There were a few nutritional blunders I made when I initially started running (and some of these are mistakes that I still make now) – the main culprits being as follows:

  1. Not Eating Enough!

Looking back, I was not eating nearly enough not only as a runner, but also as a human being. At the time, I thought I was eating ‘well’ (whatever that means?!) but in reality, my diet was highly restrictive, and I absolutely was NOT eating enough!

Although ultimately this was my choice, I think some of the nutritional guidelines for runners are a little dangerous/misleading. I remember reading a nutrition guide published in Runner’s World, which had a strong focus on effective substitutes – i.e. swapping in a “good” food to replace a so-called “bad” food. I can’t remember the exact foods they shamed, but I would put money on one of the examples being swapping in wholegrain bread to replace white bread (absolute classic).

There have been numerous discussions around assigning moral value to the foods that we eat, so I won’t bore you with rambling on about this topic (AHEM SLIMMING WORLD NAMING CERTAIN FOODS AS ‘SYNS.’ I still can’t get over how ridiculous and potentially damaging this is.) However, I will say that this did have an impact on me when I first began my running ‘journey’ (cringe), and not eating enough was a huge faux pas!

  1. Cutting out Major Food Groups

Following on from my previous point, for some bizarre reason I felt the need to eliminate entire food groups from my diet. I’m not one to buy into faddy diets, so to be honest I’m still unsure as to why I did this. I think I panicked…who knows.

This was not good for my body or metabolism. It was stupid. It was moronic.

  1. Mistimed Fibre Consumption

I have a fibre rich diet – lots of oats, whole grain pasta, fruit and beans. I always thought this was a positive thing – which essentially it is! This was until I took part in a 20-mile race and experienced terrible cramping and other undesirable symptoms and threw up on someone’s shoes (SURPRISE.)

This incident was almost definitely down to the timing of my fibre intake – obviously the time for excessive fibre is not pre-race!

  1. Not Drinking Enough Water

I know I have touched on this in a previous post, and I know that this one sounds obvious. However, this is something that I still underestimate, particularly when I am doing an easy run and don’t feel the T H I R S T.

  1. (Incorrect Energy Gel Usage)

This must be one of the most ridiculous (running related) things I have ever done, and I have put this point in brackets to emphasise that this was a one-off incident.

In my first ever race, I was handed an Energy Gel at one of the drinks stations. For some unknown reason, I thought that the Energy Gel was a muscle soothing concoction, therefore smothered the gel all over my aching legs.

The remainder of the race was rather unpleasant – I was highly aromatic, plus leaves and branches kept attaching themselves to my legs.

Whilst I’m sure that No. 5 is only relevant to me, it would be interesting to hear if anyone else has made any similar (or not so similar!) nutritional errors. What has been your biggest running nutrition mistake? Is there anything that you consistently struggle with nutrition wise?