The summer holidays are a time for relaxation, holidays and switching off from the hustle and bustle of the school year for many teachers. This is certainly not the case for Dubai’s Meryl Cooper.
Ms Cooper, a PE teacher at Dubai College, is travelling to the Swiss Alps this week to take part in the Eiger Ultra Trail – a gruelling 51-kilometre endurance race through the mountains. The race is described as “one of the most challenging races in the Swiss Alps” and is set to be one of Ms Cooper’s greatest tests to date.
It is not the first time the UK-born PE teacher has tried her hand at an event of this magnitude though, with a third-place finish at the Wadi Bih 50k trail run in February following her completion of the Urban Ultra 30k in Wadi Showka she is far from a novice.
Cooper’s training schedule has been intense to allow her to fully prepare for what’s in store in Switzerland. Sessions have included very early rises and some energy-sapping 30 kilometre runs – all to make sure she performs to the best of her ability this week.
“I will generally venture into the mountains one day at the weekend very early in the morning (which includes a 3am departure from Dubai because of the warmer weather) to run 20-30k.”
It has been with the help of her running coach Fabien Rabeau and International Sports Expertise athletes that Cooper has been able to structure an effective training program alongside her busy working week.
“After a long day at work I need to be able to motivate myself to get out on the beach track or around the lakes and meadows for a 10-15-kilometre training run throughout the week.”
As well as the running sessions, Cooper has had the football season to thank for her consistent level of fitness throughout the school year. With one training session and a match each week on top of the marathon training it is commendable that she has the energy levels required to keep going well into the summer holidays.
“I was awarded MVP in the Dubai Women's Football League this season which was a huge achievement for me as I play alongside some incredible players. I’m positive that the running training contributed to this greatly as my fitness allows me to basically never stop on the wing!”
Cooper hopes that her ultra-active approach to her spare time has a positive impact on the students she teaches from day to day: “I am determined to be a positive role model for the young people I work with. I think my students know I love sport and get a great deal of enjoyment from it and I want them to have the same experience.”
Although Cooper is focussed on the task ahead of her in Switzerland next week, she is already open to the idea of doing another ultra-marathon if Eiger goes to plan. “There is a chance after Eiger that I get the ultra-running buzz and book another one. We’ll have to wait and see!”
The Eiger Ultra Marathon takes place on 15-16 July in the Swiss Alps, for more information you can visit their website here.
Everyone at Gulf Youth Sport wishes Meryl the very best of luck in her endeavours in Switzerland!