Fred Streatfield – The Community Of Running

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Fred Streatfield has been running all his life. You could say that running defines him. However, Fred is so much more than a runner, he’s a husband, a father, a grandfather, great grandfather a builder and in April 2017, he has set himself the challenge of running the Marathon des Sables.

‘MDS’ as it is known within the running community, is for many a dream goal. It’s been billed as the ‘Toughest Race on Earth’ and while we all know that it’s not, the multi-day Saharan adventure does bring its own set of unique problems and difficulties to encounter.

The race is over 30-years old and has without doubt paved the way for all modern day, multi-stage races. It’s format of self-sufficiency has been copied time and time again. In the early days, it was tens of runners who toed the line. Now it’s 100’s of runners and in recent years, with the growth of ultra-running, more than 1000 stand within the dunes of Morocco every April for what will be, for them, the ultimate experience

When you’ve been running for as long as Fred, you’d think this Moroccan adventure would be a walk in the park, or should I say, the dunes for him. But no, despite 49-years of running, Fred is intimidated for this new venture in his life.

A race like this is intimidating, it should be, after all it’s why you do it, no? Fred is no different than any other when signing on the line and paying the deposit. He wanted his run experience to be made whole, with something alien to him, something that would completely take him out of his comfort zone. Little did he know that when he signed up, his challenge would become something so much more than running…

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Niandi Carmont caught up with Fred after a training camp in Lanzarote. It was a camp specifically tailored for those undertaking a multi-day race of any type. Among the 40-participants on the camp, Fred became somewhat of hero.

It’s a simple way to start any conversation about a future race, direct is best sometimes, “Do you feel prepared Fred?’

“Well, yes. Yes and no really. I feel I now need to do more training but in all honesty, I don’t stop – I do need to do more long runs though.”

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Fred had arrived in Lanzarote feeling a little worried that he would be isolated, little did he know that he was leaving one family behind to be joined by another.

“The training camp was absolutely just beyond belief really. The volume of running we did and the guys I ran with… It was amazing, they were all young whippersnappers, and me, I’m an old boy! But I did keep up with them.”

Keep up with them Fred did. He’s an old-school road runner, a little obsessed with running fast. Too fast at times, particularly when you consider his 65-years. We had a phrase when I was younger and you’d see an older runner, ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’ and yes, Fred is as fit as a butcher’s dog. On day 1 it was a shakeout run of just 60-minutes, Fred by his own admission says that he’s not used to technical terrain – too many years running on the road! Forty minutes into the run he hit the deck, it looked a bad fall. His arm was bruised, is elbow bleeding and he was holding his ribs. We imagined the worst. He bounced up, brushed himself off and pushed on. The next day, the first day of the camp was a long run, Fred didn’t hold back and placed himself in the fast group.

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”Yes. I went with the first group, with the fast group. Last year I ran The Great North Run with Mark Scott (also on the camp) and I beat him by about three minutes. We were running for Macmillan charity. In the race, Mark came in after me, we exchanged niceties, shook hands and then we met again on the camp. As I was waiting for the run to start, Mark came and said, “Come on, Fred. Come on. Come on. You belong in this group.” which was the fast group. I said, “No, no, Mark, I’ll go with a slower group”. He went, “No, no. You go into this fast group.” Anyway, I stuck with him for 40-minutes, the run was going to be about a 20 to 23 plus miles. I thought to myself, if I continued at this pace I may not finish. It would have done me in. Ian was with me at the time so we eased off with another runner, Paul Allum and then joined your group Niandi.”

Niandi was of course flattered, it was just 1-day into the camp and already Fred was getting a fan club. Niandi’s group was pretty much running all the time but it was a slightly slower pace than the group up front lead by Elisabet Barnes, 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies champion.

Fascinated by stories and people, Niandi knew Fred had a story, we all have a story, but Niandi had that intuition, that sixth sense that told her that there was more than meets the eye. It started simply, ”Tell us a little about what motivated and inspired you to decide to do MDS and how it all started?”

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“Well, it goes back quite a way. There is a nice little story attached to this. I saw the race on the internet and how it posed the question of challenging one’s self. I was attracted to it but I dismissed it and moved on. Then a few weeks later, I went on to a website and it popped up again. My initial thoughts were about it looking really tough and I wondered if I could do it, after all, I am getting on!”

Niandi laughed, she’d heard rumors that there was more to the story. She probed, “Tell my how your wife was involved the entry process?”

“I went off into town with my wife. I left her and went to get some information on the desert running. I hadn’t told her though. I bumped into a friend of mine and he said, “What are you doing?”  I was on the spot so I told him that I was thinking that I may be tempted to run in the Sahara and I was getting some information. I told him though, whatever you do, don’t tell the wife!”

I am sure you can fill the gaps but the inevitable happened. The following day they bumped into each other once again and how did the friend great Fred?

“How’s the desert coming on?”

“Have you entered?” my wife said. “No, but I’ve been considering it”

The ice was broken. Fred entered the race and never looked back. His wife supported him every step of the way. But elation and excitement turned to loss, sadness and questions if the race would ever happen.

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“I think it was December 10th, it was the registration day. That was 2015. We waited for the entry for 2017 to open. I am not computer savvy and she had offered to help me fill out the forms. Technology and me don’t go together. Anyway, we checked in and we paid the deposit and that was the start. At the same time, we were in the process of moving house, always a big thing. The move happened and then 5-weeks later she passed away.”

It’s a moment like this that a life can fall apart, imagine it, married for so many years and then suddenly a void. Fred was all set for throwing in the towel but this is the power of running and the community connected with the sport.

”There was a closed website group just for the people who are running the MDS in 2017,” Fred continued. “They all said, “No, no, no. Don’t give up. She wouldn’t want you to.” So, I decided to carry on. It’s been difficult and it’s still difficult now. That’s one of the reasons I’m running. II am also running for Macmillan Cancer Charity. It’s important to help the charity too.”

No words needed. What feels like minutes is only seconds and Niandi picks up the conversation. “That’s a very noble cause, Fred. You’ve had a lot of support from the running community and from the people at the Lanzarote Training Camp, but it’s also due to your personality because you’re very outgoing. You’re very positive. You’re very bubbly. You’re very communicative and you’re really fun to be around.”

There’s silence and then a, “Thank you.”

******

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“I can’t remember my first race. But I was running at school. That’s where it all started but a key moment was when I had started work. Some guy just walked up to me. He went, “You look fit. In the car park, over here, every Saturday morning, be there. You will want to bring some running stuff.” I didn’t get any backing from my parents or anything like that and I really appreciated it so I started to go, I still have those old plimsoles.”

Simple beginnings and picture starts to form of Fred, his background, his history, his dedication to work hard and graft.

“I got some old shoes and some old shorts and then just went running. It just went from strength-to-strength really. I was about 15 or 16 and I have never looked back – I have met some amazing people. Obviously, they were not with us anymore, but they kept me going and helped me and nurtured me through. Even in the early days, the running community helped me.”

Community, bonds, friendship, values, Fred found all these in Lanzarote and it confirmed to him all that is good about running and although the decision to continue after the passing of his wife was a tough one, he now knows it was the correct one.

”Words fail me really, everyone on the training camp has been so incredible. It’s been tough. they’re so nice. It was really tough, II didn’t say anything on the camp but while I was there it coincided with the anniversary of my wife’s funeral.”

“I think there was a very strong bond between everybody and people knew what you’d gone through and I think that they felt the vibes,” Niandi responded. “Family is also very important to you. I also got that impression because you come from a very close family. Well, maybe you could tell about your family, about your daughters.”

”Yes, my daughters have been strong for me. Also, I don’t know how they’ve coped losing their mom. But anything I want, anything, they are there for me. They cook me my food and they take turns to have me as a guest at weekends – just so that I don’t starve. I’ve got four children myself and each of my four children have got four children.”

”That is 16 grandchildren?”

”Yes, 16 grandchildren and one of my granddaughters who is now 20, she’s not the oldest, she’s just had a little baby girl, six months ago!”

“You’re a great-grandfather?”

“I think that shocked some of the guys in Lanzarote. They looked at me and said, “How many grandchildren you got?” I said, “I’ve got one great-granddaughter.” I don’t think they could believe it.”

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Married for 44-years, his wife was 18 and he 19. Through thick and thin, as Fred quite rightly says, “It wasn’t all roses.” But who’s story is. They battled the tough times, enjoyed the good times. “She was my best friend. She helped me, she made me who I was and she was a very strong person and a really nice person as well.”

Part man, part robot, Fred has held back some other vital information. “You also have to keep a check on your health,” Niandi asks. “Because you’ve had a few health issues?”

“Yes. I’ve got a pacemaker. It’s all checked, it’s all monitored, and it’s good to go. In 2012, when I had a problem, they said I would never run again. At the time, I was looking at the MDS and I thought my chance had gone. But since then, everything is working out and I am fine. I’ve done just over 200 runs and races. I’m pretty fit.”

The finish line of the 2017 Marathon des Sables will be a special one. Red ribbon will pass through the fingers of race director Patrick Bauer. Attached to the ribbon will be a large disc of gold. As Fred crosses the line and the prize is placed around his neck, I have a real feeling that there will be more than just Fred’s tears shed on the finish line. This simple man embodies the race. He is a personification of the values the race holds true.

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*****

 

Fred’s typical training week:

  • Monday – Swimming
  • Tuesday – Run club night which is usually a sat 8km-10km.
  • Wednesday – Cycling 2-hours indoors.
  • Thursday – Run club hill sessions or fartlek. Followed by 1-hour swimming.
  • Friday – Rest.
  • Saturday – Park Run in the morning and then a 10km to half-marathon run.
  • Sunday – Usually 9 to 15-miles.

On MDS:

I’m sure I’ve got everything that I need. The Lanzarote trip helped with this, there might be a couple of little bits that I need, but nothing really. I think I need to slow down a little bit when running, think about the long game. I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be tough. Believe it or not, I’ve joined a sauna club. I’m hoping to spend a few hours in the sauna. I don’t know if I’ll be able to take my running stuff, though. I run in Lanzarote with my pack and that worked, I didn’t have full weight in it but it was good. I need to test out my food now and I am good to go.

Would you like to join our 2018 Multi-Day Training Camp, if so, go HERE

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Hayden Hawks – C’min’ At Ya, Fast! on IRUN4ULTRA

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On February 18th, Hayden Hawks will toe the line of Moab’s Red Hot 50k. If I was a betting man, I’d be having a punt and naming Hawks as the victor. Yes, this guy is on fire – he proved it in December when he pushed Zach Miller all the way to the line at San Francisco 50. Zach took the day and the $10.000 prize purse but the duo both went under the old course record, as Hawks says, “I broke the course record by over 10 minutes and did everything that I possibly could today but Zach just had a little more than me.”

But who is this 25-year old from Utah? In 2016 he burst on the scene with victory at Speedgoat 50K, sponsorship with Hoka One One followed and victory at Capstone 50K in November laid the foundations for that very memorable head-to-head with Miller.

“I am excited to get going this year. To be honest with you, right now, I’m ready to race and I’m just getting anxious, I want to race so bad and I want to travel so bad but for now I need to get a good base in training and then I’m going to go out there and be ready to go…!”

Read the full and in-depth interview with Hayden Hawks on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

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Anna Frost to run The Coastal Challenge #TCC2017 – BREAKING NEWS!

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Anna Frost to join the line-up of the 2017 The Coastal Challenge

The 2017 was all set to be the most competitive edition of the race with a stunning line-up of both male and female competitors. The male race has Hardrock 100 winner Jason Schlarb, Sondre Amdahl, Chema Martinez, Vicente Beneito and so many more.

The ladies race has two previous champions with Ester Alves and Veronica Bravo joined by Elisabet Barnes and Anna Cometi.

Well, the ladies race has just been blown off the scale with the 11th hour confirmation that New Zealand’s Anna Frost will toe the line in Quepos.

This is not Frosty’s first time in Costa Rica. Her love affair with the country and the race started several years ago. In 2014 she arrived to race but due to health issues was forced not to make the start.

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 “I learnt a lot about the course and was able to see the challenges without putting myself through them. Although nothing really prepares you like the experience itself. I hadn’t expected such long beach sections so I will be prepared.”

In 2015 while leading the race she was forced to withdraw with foot issues leaving the doorway open for eventual race winner, Veronica Bravo. I refreshed myself of a moment from the 2015 edition:

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“In the ladies race, Anna Frost ran a smart day matching Veronica Bravo step-by-step. From the moment they started, till the moment they crossed the finish line, the duo never left each other’s side. In many respects, Frosty can run this way all the way to the end now and play safe. The question mark will come if Veronica feels strong one day and takes a risk to pull back the time between the two of them? This is always a risky tactic, push too hard and you may blow up opening a doorway for third place to gain time.”

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In the ladies race, Anna Frost’s injury woes came to a head when she sprained an ankle causing a muscle sprain in her soleus muscle. Frosty tried to push on but it was no good. The plantar issues, ankle and muscle sprain brought an end to the 2015 TCC at Cp3.

”I could run in pain no longer and sometimes you just have to stop and look at the bigger picture.”

Cut to 2017 and it may well be third time lucky for the lady who has pioneered the way for female runners in the trail and mountain world.

Like Schlarb, Frosty won Hardrock 100 in 2016, she also won in 2014. She has won races all over the world and many remember her iconic victories on the island of La Palma at the Transvulcania race.

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Currently in Colorado amongst the snow, Frosty admits that it may well not be the best preparation for the heat and humidity of Costa Rica, however, the opportunity to run raised its head and she could not refuse!

Speaking from Colorado, Frosty told me,

“I am so excited to come back, 3rd time luck?”

Race director Rodrigo Carazo in conversation with myself whilst trying to put logistics in place confirmed for me,

“We need to make this happen, this will be, without doubt, the best ladies field ever at the race.” I confirmed, my thoughts exactly! Rodrigo went on to say, “We have surprises in store for 2017 – new sections, more hills and more jungle!”

The stage is set, the 2017 edition of The Coastal Challenge is going to be epic. Runners will start to arrive in San Jose from Thursday 9th this week and they will then transfer to the coast for the start of the race in Quepos.

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“I had a serious case of fear of missing out when I saw the ladies line-up,” Frosty went on to say. “Costa Rica and the TCC is just full of great people, stunning trails, water, heat, more water, wildlife and running, it all equal Coastal Challenge love!”

The Coastal Challenge is a multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience.

Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.

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Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.

The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.

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View and purchase images  HERE

Follow #TCC2017

Read a preview of the 2017 race HERE

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Half Marathon des Sables Fuerteventura – New Event

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Marathon des Sables, the iconic multi-stage race has finally, after 30-years expanded with a new race for 2017 – HALF MARATHON DES SABLES FUERTEVENTURA.

The event will echo the ethos of the iconic ‘MDS’ race providing a 3-day self-sufficient journey of 120km’s on the Canary island of Fuerteventura.

Pre registration is open and although the event will take place in September, specific dates have not yet been confirmed.

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The MARATHON DES SABLES organisation and Fuerteventura present a new challenge: the HALF MARATHON DES SABLES FUERTEVENTURA. This 120 km running race in three steps will be held on September 2017, in Fuerteventura, in the Canaries Islands. As the MARATHON DES SABLES, it will be a food self-sufficiency race.

Unlike the the legendary benchmark multi-stage father figure race, Marathon des Sables, the new ‘half’ edition is designed to provide an entry level race at a much more affordable price. Where families may be able to join a racing father or mother and enjoy what Fuerteventura has to offer while a parent or parents race.

Although not confirmed, it is anticipated that entry per person will be under 1000 euro and places will be limited to 500.

(I must stress, this price and entry places are not confirmed yet)

Inscriptions for the race are HERE and as stated, it is expected that they will be limited.

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Join our 2018 Multi-Day Training Camp with Elisabet Barnes and Sondre Amdahl in Lanzarote, January 18th to 25th. Booking and info HERE

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A Weekend in the Netherlands – Mud Sweat Trails, Running Beyond Book and Trails in Motion

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The flat lands of the Netherlands may well be the last place you’d expect a growing community of trail and mountain runners. Think again? ‘Mud Sweat and Trails’ have very much pioneered the sport for Dutch aficionados with a growing series of races. They regularly have 1000 people toe the line – that is huge!

“True, we have no mountains. But we do have a great variety of nature trails and hills to run – we have open minds! Runners that come from the track or the road find our hills and off-road conditions a new challenge, that’s good! Once they make a step off-road there’s no way back. The Dutch mentality is to explore and seek for new adventures and MudSweatTrails support them in all steps of the process. And always have ‘stroopwafels’ as secret weapons in our vest!” – Marc Weening

In 2016, the ‘MST’ brand expanded with a trail running store, but this is no ordinary trail running store. It’s a store that any run enthusiast would love to own. It’s a Mecca for trail. Imagine walking into a typical warehouse type store and you have an idea of the space that the MST store occupies.

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Imagine a wall of shoes that includes Altra, inov-8, Hoke One One, Salomon, Brooks, La Sportiva and so on. Imagine a floor space of apparel by brands such as Buff, Raidlight, The North Face, Salomon, WAA and more.

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Another wall of running packs – Ultimate Direction, Salomon, Ocisport and WAA. In and amongst this are GPS watches, head torches, nutrition, socks, gadgets, gizmos and all sorts of trail temptation that really make the MST store an Aladdins Cave for trail. But the attention to detail is second to none. A flat two-lane run track allows shoes to be tested and believe it or not, they even have a ‘trail’ test ramp.

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The store has so much space and flexibility, they can even customise sections of the store to a specific race, in this scenario, Marathon des Sables.

I was in the Netherlands at that invite of Tom Maessen and Marc Weening – the brains behind MST. They get trail. They understand the sport is a lifestyle and yes, although they are in business to make money, they also understand that the sport of trail is about community and sharing. So, MST is not only a retail unit but it’s a meeting hub and venue for events.

“MudSweatTrails Store is a 500 square meter Trail Running specialty store for experienced and novice runners. We offer are a place to meet, share experiences with each other, provide run clinics and information sessions and of course product testing. It is our passion to share our adventures and trail dreams. And yes, we are all runners too! We are always keen to explore new trails and adventures.” – Tom Maessen

Above the store but within the store is a first floor room that can hold 250+ people, a screen, sound system and projector is installed. It’s a cinema and conference room in one.

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I was attending a ‘Trails in Motion’ screening and I had been kindly invited as a guest of honour to coincide with the launch of my book, Running Beyond. I’m forever thankful that the work I have produced over the past years has gained a following, so, the opportunity to share what I do is special. I can’t thank Tom and Marc enough and indirectly I also need to thank my friends Thomas and Jeroen who had no doubt helped in the process.

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I showed images from the book, I provided a little insight how all this happened but ultimately I wanted to inspire everyone in the room to ‘Make Their Dreams Happen!’

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It had an impact.

Just a day after the talk, one runner, Ronnie Duinkerken, tweeted, that he had entered Tromso SkyRace after my talk.

It’s always easy to find an excuse not to do something. Think about it. Turn that thought process around and now thin, ‘why can’t I do it?’ As I said in my talk, a point will come in our lives when choices may well be taken away from us. No point in reaching a time or point in life and think, what if?’ Or, ‘If only I had done that…!’ Embrace the moment, embrace the day and don’t wait for tomorrow for something that can be done today.

The Trails in Motion series of movies very much echoed my thought process. I saw my good friends, Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote undertake an epic 3-week journey close to home. I watched a fell runner embrace the English fells after heart surgery and we were able to witness the pain, torture, heartbreak and elation as three runners tried to cross the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in a ‘FKT,’ Bob Hayes who is 89-years old and runs 30 races a year, Wally Hesseltine at Western States in 30-hours and so many more films inspired. All films in their own way were about people embracing a challenge and placing themselves at the vulnerability of their minds, body, trails, weather and yes, the gods! As I said, they were ‘makin’ their dreams happen!’

Films shown:

Life on the Fells, Miles Away, Thirty Hours, Mount Marathon, The Crown Traverse, One Step at a Time, Running Wild, Iceland – Change your Life and The Hard Way.

“Perseverance, individual quirkiness, Fastest Know Times (FKT’s) and trail camaraderie are central to the theme of the 2017 Ledlenser Trails In Motion Film Festival line up. Each film offers an exciting and inspirational view into the world of trail and ultra running, all the while showcasing some of the planet’s most breathtaking trail running destinations in the process. Locate an event in a city near, get your tickets and join like-minder trail runners and adventure enthusiasts for 2 hours of inspirational stories, stories we’re sure will motivate you to want to get outside and explore.” – Trails in Motion

I said in Running Beyond that I feel that trail, mountain, ultra and skyrunning is a metaphor for life – it has never felt more true!

Signing books, I was asked many questions and in turn I asked questions back. Jerry Kenbeek  even purchased two books so that he could give one away.

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The wine flowed, beers were consumed and excellent food was provided by a catering team. At midnight, the night came to an end, I returned to my hotel room with a night full of memories and emotions.

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As I drifted to sleep, I was reminded constantly through flashback that I really do have the best job in the world and within that world, I am joined by the greatest community. Long may it continue.

Saturday soon came and at 0830 I was joined by Marc and Tom to join other runners for a 18km run in the sand dunes of Holland. We weaved in and out of sandy trails and then ran along a flat smooth beach as the sea splashed to the right. It was a Vangelis moment.

 

No run trip to Holland can be complete without a post run treat; coffee with HUGE pieces of Dutch apple cake and lashings of whipped cream sealed the experience.

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I was left to experience Amsterdam centre alone. The weaving streets and canals, the smell of dope in the air, the noisy and rowdy groups of revellers and the glow of red lights felt unfamiliar, harsh and almost distressing. Beautiful buildings, picture postcard scenes were somehow distorted in my mind and eye – I couldn’t relate. I eventually found solace in a quiet restaurant and as my evening came to an end I made my way back to Zoetermeer.

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This journey has been a wonderful one. In all honesty, I can’t wait to return.

Holland may have no mountains, I can live with that. A lack of vertical is more than compensated for with hospitality, a great running community and apple cake, oh yes, what apple cake!

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images ©mudsweattrails and ©iancorless.com

Episode 128 – Michael Wardian, Hayden Hawks and Pushpa Chandra

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Episode 128 of Talk Ultra is here and what a show… we speak in-depth with the incredible Michael Wardian after his record breaking World Marathon Challenge. We speak to star in the making, Hayden Hawks and Niandi Carmont brings us her first female ‘one-to-one’ interviews with Pushpa Chandra. We have the news, chat, gossip and of course Speedgoat co-hosts.

New Year and Talk Ultra needs your help! 

We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! 

Many thanks to our January Patrons

Rene Hess, Daniel Weston, Dan Masters, Kerstin Palmer, Sarah Cameron, Neil Catley, Sam Wilkes, Melissa Bodeau, Lindsay Hamoudi, Aaron Aaker, Simon Darmody, Philippe Lascar, Rohan Aurora, Mathew Melksham, Brian Wolfkamp, Thomas Mueller, Mark Moromisato, Jamie Oliver, Rand Haley, Ron van Liempd, Mike Hewison, Steve Milne and Rupert Hitzenberger.

Donate HERE

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It was our 2017 Lanzarote Training camp and I have to say what a huge success it was. We had 40-clients who came from as far afield as Canada to take part in our 7-days of fun. It really was special and so great to get so much awesome feedback. I will post a link to images and audio feedback in our show notes.

We had some inspiring people attend and in future shows we will have audio following some of the incredible stories. To kick it off and following on from my discussion with Niandi in our last show. Niandi brings you the very first of female ‘one-to-one’ interviews with Pushpa Chandra.

00:27:30 INTERVIEW with Pushpa Chandra

01:12:28 NEWS

World Marathon Challenge

Well, the big news is Mike Wardian ran 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days. Wow. He ran 2:54 in Antarctica, 2:45 in South America, 2:42 in North America, 2:37 in Europe, 2:45 in Africa, 2:49 in Asia, and 2:45 in Australia. In the process he set a new world record average time of 2:45.

01:22:54 INTERVIEW with Michael Wardian

Women’s winner, Chile’s Silvana Camelio ran 4:14 in Antarctica, 3:45 in South America, 3:58 in North America, 4:08 in Europe, 4:10 in Africa, 4:34 in Asia), and 4:37 in Australia. The last result almost gave away her overall victory but she held on by just 6-minutes That 4:37 in Australia left her just six minutes ahead of China’s Guoping Xie.

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Carol Morgan blasted around the tough course in 109-hours 54-minutes – unbelievably, 43-hours quicker than the previous ladies best.

In the men’s race it looked to be a battle between two previous winners, Pavel Paloncy and Eugeni Rosello Sole but Tom Hollins came from behind and clinched victory in 99-hours 25-minutes. Tom won the 2016 edition of The Challenger, the Spines ‘fun run’ race! We hope to have an interview with Tom in the next show.

Coming up…

The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica has a super stacked field with Chema Martinez, Tom Owens, Sondre Amdahl, Jason Schlarb and so many more in the men’s race.

For the ladies we have to previous champions, Veronica Bravo and Ester Alves heading up strong competition from Elisabet Barnes and Anna Cometi.

In the US it’s the Sean O’Brien 100k.

RUNNING BEYOND BOOK

This week I will be in Amsterdam on Feb 3rd, 4th and 5th for a Trails in Motion event and Running Beyond book signing with Mud Sweat and Trails

We are going to have Running Beyond Event which will take place 3, 4 and 5th March in London, plans are progressing for that… watch this space.

I will be also going to Sofia in Bulgaria on the 17th, 18th and 19th March for a trail, mountain and Skyrunning expo

02:36:50 INTERVIEW with Hayden Hawks

UP & COMING RACES

Australia

Queensland

Caboolture Historical Village Dusk to Dawn 100km | 100 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Caboolture Historical Village Dusk to Dawn 50km | 50 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Tasmania

The Cradle Mountain Run | 82 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Belgium

Wallonia

65 km | 65 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Canada

Yukon

Yukon Arctic 100M | 100 miles | February 05, 2017 | website

Yukon Arctic 300M | 300 miles | February 05, 2017 | website

Yukon Arctic 430M | 430 miles | February 05, 2017 | website

Chad

Half TREG | 90 kilometers | February 12, 2017 | website

TREG | 180 kilometers | February 12, 2017 | website

Chile

60K | 60 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Costa Rica

Adventure Category | 155 kilometers | February 10, 2017 | website

Expedition Category | 236 kilometers | February 10, 2017 | website

Finland

Lapland

66° North Ultra Race | 66 kilometers | February 17, 2017 | website

Roavve Polar Ultra 300 | 308 kilometers | February 17, 2017 | website

Rovaniemi 150 | 150 kilometers | February 17, 2017 | website

Rovaniemi 300 | 300 kilometers | February 17, 2017 | website

Rovaniemi 66 | 66 kilometers | February 17, 2017 | website

France

Aude

Gruissan Phoebus Trail | 50 kilometers | February 12, 2017 | website

Côtes-d’Armor

Défi Glazig (45 + 18) | 63 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Germany

Lower Saxony

Brocken-Challenge | 86 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

India

Gujarat

135 Miles | 135 miles | February 10, 2017 | website

160 km | 160 kilometers | February 10, 2017 | website

50 km | 50 kilometers | February 10, 2017 | website

Run the Rann 101 km | 101 kilometers | February 10, 2017 | website

Run the Rann 161 km | 161 kilometers | February 10, 2017 | website

Ireland

Kildare

Donadea 50K | 50 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Italy

Marche

Maratona sulla sabbia – Ultra maratona | 50 kilometers | February 12, 2017 | website

Kenya

Kimbia Kenya 100 km | 100 kilometers | February 03, 2017 | website

Kimbia Kenya 50 km | 50 kilometers | February 03, 2017 | website

New Zealand

Tarawera 100K Ultramarathon | 100 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Tarawera 60K Ultramarathon | 60 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Tarawera 85K Ultramarathon | 85 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Oman

Wadi Bih Run | 72 kilometers | February 03, 2017 | website

Spain

Canary Islands

Marathón ‘Isla del Meridiano’ – 86 km | 86 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Region of Murcia

100 km | 100 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Thailand

100 km Run | 100 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

50 km Solo | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

66 km | 66 kilometers | February 17, 2017 | website

75 km Run | 75 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Jungle 100 | 100 kilometers | February 17, 2017 | website

United Kingdom

Cornwall

Arc of Attrition | 100 miles | February 10, 2017 | website

Devon

Coastal Trail Series – South Devon – Ultra | 34 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

Oxfordshire

Thames Trot 50 | 50 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

Surrey

The Pilgrim Challenge North Downs Way Multistage Ultra | 66 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

USA

Arizona

50K | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Pemberton Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Arkansas

White Rock Classic 50K | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

California

American Canyon 50K Ultramarathon | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Fort Ord Trail Run 50K | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Jed Smith Ultra Classic – 50K | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Jed Smith Ultra Classic – 50 Miler | 50 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

Ordnance 100K | 100 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Sean O’Brian 100K Trail Run | 100 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Sean O’Brian 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Sean O’Brian 50-Mile Trail Run | 50 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

Florida

110 With Donna Ultra Marathon | 110 miles | February 12, 2017 | website

Iron Horse 100 km | 100 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Iron Horse 100 Mile | 100 miles | February 11, 2017 | website

Iron Horse 50 Mile | 50 miles | February 11, 2017 | website

Lost 118 | 118 miles | February 11, 2017 | website

Massachusetts

50 km | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

North Carolina

Uwharrie 40-Mile Mountain Run | 40 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

Oregon

Bristow 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

South Carolina

Mill Stone 50K | 50 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

Rut Rogue 40s – 40 Mile 3-5 Person Relay | 40 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

Rut Rogue 40s – 40 Mile Run | 40 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

Texas

100K | 100 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

100K Relay | 100 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

100 Mile | 100 miles | February 11, 2017 | website

100M Relay | 100 miles | February 11, 2017 | website

50K | 50 kilometers | February 11, 2017 | website

50 mile | 50 miles | February 11, 2017 | website

Piney Woods TrailFest 50K | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile | 100 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile | 50 miles | February 04, 2017 | website

Virginia

The Wild Oak Trail 100 | 100 miles | February 11, 2017 | website

Washington

Orcas Island 50K | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Wisconsin

John Dick Memorial 50K | 50 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

Venezuela

Ultra Laguna de Urao | 65 kilometers | February 04, 2017 | website

03:16:20 Close

03:21:44

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He is Karl Meltzer and I’m Ian Corless

Keep running

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Wardian nails the World Marathon Challenge

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©worldmarathonchallenge

Michael Wardian needs no introduction. The dude has been blowing our minds for years with a stunning display of running. Only recently I wrote an article for IRUN4ULTRA (here) about Wardian’s incredible 2016.

Well, ‘The Running Man’ has kicked off 2017 in fine style with the World Marathon Challenge. Yes, 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days.

Ask anyone, running 7-marathons back-to-back is a tough challenge but doing them with just 16-hours sleep and all at an average pace of a new world record 2:45:56 sets the mark to a whole new level The fastest marathon was in Miami where Wardian clocked 2:37:56 – he said it was a tough day!

The challenge began in Antarctica on Jan 23rd and concluded in Sydney, Australia just 7-days later. Argentina, Miami, Madrid, Morocco and Dubai filled the gap.

The previous record of 3:32:25 held by Dan Cartica was blown off the scale by Wardian who in his interview for Talk Ultra podcast discussed how tough, physically and mentally this challenge was.

The World Marathon Challenge was the brainchild of Richard Donovan (Ireland). He himself completed the challenge twice, the first time for a charity, GOAL and the 2nd time in 2012 when he lowered the elapsed record to 4-days, 22-hours and 3-minutes. The first ‘official’ challenge took place in 2015.

You can listen to a 1-hour special with Michael Wardian on Talk Ultra podcast released Friday 3rd February on this website.

Kaci Lickteig – Dreams Do Come True on IRUN4ULTRA

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 ‘Western States definitely was the race of my life. Everything came together so perfectly that day. I had a once in a lifetime race day experience. I had only dreamed of winning Western States and wanted some day for that to happen. All the stars aligned and I could win. To be among the winners list is surreal…I admire and respect all those women and men who have won. It’s such an honour to have my name listed as a winner of Western States 100.’

Kaci Lickteig ran her first ultra in 2012 aged 25-years. A small lady, she does pack a punch. It’s all wonderfully echoed by her nickname ‘Pixie Ninja’ – that sums up Kaci in a nutshell.

Some may say, 3rd time is a charm. It certainly is the case with Western States 100. The rise of this lady has been gradual but logical – 6th in 2014, 2nd in 2015 and yes, you’ve guessed it, top spot in 2016. The ‘WSER’ is rolling course, which begins in Squaw Valley, California. It climbs more than 5500m and descends nearly 7000m before reaching the finish in Auburn some 100-miles later. It’s the ‘Grail of Trail!’

Read the full article on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

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Lanzarote Training Camp 2017 – Summary and Review

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Mention the words ‘Training Camp’ and runners can often think that they are potentially signing up for part boot camp, part week of torture.

The reality is, a training camp is a holiday – a holiday doing what you love with like minded people. Yes, you will work hard, yes you will probably accumulate one of the biggest training weeks of your life ever and yes, you will get tired. But believe me, it’s a rewarding and life-changing experience.

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I have just concluded a week long training camp in Lanzarote at the iconic sports resort of Club La Santa in Lanzarote. In brief, ‘CLS’ is a Mecca for sports and sports people. Think of a sport and it’s catered for here – kids football holidays contrast against the ‘Tigers’ professional rugby team. National triathlete squads contrast against the energy of a ‘ladies only’ training camp and in and amongst a plethora of sports and athletes we had 40 multi-sport/ ultra runners preparing, arguably, for one of the biggest goals and challenges of their lives – Marathon des Sables. The Coastal Challenge, Fire and Ice, Dragons Back Race and Everest Trail Race to name but a few, our 2017 multi-day training camp covered it all.

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You may well be shaking your head and thinking, ‘Yes, but I wouldn’t fit in here, these are all fine tuned athletes with years of experience at the peak of their game!’

You couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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We had walkers, run/ walkers, joggers, runners and yes, a few fine tuned and speedy runners up at the front. A good training camp, no, a great training camp caters for all. I’d like to think that is us! It’s difficult to manage the goals and expectations of 40-individuals. I have been told we did it and you can listen to the feedback here:

Elisabet Barnes, 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies’ champion and 2016 Big Red Run champion was joined by Sondre Amdahl 9th at the 2016 Marathon des Sables and 6th at Oman Desert Marathon and along with Niandi Carmont, Marie-Paula Pierson and yes, yours truly, provided a camp that really was a ‘one-stop shop’ for multi-day racing.

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Participants ran in paced groups lead by a coach over some of the most relevant and inspiring terrain. Daily average 25deg temperatures provided relevant heat adaptation, blue skies providing an amazing backdrop and of course the harsh volcanic terrain of Lanzarote contrasted against the rolling and moving sea. Sandy, rocky and technical trails simulated exactly what will lie ahead as the participants venture to a desert race. Many were signed up for Marathon des Sables in 2017 or 2018 and Lanzarote is a perfect training ground for this race!

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Marie-Paule guided the walkers, Niandi Carmont guided the run/ walkers and Elisabet Barnes, along with Sondre Amdahl guided the faster runners. I filled the gaps, running between groups and ensuring all was ok, at all times in contact via ‘walkie-talkie.’

Niandi has been running marathon and ultras for over 20-years, she reflected on the 2017 camp:

“Certainly what made the camp a success was that everyone left happy. It is so rewarding to spend a week bringing together 40-people from different backgrounds and with different expectations and leave feeling a mission was accomplished. The group dynamics were absolutely great. Everyone got something out of the camp. What helped was the flexibility the different groups offered so participants could drop down to or move up to a group if they felt tired or needed to work on other techniques like walking or using poles or simply because they were recovering from an injury and didn’t want to increase their mileage suddenly. The talks were helpful too – it’s great to be able to give those little tips and have others benefit from your mistakes too. I loved the way people mixed with each other during training and after in a more relaxed context, bonding and sharing their experiences and preoccupations. Our clients learned as much from each other as from the coaches. And finally thanks to the attendees I got some great training done for Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge in great company!”

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Taking place over 7-days, two sessions per day were interspersed with talks and lectures to provide all the relevant knowledge for a future race. A highlight of the week is a run with kit to an overnight bivouac, a sleep under the stars and then a run back to CLS – you can’t get more specific than that!

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For many, a big week in training was 40-50 miles before coming to Lanzarote, after 7-days on the camp, nearly everyone had accumulated 100-miles or more. It was the biggest week of their training lives but it was done in a progressive and accumulative way, you see, a training camp allows greater rest, not just greater training time. Nothing is compulsory, runners can jump in and jump out of sessions as they wish.

January is the perfect time for a camp of this nature, you don’t even need to be running a multi-day race, as many said, this is just a great running camp! New friends, new bonds and as a full-on week came to an end, the thought of returning to America, Canada, France and the UK as temperatures dropped below zero was the first time we as organisers witnessed a lack of smiles. The realisation of home and reality dawned. I can’t tell you how many times we heard, ‘This has been the best week ever – I am coming back next year!’

The final night drinks, dinner and yes, nightclub session made Thursday’s homeward journey a tough one. But the memories will last and I am pleased to say, that our team of guides and coaches have provided a platform of training and knowledge that will allow all our participants to go forward and nail their chosen race. We witnessed confidence levels grow over 7-days, our youngest runner arrived injured and worried, he left enthused and focussed. Our oldest runner (65) who I must add was an inspiration to all, touched our hearts and minds.

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It’s not all about winning, Elisabet knows this only too well and her thoughts reflect this:

“A multi-stage ultra is something that many people find daunting. The desire to take on the challenge may be a result of life changing events, a realisation that life is short, a thirst for adventure and a desire to learn more about oneself. This makes it incredibly interesting as you get to know people from all walks of life, all with their individuals reasons to be there and their unique stories to share. The training camp really reflected this diversity and everyone bonded around running or walking as the common interest. The attendees learnt not only from the coaches but also from each other, and as a coach it was a privilege to be able to play a part in helping our participants getting closer to achieving their goals. The training environment in Lanzarote is perfect and the mix of challenging as well as easier running sessions, information packed seminars, plus the social element made this a great week. It’s a friendly environment where you will get challenged, yet work to your own ability, and go back home with a big confidence boost. Personally, I couldn’t think of a better way to prepare for a multi-stage ultra and the feedback confirms this.”

From first to last I reminded everyone that a mile is still a mile irrespective of pace. They will realise this in 2017 when they tick the miles off and achieve their goals.

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Elisabet, Sondre, Niandi, Marie-Paule and myself take great pride and happiness, safe in the knowledge knowing that we have aided the journey of all.

Roll on 2018!

The 2018 multi-day training camp is now available to book.

Please go HERE.

Places are limited to 40-people and to confirm, Elisabet Barnes, Sondre Amdahl, Niandi Carmont, Ian Corless will be the coaches for the week. We are currently checking the availability of Marie-Paule Pierson for the 2018 dates.

2017 Image Gallery

Samantha Gash – Run India

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Photo ©nicdavidson

Samantha Gash runs an incredible 3200km across India.

On 22 August Samantha Gash began a 3200km run across India. Samantha has partnered with World Vision to visit the communities they work with across India along the way. She will learn first-hand about the challenges they face, as well as sharing the stories of success that are providing hope for their future.

Samantha, an endurance athlete from Melbourne and passionate advocate for social change, ran from one of the driest deserts on earth (Jaisalmer, Rajasthan) and ended the run in the wettest place on earth (Mawsynram, Meghalaya).

The Cause:

A quality education can be the foundation that helps young people around the world achieve their dreams. From literacy and numeracy to essential life skills, education equips children with the tools they need to make positive life choices, advocate for their rights and support themselves and their families. Education is also a fundamental human right – one that too many children don’t get to enjoy.

The barriers that prevent children from accessing – and completing – a quality education are complex. Through Run India, you can join Sam as she delves deeper into the challenges facing Indian communities today – and witness incredible stories of change. Sam will be visiting 18 World Vision’s Area Development Projects across India and sharing the stories of people she meets in these communities. Tackling issues such as malnutrition, access to appropriate water and sanitation, early marriage and gender bias. These projects demonstrate World Vision’s holistic approach to community development and commitment to ensuring that all children can access the education they deserve.

The funds you raise through Run India will support six World Vision projects across India. You will be part of a movement that transforms lives through the power of education.

You can donate to Run India here

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The Interview:

Ian: It’s been quite an epic journey. I was trying to think the last time we had you on the show and I think it was when you ran with Mimi Anderson in South Africa?

Samantha: Yes, in 2014. That would have been November 2014. Two years later.

Ian: Two years later, so you have Run India!

Samantha: Two years later. Yes, Run India!

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Ian: Before we go into the nitty gritty and you can tell everybody all about the details of this. In simple terms the planned route was 3,800 kilometers taking approximate 76 days, averaging 50 kilometers a day. The whole process was not just you sort of fulfilling a passion to run across India and tick another ultra-box but it had a real reason. Like everything that you do it’s about creating money and creating awareness. Tell us a little bit about the whole process?

Samantha: Firstly, I knew from the get go that the route was not going to be 3.800km, but everyone wants a figure… I remember trying without much success, trying to say in every interview beforehand give or take a couple hundred Ks. It’s not like I’d gone out and mapped the route. The route was based on as much prior knowledge but I’ve always wanted to have that level of flexibility to make changes obviously based on safety but more based on an interest about a certain area.

I wanted to be able to go with the flow and change something. I was clear that the route would change and it did for both race and safety and for interest sake. The run was, if we’re going to talk about numbers let’s get those over and done with. The run was 3,253 Km’s. I stuck to kind of the time frame in fact I had no choice, I had to stick to the time frame because I had certain dates when I was going to community visits. The idea was to make sure I could get to those certain places on a certain date because these communities take quite a lot of planning when they have someone from the outside coming in. So, the reality was that this dictated the route and time frame.

Our goal was to meet with certain people and do interviews and to sometimes do experiential processes where I would see how they would cook meals, see their family and so on. I had so many ceremonial dances and songs. Most of the rewarding moments are when I would be sitting in someone’s home, a home that should only fit one person but has 15 people in there and I was just speaking to people about how they live their life and what are their hopes and what are the challenges.

I very much think that my run and the brutality of the run — I hate the road and my run was pretty much all on the road. To run the road like that I feel like my role and my treat was to get invited into strangers’ homes and to have those interactions.

Ian: One of the things that strikes me immediately is covering this distance and covering this distance over the amounts of days that you did it and covering a big chunk of mileage every day is stressful enough as it is because you’re worried about getting injured, you’re looking at your nutrition, you’re looking at your hydration but then on top of that, you’ve got all these other things going on.

You’ve got a time frame where you need to be in certain place which means that certain days you’re going to have to run a certain distance whether you want to or not, but also there’s logistics and there’s planning. I’m fully appreciative that you’re going to enlighten me on how that planning and everything happens because that’s obviously something that you can’t do while you’re running, so there’s a great team of people behind you organizing all that.

Is this type of thing a real positive in that it refocuses your mind and takes your mind away from the actual running and it provides a distraction? Or is it a distraction that impacts on the running?

Samantha: All the above at different times. It was brutal particularly the first month. You plan so hard for two years and you think that our plan will equate to success particularly when we’re diligent, when we work with the right people and then you get to India… I have done a lot of traveling in developing countries and I realize that nothing goes to plan.

I got very sick from week two to week four because it was so hard to get my head around just the immense amount of changes happening every day. I get there and the monsoon season had been much later this year which meant the humidity was high. I’m running in nearly 40 degree of temperature and high humidity – It made Costa Rica seem like a walk in the park with the temperature.

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©bruceviaene

Ian: I was going to say The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica was must have been preparation for that?

Samantha: Oh, my god. I kept thinking where are those water crossings that I could just put my entire body in? Luckily I had Nicky Kimball who came out and joined me for part of the run, I met her in Costa Rica and we just kept saying, “Oh my god, this is so humid. This is just unbelievably humid.”

I had three teams out there with me. My crew which travelled with me, I had an Indian based logistics team that I had contracted in, they were well versed with the areas that I was running in and then I had a security team.

Essentially I had these three teams and I had a team leader from the Indian side because culture is different and you must respect it. You need an Indian team leader to look after that side of things and then I had an Australian team leader who I’d hoped would bridge that gap between all the different teams. To put it out there, my Australian team leader couldn’t cope with India, it’s completely understandable but it was very unfortunate.

He couldn’t cope with the intensity of India, the lack of privacy. We had a camper and were pretty much sleeping on top of each, add such high temperature as well and he just had a bit of a break down. Unfortunately considering the project was my baby and everyone else was pretty pushed as it was, my paramedic who was there for the first five weeks’ kind of took over some of the financial components of the project. But in terms of the liaising with the teams, it fell in to my lap which is not good. Tip – never ever allow yourself to be the one that deals with the rest of the human interactions when you must push yourself and do the running. Not a good idea!

It’s never going to be done as successfully as it can be done. I got to one point after I got very sick and I just got this realization, “Sam, a successful day for you is if you can just keep moving forward and no one wants to walk out on the project.”

The sickness was an issue, when I got to Deli I had an MRI on my knee because something felt wrong.

I got the results back and I had a couple of issues but nothing like what I thought I was going to have. I adjusted a mental shift and then we kind of went up north to the Himalayas and I just felt that there was a shift in the project from that point on wards.

Ian: It’s exhausting listening to you saying it.

Samantha: I haven’t even touched on the chaos!

Ian: Yes, I can imagine. I can absolutely imagine. You started on the Pakistan side and then went across, you went up towards Nepal and then came across towards Bangladesh. It’s part of the world I have visited and I can completely get what you’re saying about the chaos. There’s elements of these areas that are very very well planned. Very well-organized, but the problem is, nobody else knows what those plans are. Somebody knows, but nobody else knows. It’s about communicating with that person, and making sure that that person or several people are in line with the plan. I’m guessing that was one of the big stresses that you are having to deal with day in and day out.

Samantha: Yes. You just described it beautifully and I haven’t thought of it that way. Running across India is like running across a lot of different countries. If you know the history of India, it just had so much shit and border change, the language and dialects. Everything is just so… it can change every 50 kilometers. You must put so much responsibility in your Indian team and then accept on a cultural level of things are very, very different. You must give in to that when you do a project that’s in a country that’s not like yours. When you don’t accept that, that’s when things go wrong.

I remember saying to my crew constantly, stop longing for things that you’re going to have in a couple of weeks’ time. Accept and embrace what you have now which you’ll never ever have again. I was incredibly grounded into just try to make the most of every moment. Sometimes you feel you’re getting fleeced by that, and you start to second guess things when you’re being communicated too. Because India is sometimes the culture where people try and make the best of every situation.

You must think why that’s the case. That’s the whole point of empathy. I think it’s irrelevant for day to day life. But we think of India, population of 1.26 billion. People who are very successful are ones who have made the most of any opportunity that comes their way. Sometimes that gets interpreted differently from people. I just think I learned so much about my own ability to deal with stressful situations. I think just being very grounded and present with the survival being out there.

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Ian: I knew Nikki Kimball was joining you because I’d spent time with her when I was in America, and you bumped into Emily Forsberg, she was out doing her yoga camp. Can you tell me how that came about?

In addition to all that, there was content being put on your website. The Run India website, and the address for that is runindia.org.au. There were stories appearing on there like Deepika’s determination to get education. There was one about self-defense, about a brave father being reunited with his daughter. How was that content being put together, was that content being put together in real-time as you were running?

Samantha: Yes, most it. That content was created with the supportive of World Vision and the community visits that we did. I had about 16 community visits that I did along the way, and within each of those community visits I probably did three to five different interactions around that community, and all of that we filmed. I mean, we learned along the way which were the better ways of filming it. Sometimes we would just first go in there and speak to people, do the interaction and then do a post interview. Other times we would film along the way.

You just had to learn quickly which was going to be the best way of creating content that could be shared later. We had one videographer out there with me. We would film it all, and then we would send it off trying to upload that content, that footage every night. It’s really, interesting.

Ian: Yes, I know that pain. Internet is not a strong point of these places.

Samantha: Exactly! World Vision wanted us to send it in hard drives back to this editing house in the south in India. And I was like, “There’s no way we’re going to find a post office to send you these.” So, we did the uploading, which brings its own problems – they did a great job.

The whole point of the project was to explore the barriers to why a child in India can’t go to school, and to look at it in a geographical sense that as you go across the country and the road that we were traveling across, those barriers are so unique to that area, and what makes up that area. We looked at malnutrition, which I think is a consistent barrier across the entire country. The prevalence of the sex trade, child marriage, all these different subjects such as personal safety and protection, particularly when you’re in the urban centers of India.

Those stories were about looking at education, but looking at the barriers. As opposed to just education itself.

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Ian: What’s amazing and it’s always been one of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about you as a runner. Running almost is an accident for you. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. But if I think back to when we first met, when we first started to talk, you’re a very educated person from a very educated background. You gave up a very successful career to start running. I guess it was that career that originally enabled you to take on the 4Desert races. You were the first female, the first youngest person to complete that – Gobi, Sahara, Atacama and Antarctica. Was it this experience that made you realize that there was an opportunity for you?

But also, using your education and your background to turn it all in to good. It’s obvious when you’re speaking now that you’re not talking about running. You’re talking about awareness. You’re talking about people. You’re talking about change. You’re talking about why this journey was happening. And I think if you were a pure runner you’d be telling me about how the running was, but you’re not. You’re telling me about the journey and why you’re doing it. Is that a fair assessment?

Samantha: Yes. I am not a professional runner. Though I get put in that category all the time, I’m derogatory to professional runners, but I do a whole lot more than just run. It’s interesting because people try and understand and try and make a connection with the way I’ve chosen to run, and why I’ve chosen to run.

At the end of the day, if you look at people who run, they always have different motivations. I think all those motivations are to be celebrated in their own way. And if you’re using running for the thing that makes the most sense for you, well then you’re more likely to be running for a much longer period. For me, I just think the way I’m in love with endurance sport. You see the highs and the lows, and the self-discovery that it takes people too, but it also takes you to your worst state.

In a development context, when you are being pushed so hard, your capacity to understand people who are in a daily worse state. Not by choice which we choose to do as ultra-runners, but because of their circumstances. And I think that connection allows us to share a story. And when we share a story, we can hopefully help other people understand a life that is so far removed from ours.

Ian: Absolutely. I hate asking these questions, but inevitably I must ask them because I’m trying to compress your incredible journey into a small block. What was the highest and the lowest point of your incredible journey?

Samantha: I guess on a running perspective, the low point, when I went up to Rishikesh and when I went up to Darjeeling in Gangtok, I really struggled on the road. The plains of India are just incredibly overwhelming from a running perspective. To be in that intensity of pollution, at times it was heartbreaking to my soul.

Anytime I got up towards the mountains, even though with technically harder running, my pace just increased. I live in a National Park; I love the solitude of running for what it does to our mind. I was on cloud nine and thinking of Nicky Kimball’s journey with me in India. She was there for some of the most crucial running. Later, like a week after she left, she saw me running up on the mountains and she was like, “Oh gosh I chose the wrong section of the run,” and I’m like, “I’m so sorry.” She was there for some of the most humid running. I didn’t realize it but don’t sweat that much. I didn’t sweat anywhere near as much as other people who came out which was why my feet didn’t get destroyed. Nicky unfortunately was getting some terrible blisters and her feet were falling apart by the end.

Highlight to me was going up to the mountains. It was amazing to see Emily Forsberg out there. The Himalayas are so incredible.

Then I think that visiting different people in Himalaya as well was quite transformational for me. I don’t think I could have done the run if I didn’t continually see people along the routes and understand what was going on. That is why this projects was so special, it was the connection with people. When I ran across South Africa with Mimi, we ran across some beautiful terrain but had no connection with the outside world or the beneficiaries that we were trying raise funds for. But because the running was so beautiful, it made running 1,968 kilometers okay. There is no way I could have run over 3,000 K on the Indian roads if every couple of days I wasn’t going into the slums or a development project and understanding why I was doing it.

Ian: You mentioned Emily, how did that happen? Was that a pure coincidence?

Samantha: I had a friend in India who was like, “Do you know Emily is here right now? I was like, “Really?” I had a quick check on Instagram which confirmed and so I asked a mutual Ryan Sandes to connect us. Emily had a very full schedule, she was doing a yoga training camp. But we managed to meet up on her day off.

We caught up, we did some yoga. I met one of her other friends who is from Australia and we just spent the whole time chatting and eating lots of food. It was nice to see someone from the running community out there.

Ian: How did the actual journey itself unfold? Did you stick to a daily average that was consistent with your planned 50 kilometers?

Samantha: It was an average 50 and there’s probably about nine days that I didn’t run at all. There were a few ad hoc days of around 30 to 40 but beyond that, it was 55 up to 76 k’s per day.

Ian: 55 to 76km days make a huge difference because if you’re trying to cover 50k (31 miles) you can jog, you can run, you can walk and you’ve got plenty of time in the day if you’re not going up 2,000, 3,000 meter mountains to cover the distance. If you then add 10 kilometers, 20 kilometers to that, then certainly you are talking about being on the road on the trails for 12 hours. Then that starts to impact on your rest, on your recovery, on your team, and everything else that you do. I guess what you were trying to do all the time was manage that balance between covering the distance but also making sure that you could recover and go the next day and do it again?

Samantha: Yes, and it was hard the first two weeks. One day, I had a community visit, I ran 50ks and then did the community visit immediately afterwards which lasted five hours. I remember I got there, it was so hot during the day because you’re in the desert. Also, as I ran towards the town the monsoon weather just came down – it feels like, “Oh I’m kind of hot, I’m cold, I’m steamy.” I didn’t know what was going on and then I go straight into a community visit where I am being presented about malnutrition issues…

I remember thinking, “I think I’m going to pass out right now. I am feeling really light headed.”

I had to quickly put food in and I go, “I’ve just really got to be on the ball. If I am going to try and do this. I have to make sure that I have food and water in these community visits.” There was maybe like a handful of times when I would run and then go into a community visit and I just had no other choice but to do that. That is what I didn’t want to do because I knew that I wouldn’t be fully engaged in that visit and I would lose these amazing opportunities. That’s why I had days when I wasn’t running and I’ve got to say now these were harder days than the running days. Because we never knew what the day would look like. We would be driven to the middle of nowhere and you would face confronting things.

One day I went into a malnutrition clinic and I just I saw babies who were so much smaller than they should have been for their age. The mothers looked so young. Then we did a backwards kind of on a journey and saw the travel that they would have done to go to that place to get to that clinic. Then you get perspective – you learn that those parents earn 40 cents/50 cents a week. They are on such a spectrum of poverty, that making the decision to take their child to this malnutrition clinic, which is their only chance of survival, they must potentially lose the income for the day, which means they might not be able to feed their family.

Every day was life and death. We were talking about education what they needed is food to survive. They can only change their lives once the children get educated, so, these families have some hard decisions.

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Ian: Nepal is a similar situation. There’s people in Nepal who have money but there’s so many people who don’t have money. I have this real dichotomy sometimes whether what I’m doing is justified and right? I walk around with a camera and I see beauty in everything. Whether it’s something that is beautiful or something that isn’t beautiful but becomes beautiful because of hardship, poverty, etcetera.

It’s very easy to just lift a note out which is worth a dollar or two dollars and give it to somebody for a photograph. You walk away and you think, “Did I help that situation? Was what I did morally correct?” I must try and justify it to myself and I think it was okay because at least they can go and buy something.

But one of the things that you were doing was obviously you were raising money for World Vision who can then support six different areas within the regions that you were running. You already touched on the fact that that money could help malnutrition, child protection, maybe just provide clean water.

Samantha: Definitely.

Ian: How did that fundraising project work and I’m assuming that the fundraising is still going on?

Samantha: Yes, the fundraising is still going on. We’ve raised over $160,000 so far. I expect we’ll raise close… I hope we’ll raise closer to the $200,000 mark. In a couple of ways, we worked with corporate partners to fund certain components. We also got people in the public to take on a 12-week challenge. The concept was Strong Minds and it was, “What strong mind do you need to take on a 12-week fitness challenge?” While also fundraising for the strong minds of those in these communities who must be so resilient to deal with the circumstances that they have every day.

We were looking at that, what does it take to have a strong mind and how can you make your footsteps count. We had public fundraising for people doing that and then also just donations through the website and through our awareness campaign. It was as much of an awareness as a fundraising.

How do you measure success in these types of things? I think it’s very hard. I always want to raise more and I’m very hard on myself; have the objectives being met? Did I make my footsteps count? But yes, having seen the project and seeing how far that money can go, I feel very confident that people’s lives can be changed in India and I don’t say that comment easily. These projects do make a tangible difference!

Ian: Now you started the journey on August the 22nd. What was the date that you finished?

Samantha: November 5th.

Ian: Okay. That’s a big chunk of time.

Samantha: Yes, it could have been 10 years ago.

Ian: [Exactly.

Samantha: It feels like a lifetime.

Ian: It does. I know myself with travelling is that you wait for that opportunity to get home and go and relax and then within two days it feels as though, “When did I travel last and what was I doing and where was I going?”

Samantha: Yes, totally.

Ian: What’s the impact been on you emotionally, physically and what’s it like getting back into Australia and readjusting into normal life?

Samantha: I think it’s a lot easier to adjust to being back home than the adjustment to be India. I kind of told you before, my whole mental approach was about being very much in the present and having so much gratitude that I could have this experience.

I didn’t get down much when I was doing the project. There was plenty of reasons to be down. I think there was only one moment where I was like, “I just don’t want to run right now.” I had an hour sleep and then I got back out there.

It was a shock to the system that I had to do so much and I just felt I had been let down in that moment with the planning but physically I felt good. You can’t go from that much level of activity to inactivity. In fact, that’s not healthy. You have to kind of wean yourself off but you wean yourself off by just kind of being outdoors and listening to your body and not feeling like you need to wear a watch and not committing to a race even though I have a race in February. Physically I feel quite good. I do get tired when I do a little bit too much. I’ve gone back to work and I’m doing quite a bit of travel so I think it’s just that culmination of all that stuff that sometimes mentally and physically drains me a little quicker.

Emotionally it’s like I try not to talk about it. My job is to talk about it, I have now started to incorporate India into my presentations. The other day I was like, “Oh gosh, I’ve been so verbose”, because I haven’t verbally processed much of it.

Where do you start? You have given me quite a good platform to ramble but it’s hard to know where to start. People traditionally just want to know, “What was the hardest thing?” I give these generic answers like, “Well, there was no one thing that was the hardest. It was the culmination of many things.”

Ian: Exactly.

Samantha: Every now and again I watch back the footage and I just can’t believe that I got to live that life. The power of photos and the power of video. It makes it very, very real and I still can’t believe that I did what I did and I managed to fit so much into every day. That was a lifetime in three months.

Ian: I think you’re right. I think one of the reasons why I created Talk Ultra is that I said right from the start that it would always be a long show because I didn’t want to compress people’s experiences into 20 minutes. I wanted to find that space and that arena that would allow me to talk in more depth.

Admittedly I put my hands up 20 minutes ago and said I’m going to have to ask you this bad question because unfortunately the people listening do want to know the highest and the lowest points – equally, how do I compress your 3,000-kilometer journey into a period of time and try and encapsulate what you went through. It’s not possible. It’s not possible.

I think what is interesting is that you’ve managed to encapsulate a journey without talking about the running. You’ve talked about the important things about the journey, which is the impact that your journey can have now with fundraising and how it will affect people’s lives. You questioned yourself whether it is valid. Of course, it’s valid because I think sometimes we can look at these things and think, “Well what is the positive? What is the negative?” You only must change a handful of people’s lives for the journey to be valid because everybody has validity in an existence and a continued existence. I think you can create a knock-on journey which hopefully will continue to perpetuate.

Samantha: You’re right. This project is something that has had an impact. Its right we push ourselves in these types of way and yes we want to make an impact to other people’s lives but I think you should always be clear that the bigger impact is probably going to be on your life too. That’s okay because that’s how we push ourselves in endurance sports. It’s to see what we’re capable of doing and how far can we push our minds and how far can we use these thing, which is our bodies, to be able to do that.

Ian: You’re the type of person, Sam, that always has something planned. [laughs] Dare I ask, is there another project at the back of your mind that you’re thinking of for two years’ time or three years’ time?

Samantha: I wanted to do this since 2011. It was when I was running across South Africa with Mimi that I was like, “Yes, I think I’m ready now to tackle this,” because it wans’t just tackling the run and it wasn’t just fundraising. It was also to work with a not-for-profit and try and change the way that they connect with people as well.

World Vision being one of the — I think is the largest not-for-profit globally, this was a radical project for them to get behind. When so much is happening in the development sector at the moment with funding and foreign aid, it was an intense time to push the boundaries. I think I had to just be so strong with this project was important to doing and that for two years I was lucky enough to have a champion in World Vision that was willing to do the fight with me. I did a couple of trips to India and went to see the project. It was a lot. There was so much more to this than any other project I’ve ever done.

I think what I now need to do is to not plan for a little bit. This is the lawyer side in me. I like to plan and I can’t help but get obsessive in that planning process which is why I can do something like this. But I’m planning to do the Western Arthurs hike in January which is very technical hike in Tasmania. I’m doing that with another female endurance athlete. I want to look at kind of collaborating with other female endurance athletes in different types of, I suppose, adventures. I’m doing that in January and then in February I’m doing a multisport event in New Zealand called Coast to Coast.

These are just more light hearted things. I’ve been enjoying multisport hikes, cycling and kayaking now and it’s good to use my body in a different way. Yes, there is a project still in that region that I am interested in doing but I’m not planning anything right now. That part of the world (India) is still fascinating to me and obviously, the Himalayan area.

Ian: Can I ask you, your background as a lawyer? How much help does that give you in what you do now?

Samantha: You don’t need to be a lawyer, but my background helps, also my experience in performing arts. I think the two of them, that capacity for communication, for rational thought, for logistics understanding culture and bureaucracy and obviously, a lot of that was relevant in India.

On the flipside, being a strong independent, and I’m going to put it out there, fiery abrupt woman was also part of the negatives in India. One day there was a bit of a crisis over payments or something and I was being taken advantage of. I should have been calmer but I fired off an abrupt email.

You must change sometimes your style of communication

Ian: Yes, I am sure you do. Well, look, it’s been fascinating to get just a little insight into this journey. Where can people go to get more information? I mean the runindia.org.au website has got a lot of information on there and people can still go there and donate, but is there anything else out there Sam?

Samantha: So, in the runindia.org.au website has a lot of videos and I think the videos captures the imagination of what happened and provides a better insight than me rambling at times.

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