CBO director Philip Smith is in the final stages of training for a marathon with a difference this weekend. Promoting a car lottery which is raising funds for This is EPIC, Philip and Warren Mauger will be pulling a one tonne Fiat 26.2 miles along Vazon coast road. Here’s a quick Q&A with Philip ahead of the challenge on Saturday.
Q: This Is EPIC has done some crazy and exhausting things but never a marathon car pull – tell us where this idea came from, and why?
A: The This is EPIC team (Louise Smith, myself, Warren Mauger and Mel Torode) earlier in the summer of 2021 had organised a car lottery with the team at Le Mont Saint Garage. Warren and I then went for a coffee and were thinking about how we could make the lottery a bit more interesting (as well as sharing how busy and tired we were both feeling). Warren then uttered the words “Just think about this…let’s pull a car for a marathon!’ Without really thinking it through I replied instantly with a “YES!” and here we are about 18 weeks on, and we have the event a few days away! The challenge is all about selling as many car lottery tickets as possible. People can donate but they might as well donate £25 and get a lottery ticket, you can also by 4 tickets and get a 5th ticket free.
Q: How long do you think it will take you?
A: At the start of training, we were thinking it would take around 13 hours, based on moving the car at 2mph. But after testing the car with a few pulls we are now thinking that around 9 hours might be possible – but the car weighs 1 tonne and when we are hours into the challenge we might be rethinking the time it will take. We’re starting at 6am in the morning to maximise daylight and (hopefully) avoid pulling the car for too long after sunset.
Q: How are you going to get the car round bends?
A: We have to have a driver behind the wheel and the engine needs to be running (to allow for power steering and the brakes to function). We have a team of volunteer drivers lined up across the day to sit behind the wheel, they will require a deft touch with the brakes on the small downhills to ensure we’re not runover by the car if the speed picks up. On the day we are also offering the opportunity for people to be a passenger in the car whilst it is being pulled, people can do this through buying 4 tickets (getting a 5th free) at Vazon on the 16th October.
Q: How do you prepare for something like this, because presumably you haven’t been able to pull a Fiat up and down Vazon coast road each week?
A: We have been training since early July, this is a completely different type of training. We have had to focus on initially building strength and injury prevention, through to the peak training weeks which have included four gym sessions a week plus pulling something called a prowler five times a week. At the heart of the training has been pulling the prowler, this is a 60kg lump of metal that we have been pulling up and down a length of AstroTurf at the gym which is about 30mtrs long. The pulls have ranged from 30 mins (in the early weeks) to 4.5hrs in the peak training weeks. We have also added weight to the prowler to make it even more difficult to pull (to mirror the uphill sections). We wouldn’t have had a clue about the training without the expertise from Alison, Sam and Gail at Upgrade Fitness who have provided us with our training programme and helped us along the way. In terms of other physical preparation, between us we have had to put on about 14kg of muscle in the 14 weeks of training, our body shapes have changed and are no longer ideal for long distance running.
Q: What has been the hardest thing about the training?
A: I haven’t run since June 2021, which I expected to be the toughest part of training, going from running 5 to 6 times a week to nothing. But the hardest part has been the sheer levels of tiredness during the big training weeks. This has been a completely different style of training, so the body has had to adapt to this which has been very interesting. The eating has also been a challenge, to go from 73kg to about 80kg in 14 weeks has meant lots of big meals, second breakfasts and increasing the food bills at home by about 25%!
Q: You’ve done marathons with Warren before, how much harder is this?
A: This feels like our toughest challenge to date. Looking at this, in terms of constant strain on the body over a long period this feels like another level. The 7 marathons in 7 days, 48 hours on a treadmill and 7 ironman triathlons in 7 days were all tough, but this is putting a completely new type of demand on our bodies and one that we have had to specifically train for – rather than just increase our running training. Pulling the 1 Tonne car even on a 1 or 2% incline requires massive effort – and we’re doing that over 26.2 miles.
Q: Will you be having any breaks?
A: Yes, we will, but probably not for too long to avoid the risk of injury. Our route is up and down a 1-mile stretch of Vazon coast road, which means we are going to have the car turned around after each mile. It is likely that we will eat and drink at the end of each mile. From previous endurance challenges we have learnt that it is critical to eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty. You can end up in a lot of trouble if you go into calorie or fluid debt during an endurance challenge – we’ve learnt that from experience. As for food on the day, we’re expecting it to be a mixture of high calorie smoothies, energy flapjacks/gels and more substantial food.