For the secret to running further and faster, you might just want to look to the example of one woman from Brazil who seems to have got it all nailed down.
It was a brutal storm and altitude sickness that hampered Fernanda Maciel’s first two attempts to run up and down Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America. But The North Face athlete wasn’t to be stopped. On her third attempt at the 6962m peak she had success, completing her whole round trip within 24 hours – the first woman to achieve such a feat. A year later, she laid down the fastest known women’s time for ascending and descending Kilimanjaro as well, at just 10 hours 6 minutes. For a bit of perspective on just how fast that is, those trekking the iconic African mountain tend to take between five and nine days. There are her racing achievements as well of course, with first place finishes at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, the Lavaredo and Trans Gran Canaria, three competitions often regarded as the pinnacle of ultra running.
“She hated having to get the school bus, so quite simply, would just run instead.”
The cornerstone to her success? That’ll be her fighting spirit – and we’re not just talking about running grit here. In fact, this is someone who could just as easily defeat someone in hand-to-hand combat as they could in a foot race. The thing that’s formed the base she’s always had to keep running, she says, is jiu-jitsu. “I started to fight at the age of one, because my dad and grandfather were fighters,” she explains. “I started with this philosophy, a martial arts philosophy, with certain values that I have always practiced, and I think they make me a good athlete and a good person – able to fight for my dreams and to be a champion.”
She also credits yoga and meditation as a big part of her success. “It’s so important to have control of the mind,” she says. “You need to be able to control your thoughts and not be negative. Be positive and you can’t lose focus – that’s all the mind. So the mental part, mental training is super important. It’s good for the body as well; teaching you how to breathe well when running.”