Lindy Taverner

Is Sandes SA's most hardcore?

2011-06-08 12:00
Sport24 columnist Lindy Taverner (File)
Lindy Taverner

I had a tremendous response to my column last week on the search for SA’s most hardcore extreme sportsman. I received loads of emails proposing Ryan Sandes, so he was an obvious interview choice. The 'sandman' is an unassuming, polite young man with focus and determination way beyond his years.

What makes one sportsman tougher than the next? What drives them to be so intensely motivated to push their bodies to the maximum?

To be willing to go out in appalling weather and train for hours and to constantly combat any doubt, you have to believe you are meant to win. It means putting it all out there, everything you've got. You’ve got to want to keep running through the mud, blood, sweat and tears, to take your body where your will wants it to go.

Ryan Sandes won all four races in the 4 Desert series, the Gobi March, Sahara Race, Atacama Crossing in Chile and the Last Desert race in Antarctica. Each 250km race is broken into four six-stage, seven-day-long rough country footraces across some of the most inhospitable deserts on Earth. To accomplish this task he had to sacrifice, focus and totally believe in his own power and ability.

Living in the mountainous Hout Bay in Cape Town has been an excellent training ground for a world champion with burning summer heat and bitterly cold and wet winters.

The landscape of the Antarctica Last Desert race consisted of frozen blue ice lakes and white snow mountains, but Ryan was well insulated and prepared, having trained in the Cape Union Mart freeze chamber to test his Salomon gear. He wore a Go Pro for a section of the race that will be featured on an upcoming documentary on his story

Regarding the Antarctica race, Ryan enthused, “I had a very positive frame of mind, and was excited and looking forward to the race. I broke it down into bite sized chunks, focusing on taking the right routes and eating and drinking correctly. I didn’t want to let sponsors, family and friends down.”

Ryan only started running four years ago in his third year at University whilst studying a BSC in Construction; he is now a quantity surveyor specialising in a rather alternate field! He played rugby and surfed at school, contributing to his strength and agility. Friends entered him into the Knysna Half Marathon which he ran untrained, but realized he had a natural gift in long distance running.

His worst experience happened two days before his big jungle race in the Amazon, where athletes mostly travelled with armed guards. He was out doing a training run and came across a massive cobra that stared him straight in the eyes. Ryan admitted, “It proved very challenging to maintain focus during the race and keep my mind off my fear of snakes!”

Ryan admits his toughest race was the 2009 Namibian Desert Race. The desert was seriously freezing at night; five degrees Celsius at 08:00 and 40 degrees by 10:00! The terrain was extremely rough covering mountains and sand dunes.

His focus for 2011 is one-day mountain races. He came third in the NorthFace 100km race in the Blue Mountains of Australia in May, having never competed in a single day 100km event before.

This experience will assist in his preparation for the Leadville 100-miler in August. This ultra-marathon trail, also known as ‘The Race Across The Sky’, is held annually on trails and dirt roads near Leadville, Colorado, through the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

On November 20 the extreme RacingThePlanet “roving” event in Nepal begins. It is a 250km multi-stage seven-day race over the spectacular Himalayan Mountains. It has attracted a record number of new participants. Half of the competitors are veterans and the other half are completely new.

I’m putting my money on Ryan.

Lindy Taverner is the editor of the RUSH magazine that was based in the Eastern Cape and recently relocated to Cape Town. Previous issues and updated extreme sport news can be found on her site

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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