For a lot of runners, ending a marathon is a once-in-a-lifetime feat. For a smaller proportion, it’s a multiple-times-in-a-lifetime accomplishment. And for a fair tinier group, it’s a multiple-times-in-a-day achievement.

Members of that final class embrace individuals within the Grand 2 Grand Extremely (G2G), an annual 170-mile extremely race (an extremely distance is something longer than 26.2 miles) that begins on the rim of the Grand Canyon and finishes on the Grand Staircase. The 2018 version of G2G kicks off this Sunday, September 23, and can characteristic six brutal phases over seven days—together with a double marathon on day three—for a complete ascent of 18,041 ft. Much more spectacular, the race is self-supported, which implies athletes should provide their very own meals, tools, and bedding—and carry it with them as they deal with the course within the Utah and Arizona desert.

“Make no mistake, it’s powerful,” warns a tagline on the race web site. Although "powerful," is a relative time period, within the context of this race, it’s undeniably an understatement. Individuals run by way of slender canyons and atop sand dunes, and climb up rock partitions. They dodge native wildlife—like snakes, scorpions, and camel spiders—whereas battling dehydration, starvation, blisters, and the extreme chafing that comes from operating that far and that lengthy. In different phrases, it’s a particularly demanding race, which requires an equally excessive degree of preparation—bodily, psychological, and in any other case—to endure.

Professional ultrarunner Jax Mariash is up for the problem. The 38-year-old Utah-based athlete hopes to win the feminine division of G2G, and together with her spectacular resume—in 2016, she grew to become the primary lady on the earth to finish the Four Deserts race sequence Grand Slam Plus, an ultra-endurance marathon sequence held within the largest deserts on the planet—she’s a high contender. We caught up with Mariash to study extra about what drives her and the way she’s been prepping for this grueling course.

Mariash, who grew up in Denver, began operating at age 5 when she competed in a 5K race together with her mother.

“I truly dropped her through the race and ended up getting a medal for the eight and below age group,” Mariash tells SELF. “I really feel in love with operating from that day ahead.” She ran cross-country and observe in highschool, and shortly after, expanded her racing to incorporate triathlons and duathlons (biking and operating). She competed on the professional circuit for each triathlons and duathlons for almost a decade.

However then, about 10 years in the past, Mariash realized that she missed operating by itself. So she pressed pause on her multi-sport way of life to focus solely on street operating. She immersed herself within the native operating neighborhood of her then dwelling of Boulder, Colorado, and based a neighborhood observe membership. After transferring to Hood River, Oregon, and lacking the camaraderie and motivation of Boulder’s tight-knit operating neighborhood, she signed up for the 2013 Silver Falls 50Okay Extremely, a 31-mile native path operating race.

She ended up having a “actually good time,” and acquired second place total. “I assumed, Perhaps I’m good at these things, and that’s when my extremely profession began,” Mariash says. Within the time since, she’s traveled all over the world, finishing ultras in Antarctica, Sri Lanka, Gobi, Namibia, Chile, and elsewhere.

This previous summer season has been an particularly busy racing season for Mariash. In August, she did the Leadville 100, a 100-mile, single-stage extremely in Colorado identified for its excessive elevation and grueling climbs, and began the Extremely Path du Mont Blanc (UTMB), a 106-mile single-stage race across the highest mountain within the Alps, although she sprained her ankle at mile 2 and dropped from the race at mile 19.

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Ten days earlier than G2G, that ankle remains to be swollen from the sprain, however due to a mixture of time spent in a compression boot, common icing and elevating, bodily remedy, and different therapies, she insists it’s “completely high quality to run on.”

Along with profitable G2G, Mariash’s aim is to be certainly one of first ladies to finish a self-supported stage race on each continent.

Her coaching for G2G includes a mixture of getting ready on the path, within the health club, and at dwelling. Oh, and sporting a 42-pound vest to work.

Mariash wakes up between 4:30 A.M. and 5 A.M. every single day to squeeze in coaching alongside her day job (she’s the founder and proprietor of STOKED Roasters, a espresso model with a number of retail retailers). “Recently, I’ve sacrificed my social life a bit bit,” she says. “Each day, my schedule is deliberate out to a T.”

To organize for G2G, the place she’ll be carrying a 22-pound backpack, Mariash has been sporting a 42-pound vest for Four to six hours every day whereas she works, and infrequently, a 22-pound vest whereas she runs and hikes. Although her coaching is a bit off for this race due to her ankle harm, she sometimes goals for three hours of train a day, which features a mixture of operating, mountain climbing, biking, and power coaching. With operating, some days are interval coaching, some are short-to-medium distance (between Four and 15 miles), and a few are lengthy (between 16 and 40 miles).

On the power coaching entrance, she does body weight workout routines for 10 minutes every single day, focusing totally on core, hip, and butt strikes, like planks, push-ups, squats, and aspect shuffles.

Mariash's gear for G2GJax Mariash

As a result of the race is self-supported, packing a light-weight, but well-stocked backpack is one other essential a part of pre-race prep.

In a self-supported stage race, “you possibly can’t get away with simply operating,” says Mariash. It’s important to be strategic concerning the particulars—significantly what you place in your pack.

The best pack weighs not more than 7 kilograms (about 15.Four kilos), with water including an extra three kilograms (about 6.6 kilos), says Mariash. The pack will get lighter as you go and expend your meals provide.

Individuals will carry required gear—gadgets deemed vital by the race officers embrace a sleeping bag designed for 32 F temps (or decrease), a compass, whistle, small knife, two headlamps, an emergency blanket, meals totaling at the very least 2,000 energy a day, and extra—after which "luxurious gadgets." Mariash’s luxurious gadgets for this race embrace a remedy ball to roll out tight muscle groups, ankle tape for her current harm, a pillow, hair ties, a comb, lotion, glitter eyeshadow (extra on that in a minute), an iPod, and one further outfit to vary into on the finish of every day.

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Then, there are the “little methods” that make the journey extra bearable, says Mariash, like placing a particular kind of athletic tape in your shoulders and ft in order that your backpack and socks gained’t trigger chafing. “If you happen to get chafing on the market, you might be screwed,” she says. “You are attempting to forestall it in any approach doable.”

Her psychological coaching for G2G consists of nightly meditation classes.

In an extremely race, significantly an extremely stage race, “there’ll all the time be adversity,” says Mariash. “However the way you take care of it’s what is going to make you come out on high.”

To organize herself for the inevitable challenges forward, Mariash has been meditating each night time as a part of her coaching. “I decide a unique affirmation and visualize success and profitable,” she says of those classes. “Thoughts coaching is as essential as bodily coaching.”

Her total technique is to eradicate self-doubt. “The second you doubt your self, you give them [your competitors] the race.”

However typically optimistic self-talk isn’t sufficient, which is why she’s planning extra artistic strategies of self-encouragement.

While you race in such powerful situations for such a protracted time period, there are intervals when it “will get darkish in your thoughts,” says Mariash. In these moments, pep talks might not be sufficient, and runners should discover different methods to drag themselves again right into a optimistic mindset. Her resolution is to “supercharge” herself with small trinkets, just like the unicorn (her favourite animal) and Surprise Girl (her alter ego) patches that she fastens onto her Camelbak for mid-race inspiration. She’s additionally contemplating getting glitter nails forward of time and sporting rainbow glitter eyeshadow and warpaint every single day through the race for an added pick-me-up.

Mariash's decal-decorated race pack.Jax Mariash

Music will be one other highly effective motivator, says Mariash. She’ll flip to her iPod when she desires to “jam out and run quick,” listening to every little thing from digital to pop to “old skool stuff,” like “Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa.

All that mentioned, maybe probably the most highly effective software Mariash has in her arsenal for G2G is her unrelenting ardour for the game.

With operating, you are feeling “actually free,” says Mariash. “The human physique taking you to stunning locations is so cool.” She loves the self-sufficiency of lengthy runs, the place “every little thing you want is in your again,” and "you’re out in nature." For Mariash, operating, even with all of its darkish and painful moments, offers "a spot of solitude, peace, and meditation,” she says. “It’s like going to play exterior.”