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Vet Volunteer Tackles Mighty Oman Desert Marathon for WVS

Mon 13th Nov 2017

Super vet volunteer and marathon runner Asta Parker has volunteered to help teach on our ITC courses and been a supporter of WVS for many years. This year, she’s taking it to a whole new level by embarking on her second Oman Desert Marathon, a massive 165km challenge through the sand dunes! We caught up with her to find out what inspires her to take on these beastly challenges…

Tell us a little more about the challenge you’re taking on

The event I am taking part in is the 5th Oman Desert Marathon. It is an ultra-marathon covering 165km across the Wahiba desert sand dunes in Oman, in six self-supported stages. This means we have to carry all our own provisions throughout the race: food, sleeping bag, hygiene, first aid and navigation equipment. My pack will weigh approximately 8kg but will get lighter as I eat each day.

I started running seriously about seven years ago. I have done 11 full marathons, lots of shorter events and started dabbling in triathlon and half Ironman distances in the last few years. Some inspirational friends of mine had completed the ODM in previous years; it sounded incredible and as I live in Oman it is more or less on my doorstep. It was a logical progression from the challenge of racing marathons to try a longer event on home turf.

I completed the event last year but had a very tough time doing it, dealing with extreme dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and nausea. I lost over 10% of my body weight. I swore never to do it again as I made it to the finish but a few months later I was ready to try again and this time, learn from my mistakes.

Why did you choose WVS?

I chose WVS as I have recently taken part in some veterinary volunteering at their ITC in Thailand and seen first-hand how valuable it is, both to the students honing their skills and the community hosting them. I started volunteering having completed an MSc in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law with the University of Edinburgh. This spurred me on to rethink my 20 year small animal veterinary surgeon career and move things forward, and WVS is perfect for that!

What does our work mean to you?

I am at my happiest doing soft tissue surgery and supporting less experienced vets and students as they expand their skills. It is incredibly rewarding to see them progress and know I helped with that. 

How are you preparing for the challenge?

Preparation for an event like this takes months, if not years. I train constantly, taking a week or two off after a big event, (e.g. a marathon) then building it up again. I will cover between 70-100km running each week, in addition to which there will be some swim training and a long bike ride or two, plus some strength work. Getting the training done whilst volunteering has been a challenge. I had hoped to do more of my runs in the desert and more with my weighted running backpack, but there’s no desert in Chiang Mai! I ran lots of hilly trails instead and loved it. 

What do you hope to achieve with this challenge?

In ODM5 I want most of all to complete the distance in more relative comfort than last time. I say relative as I know I will still be pushed to my absolute limits of endurance. But it will all be worth it to help animals in need.

What advice would you give to someone else considering fundraising for charity?

I have done quite a bit of fundraising by competing in various events and my main advice is to know and believe in your charity, then you can whole-heartedly endorse it and shout it from the rooftops. I also make sure I support my friends and colleagues as much as possible if they are doing something like this too, whether it’s a bake sale or rowing the Atlantic, so that when it comes to my turn, they are there to support me.

If you had to sum up your experience in a sentence, what would it be?

All the hard work and pain is worth it if something really good comes from it! 

To help Asta on her journey, please consider a donation to her fundraising page. If you've been inspired by this mega challenge, why not take on your own! Take a look at our fundraising challenges to get some ideas, or join us on our 2018 Jurassic Coast Weekend or Thailand Jungle Trek!