Ultra-runner Fernanda Maciel talks us through her unsuccessful attemp to set a speed record on Aconcagua

The life of an athlete is about constant challenges. Some you overcome, others you give up on and many you don’t let go of until you succeed. In 2015, The North Face ultra-runner, Fernanda Maciel, attempted to ascend and descend Aconcagua (6,960m) in Argentina, in the fastest time possible. Sadly, she didn't succeed. But we can always learn from our failures. We asked her to write a short piece for us to get her thoughts on the adventure and what the whole experience meant to her.


Fernanda Maciel, May 2015:

My dream was clear: to run up and down Aconcagua as fast as possible. Aconcagua, one of the Seven Summits, is the highest mountain in the Americas, standing at 6,960m (22,837ft). During the past few years a number of ultra-running female athletes have tried to set the record for running up and down this mighty peak in the shortest time possible. But so far success has remained elusive.

My experience was tough. -30ºC degrees, 50km/h of wind, running in wild and high places at night, alone and without oxygen. I spent 45 days training in high altitude for the attempt, running and exploring at around 5,000 to and 6,000 metres everyday, admiring magical landscapes and feeling strong. But when the day came for me to make my attempt, I could not shake off the ill effects from the high altitude. I got sick with dehydration, fell into a fever and suffered from headaches, coughing and a cold.

By the end I had even begun to develop pulmonary oedema. At 3am, I'd started running from the base of the mountain at 2,800m but had to yield at the 5,900m range. It was hard to accept, especially as the week before I had been running well and felt confident about my body, the acclimitisation and my emotions. But I cannot stop dreaming about my goal. I cannot give up. I will come back next year to try again.

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