Jo was the first woman over the cross line of the Marathon Des Sables and the eighth person to finish overall - an amazing feat considering the long distances and high humidity. Jo ran for six days and covered 225km, averaging 21-40km a day. The atmosphere was stifling and according to Jo, ‘Like running in a sauna.’ She had to drink water the whole time she ran.
The reason behind Jo’s success lay not only in her professional athletic training for fifteen years, but also in her use of specialist equipment at the University of St Mark & St John. The University has a specialist sport sciences lab and tailored a programme to match Jo’s needs. As a member of the public she was able to book and use the facilities as easily as a current student.
Jo said, ‘It was brilliant – the University couldn’t have done more for me. The service was excellent and the benefits incredible. The marathons are very challenging as you travel the world doing various races. This has boosted my profile and I will hopefully now get a sponsor.’
The programme involved running on a treadmill in a heated chamber, set to reach 28oC at 70% humidity. Jo would run for an hour at a time and had her core temperature analysed using laboratory equipment.
Joe Layden is a Senior Lecturer in Health & Exercise Physiology at the University and stayed with Jo during her training to ensure her health was not compromised. Joe Laden said, ‘We supported Jo Meek in her preparation for two extreme, ultra distance events. As part of her preparation for the physiological challenges, the University provided Jo with a heat-acclimation programme. Prior to each event Jo undertook exercise in the Environmental Chamber, which helped her body adapt to the heat by repeatedly stressing the thermoregulatory system. She lost 1.5 – 2 litres of sweat each session. We measured Jo’s core, skin and average body temperatures.’
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