In the early hours of Friday morning 17 April, Ryan Sandes ran out of the front door of his home in Noordhoek, Cape Town for the approximately the 1463rd time to complete a 100 miles (160km) in 26 hours and 27 minutes.
For the Red Bull ultra-trail runner, who holds the joint FKT of the Drakensberg Grand Traverse (with Ryno Griesel), has crossed the Great Himalaya Trail on foot and has won major trail races on every continent (including the prestigious Western States and Leadville 100), the personal challenge he dubbed the #HomeRun was likely one of the most arduous things he has ever completed.
“It was a lot tougher than I expected” a visibly exhausted Sandes commented in a smartphone video clip filmed by his wife Vanessa after completing the run at 03:42am. “I’m pretty relieved that it’s finished,” he added.
Sandes started his run at 01:15am on Thursday 16 April and stopped only to refuel at his dining room table and change into fresh running kit until he completed the entire 100 miles. When asked what the most challenging part of this accomplishment was, Sandes referred to something the legendary trail runner Scott Jurek said a few years back, “The ultimate challenge was running around a track for 24 hours because of the boredom – the mental fatigue,” .
The loop on which Sandes completed the route was just over 100 meters long and included some stairs which means that over the 100 miles he covered over 4500 meters of ascent (the equivalent of half the height of Everest, and nearly 300m of ascent off the height of Mont Blanc).
“There was no space to open up on the lap or get into any kind of rhythm, so it was nothing like 100-mile trail race,” Sandes said. “I knew it was going to be really slow and tough on the body.”
According to Sandes, he tackled the challenge as he does all of his other races and Fastest Known Time (FKT) projects: by breaking it down into smaller goals. “I pushed into that first night stretch and then the day stretch and then again into the night, ultimately breaking it down into four separate marathons or just about.”
Sandes had wife Vanessa and son Max as ‘seconds’ the entire way and knows he would never have been able to do it without their support. Vanessa made sure that the ‘aid station’ setup on the dining room table was always well stocked with Red Bulls, soft flasks filled with water, as well as electrolyte and carbohydrate mix along with sports bars and various other snacks. “It was nice to have so much choice,” Sandes added, commenting that he was tempted to stop and sit down for breaks but he knew that might set him back so he would pick up the soft flasks and run the laps with them in his hand.
Sandes competed in Red Bull 400 Whistler in 2015 and came in 14th place in the ‘steepest’ race on the planet. The seasoned athlete became the first competitor to have won all four of the 4 Deserts races in 2010. Each a 6/7-day, 250-kilometer (160 mi) self-supported footrace through the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara Desert in Egypt, and lastly Antarctica. Less than 100 people have been successfully accomplished feat.