Running an ultra is no doddle. Anything
over 42km is gruelling on the body, and the further you push, the tougher it
gets. Add to that the conditions you’re running in and the terrain you’re
running on, and things can get rather interesting…
Imagine running 50km a day for 20
consecutive days, in heat and humidity that saps every smidgeon of bounce from
your legs, across all terrain from tar to dirt road to sodden rice paddy. And
then, on the 20th day, adding the toughest stretch of all, a formal
100km trail ultra marathon, just for good measure.
And now, imagine if every slogging step of
that journey could be worth so much more than merely the feeling of achieving
the completion of the distance. Imagine if for every ultra you run, you can give
a child a gift that will change his or her life forever. Imagine that.
Forget imagination – that’s what David
Grier and Andy Stuart are making reality with their Thailand Power of 10
challenge: they’re clocking up 1 100km up Thailand in 20 extremely hot and
sweaty days, culminating in the Thailand Ultra 100km race. And each of those 20
days will enable a child to smile for the first time.
The thin black line is their route from Bangkok up to Ban Tham village near the Burmese border
It’s simple: David and Andy are running
their miles to earn smiles for at least 20 kids in need of corrective cleft
palate surgery. Those smiles will be first-time smiles, and lifetime smiles. Their
run will have the power to change the lives of those kids forever. All this
through the Cipla Miles for Smiles Foundation.
Operation Smile South Africa provides free
surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for
children in southern Africa. Each surgery costs, of course, and through the
work of dedicated, philanthropist medical specialists and the Cipla Foundation,
the fee is reduced to just R5 500 – free to the patient but the funds still need
to be paid. That’s where the fundraising efforts of Miles for Smiles come in.
Why the Power of 10?
Ten is symbolic on many counts: this is the
10th of David’s fundraising endurance challenges; it’s been 10 years
since the first of those 10 was achieved (the first full length completion of
the Great Wall of China, 4 200km ), and close on R10 million is the amount that
has been raised through the 10 feats.
As David says “The power of 10 is the
beginning of a celebration of the past 10 year, a journey of a life-fulfilling adventure
of passion, zest for life and the internal yearning to make a difference in
And the 10 years has seen nearly 2 000
children receive corrective surgery funded by David’s runs for the Cipla Miles
for Smiles Foundation for Operation Smile South Africa.
Over the past nine years David has clocked up around 26 000km in
endurance feats for charity:
The Great Wall Challenge – in 2006, he and Braam Malherbe were the first
people in recorded history to run the full length of the Great Wall of China (4
200km in 98 days)
SA Coastal Challenge – in 2008 he and Braam ran the entire
coastline of South Africa, from Namibia to Mozambique (3 300km in 80 days)
Madagascar Challenge – in 2010 he paddled solo from Africa to Madagascar
(500km in 11 days) and then ran across Madagascar (2 000km in 66 days)
India Challenge – in 2011 David and Andy ran across India, north to
south (4 008km in 93 days)
UK Challenge – in 2012 David and Andy ran the length of the UK from John
O’Groats to Lands End
Cuba Challenge – in 2014 David and Andy achieved another first, running
from Guantanamo Bay near San Antanio in
the south east to Punte Messi in the north-west of Cuba (1 800km in 28 days)
And now it’s the Thailand Challenge: 1
100km, from Bangkok to Ban Tham village in the north of the country near the
Burmese border. Once there, they’ll run the 100km Thailand Ultra Marathon,
rated by Red Bull as the fifth toughest ultra in Asia.
I was privileged to be invited by the two
crazies to run that final 100km race with them. Sadly, I had other commitments
and had to turn them down L
So, yesterday they sent me this quick video clip to say hi:
Today the guys have less than 350km to go
before they reach the start line of their final 100km. It’s been hellishly
hard, not so much for the daily distance they’re pushing, but for the climate
they’re running in – Thailand’s humidity is soporific, and trying to exercise
in those conditions feels impossible.