WORDS by Matt.
It might be a strange and rare conundrum to have to ever deal with. Fewer people have sailed around the world than summited Everest.
But the concept of how to follow an all consuming challenge which has driven your life – both daily and into the near distant future for so long- is not, akin to marathon blues squared, cubed, or more perhaps.
I circumnavigated the world by yacht over the course of 2015-16 as part of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, over 50,000 nautical miles, through 11 months away and circa 9 months at sea. Twelve matched yachts racing around the blue.
Taking in Brazil, Australia, Vietnam, China… the Southern Ocean, the North Pacific.
Waves bigger than multi-storey buildings. Hurricanes in places where they are so frequent it’s just ‘weather’. Engineering feats such as the Panama Canal, natural wonders such as Table Mountain, symbols like the Statue of Liberty all coming into, and out of, view as we plied our way around the world.
So it was I came to find myself looking for another relatively extreme – albeit land-based – human powered challenge.
A one time runner. Still perhaps in the mind. But a runner who hadn’t run in over a year of being cooped up in a space measuring no longer than 21 metres in length for extended periods of time. So not in body. Maybe it was the overwhelming desire to stretch y legs and when presented with the Goretex Transalpine Run 2017 by a fellow crew member from the yacht race.
Four countries, two runners, one week – one dream. So goes the tagline for the eastern Alpine crossing.
You had me at adventure.
One comprising over 275 kilometres and 16,000m vertical gain across spectacular mountainscapes, ski stations all but transformed into a lush green summer playground. Snowcapped peaks. Verdant valleys. Populated by spirited people all pulled together by one goal; to cross the Alps on foot in one of the best footraces on earth.
It’s human nature to be curious about the world. Find and push our limits. Asking questions of ourselves that build character, resilience and train us for life. Survival, perhaps, but nowadays so much more. To escape the modern world, its ever increasing pace, pervasive digital connectivity disconnecting humanity.
There is something in being stripped right back, the raw power of nature and human performance. Something about mountains and oceans that connects us through history, and draws us in. Places laced with danger that we seek not to tame but co-exist within, even just for a time, share in the raw power of a world that reminds us we are just a small element of something so much bigger.
Freedom that invigorates the soul.
Calculated risk for unparalleled reward. The reason why sailors have always gone to sea, why mountaineers looked at far off peaks and sought to conquer their summits – and why they always will.
This year’s Transalpine run tackles the western route: three countries and a few less kilometres clocking in on paper at 255km, but I’m warned it is more technical and no less a challenge.
I return to complete the set of east and west crossings, to add to a circumnavigation, which collectively have shaped me as a person.
Inevitably, the question that follows will be both obvious and simple. What next?