Meet Woodbridge’s very own wonder woman, Inge Nijkamp. Not only is she just taken on another gruelling race – she’s previously ran marathons in Amsterdam, New York and even the Sahara Desert, and ultra marathons including the London 2 Cambridge Challenge and Country to Capital – she’s was raising money for incredible mental health charity MIND during her efforts.
INGE’S RUNNING RESUME
“I’ve always played sports and ran on and off, but it wasn’t until 2014 I began running properly,” says Inge, who’s also a Suffolk ambassador for This Girl Can. “It all started when I signed up to my first marathon that year.
“In the last four years I’ve ran marathons in Amsterdam, New York, Brighton and Palma as well as ultra marathons including the London 2 Cambridge Challenge and Country to Capital, however the longest I’ve ever ran in one go was for the Pen Llyn ultra in 2017. I ran the ‘classic’ 75 mile race, in which I was the third female to cross the finish line.
“Running for me is my time out to reset my brain and relax – I love it.”
With all of the medals from these races, plus the one she’s just received in Costa Rica, you’d think Inge may be ready to put her feet up and have a rest for a bit. But this far from the case; she’s also signed up to the 2018 London Marathon in April.
THE BIG RACE
Inge’s most recent test of endurance however, was The Costa Rica Coastal Challenge. Not for the faint hearted, The Coastal Challenge (TCC) is a multi-day ultra marathon ran over six days – which tested Inge’s limits this month from February 11th to 18th. Each day participants cover a set distance; distances which together add up to make the race’s 230km+ route.
“I know I can physically do it, but it’s a challenge. Although more than anything, it’s an adventure.”
Although set along Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coastline, the breathtaking route of this race also weaves into the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the southwest of the country, before finishing near the country’s border with Panama.
These terrains aren’t made for easy running and include jungle, rainforest and mountain trails, single track paths across ridgelines, beaches, reefs and river and estuary crossings. The race also ends in Unesco World Heritage site Corcovado National Park, which one of the most incredible rainforests in the world.
Not only will the terrains be challenging, the weather will take its toll on runners too – the weather in Costa Rica is never going to provide perfect running conditions, is it? Its warm (the current temperature is 40 degrees+) humid and sometimes windy, while short bursts of rain are also common in the late afternoon and evenings, especially the closer runners get to the finish line.
TRAINING FOR AN ULTRA MARATHON
We all know training for a marathon is hard work, therefore training for an ultra has to be even harder.
Inge took on the Marathon des Sables last year, and did amazingly – she was the 11th female to cross the finish line and placed 166th in total – however, although she says her training for TCC was not as successful as it had been before, she still put in a lot of hard work to prepare.
“Not only has my training included long distance runs every other week, it’s included hill reps and climbs, intervals sessions, speed work, technical work and plenty of walking,” Inge explains.
“I also went to Lanzarote for an organised training camp. As the island is volcanic, the terrain is similar to that of trail races and the weather is also warmer there than it is here. During the camp we ran about 20 miles per day – there was a long run in the morning, followed by a workshop and then another long run in the afternoon.
“During the week leading up to TCC, I also spent a lot of time in the sauna, getting my body used to the heat,” Inge jokes.
CROSSING THE FINISH LINE
Despite only finishing a few days ago, Inge was more than happy to share her experience of the race. She says: “It has been absolutely amazing. Costa Rica has the most amazing wildlife and nature and the country has stolen my heart.
“The race was technical with nearly vertical ascents and descents, and tricky jungle terrain. Unfortunately a couple of falls meant a damaged leg and knees, but this didn’t stop the race for me.
“The 75% humidity made the experience very hard, and meant cooling down in rivers and waterfalls became a necessity in order to keep going.
“There were highs and lows and, as always, the mental battle gets tough along the way. However, together with some amazing individuals I met along the course, the experience of The Costa Rica Coastal Challenge was just magical.
“It was a fantastic race and finishing as 7th female made for a finish with a smile.”
Motivating herself to run isn’t all that Inge does either, as she also hosts running clubs for individuals of all levels in Woodbridge, Suffolk.
“In my beginner sessions I work on getting people used to running, for example teaching the correct posture and technique. This aids the runner’s physical wellbeing and helps with them enjoying it.
“In the more advanced sessions, we look at fine tuning an individual’s running and what their body does when it moves. I also help runners with overcoming any negative thoughts that may come from running too.”
To Inge, running isn’t about competition – although she says that she is a little competitive with herself – and, unlike many others, she doesn’t believe in setting goals. Whether that’s for herself or for the runners she coaches.
“To me setting goals suggests you think how you are currently is not good enough. Instead I encourage people to find new things to try – I find this is more positive and more motivating.
“I believe people should be running, and exercising, because they want to. Not because they feel they have to.”
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