A BOURNEMOUTH graduate has succeeded in one of the world’s toughest endurance races and described the experience as like 'fighting for her life'.
Vanessa Ruck has become one of the few to complete the gruelling Morocco Desert Challenge - an extreme motorcycle race over sand dunes.
The 36-year-old battled blistering temperatures and covered 2,500km of African terrain over an eight-day period.
She also tackled an upset stomach and two huge crashes that deployed her life-saving air vest, plus an allergic reaction that led to her being barely able to open her eyes.
But a determined Vanessa fought on.
She said: “I knew I was racing others, but it felt more like I was fighting for my life.
"Fighting the terrain, battling the heat, the mental and physical fatigue, I was riding for my life. In the vast dunes, I knew that if I had an issue that was me done.
"I even started wording a message in my head to record on my phone for my family if the worst happened. It was scary.”
In 2014, Vanessa had a cycling accident which led to seven surgeries over seven years of recovery, and a reconstructed shoulder and hip.
Despite this, she went on to ride her first off-road bike, and discovered the thrill of motorcycles.
Since then, she has endured some of the toughest races going, and is one of very few females that has braved the Morocco Desert Challenge.
Describing her final push in the race, Vanessa said: “Every bump felt excruciating, but I only had 70km to go. Just 10km at a time, I could make it.
"But then I realised I needed to pee. With the pain, I knew I had no hope of getting my trousers and kit down”.
She added: “As I crested the penultimate dune the finish line flags came into view and my heart leapt with joy. Everyone heard my screams of delight.”
Vanessa was able to battle through to the end, finishing 25th in her category.