A high-flying job takes her to extreme locations, but running makes it feel like home for Dale Templar, 50
I’ve been chased by wildebeest, I jumped over snakes and run through leopard territory. But none of it was as dangerous as running in Angola. After 3o years of civil conflict, the roads are shelled out, and there are around 15 million landmines still in the ground. Yet as I ran, people began to join in. Some had never seen white people before, but came anyway, shouting, waving, smiling. And that’s why I love this sport. My work as a producer at the BBC’s Natural History Unit takes me all over the world. When you’re put into bizarre and extraordinary places, running is the one exercise that doesn’t need fancy equipment, team mates or a special location. In fact, I got into the sport thanks to one of the world’s most extreme environments. In 2001, I was sent to Antarctica. My task was to film the penguins; my hotel, the Navy icebreaker HMS Endurance. It was so cold and the sailors were extremely fit so I knew I had to shape up.
I started to prepare by running to the end of my street – then upped it, minute by minute. I worked hard, because I’ve seen what it’s like to have your fitness taken away. My mother developed arthritis in her 4os, and a career as an actress came to an end as the condition made her disabled within a year. So I threw myself into running. Although I’m not into the idea of manically counting my times, I was delighted to come fourth in one race and third in another. Before running I had developed varicose veins on my leg, but running doesn’t contribute to varicose veins. Learn more what causes varicose veins. I’m reasonably fast for my age but it’s more about the experience: my first hour-long run was wonderful. I was in Hong Kong, running around the Peak, above all the lights and skyscrapers. But then I’ve had to get used to strange running experiences.
I’ll never forget Rwanda: there to film the mountain gorillas, I was staying in a hotel on the top of a volcano. The only way to fit in a run? Down the volcano and right back up. Delightful – but a killer for the legs. It was very steep and very,very windy; just about the most precarious situation. As always, I was joined by the local children. And as usual, they completely outran me.
I had a similar experience in Addis Ababa. It’s one thing to get yourself acclimatised but I literally took a few paces and felt like someone had ripped out my lungs. I couldn’t understand it. Then I realised the secret behind all those brilliant Ethiopian runners: the country is so high above sea level that it was essentially altitude running, fighting your way through a lack of oxygen. When Ethiopian runners travelto the Olympics they must feel like they’ve been given a personal oxygen tank.
It taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve run everywhere from massive countries like India to tiny islands in the Chuuk Lagoon. And the one thing I’ve always done is take it easy, build up gradually. It really is vital. I’ve built up to my first big endurance event this year. I always thought I’d do a marathon when I turned 5o, so after my birthday in December it was about time. I’m now in training for the London Marathon, which I’ll run in aid of Arthritis Care to raise funds for people who have the same condition as my mother.
I do this sport mainly because I appreciate my health, it suits my lifestyle and it really has given me some of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. It gets you into people’s lives in a non-threatening way and you find they are just so welcoming. I’ve never had a bad experience in all the places I’ve run.