Shenton Safaris

Ryan Sandes Interview: South African trail runner Conquers Fish River Canyon

Ryan Sandes is a South African trail runner whose feet have taken him across China’s Gobi Desert, Chile’s Atacama and Egypt’s Sahara.

Last month he tackled Namibia’s Fish river Canyon and smashed the record set in 2003, of 10 hours and 54 minutes, by just short of four hours. Ryan ran the second largest canyon in the world in just 6 hours and 57 minutes.

[quote]Human beings don’t always make rational decisions. But making irrational decisions is precisely what makes us human. These decisions, based on an impulse or a feeling, often lead us to those perfect moments when it feels great to be alive [/quote]

ryan sandes fish river canyon race

Why do you run?

I run because I love the sense of freedom it gives me. Running on the trails is very spiritual and it is my escape from reality. I have been lucky enough to run on all seven continents, see some incredible places and meet lot’s of interesting people. It has been a life changing experience for me and has taught me so much about myself.

 What kind of preparation went into the Fish River Canyon run?

I had a very busy racing schedule leading up to it so I was quite fit going in to the run. I was more concerned about my body being tired from all the racing and travelling. The trail involved lots of river crossings, boulder hopping and running in soft sand so it was taxing on my legs. My girlfriend Vanessa and I spent a lot of time planning the attempt to make sure the weather conditions were OK after my attempt last year got washed out due to the river flooding.

Best moment of the run?

The first two or three kilometres – running down Hikers Descent. It is a very steep and technical descent, my adrenalin was pumping and I was super stoked to finally be running the trail. Everything was perfect!

Biggest challenge to overcome?

I have always had a bit of a mental block when it came to running in the Fish River Canyon. I ran in the Canyon in both 2009 and 2011 and both experiences did not go according to plan, when I came back to the Canyon I had to forget the past and make the most of my time there. I am happy to say all went according to plan this time.

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Photos © Craig Kolesky

Any low moments?

With about four kilometres to go I went through a very big energy low and hit the wall. I had visions of me having to crawl to the end of the trail but luckily after a Red Bull e shot I pulled myself back together. It’s such an epic trail it was hard to have any low moments.

If you had to pick another wild, remote part of Africa to run, where would it be and why?

Running on Mount Kilimanjaro would be epic. I have always wanted to hike it so running it would be very special. Running at 5000 metres plus would be hectic…

What are your future plans? Next big trail running feat?

I have had a really busy year so far so I am taking it quite easy over the next two months. I will be running the Salomon Skyrun in early November – a 100 km trail run in the Drakensberg Mountains. Internationally I hope to run the Western States 100 miler in the US again next year, and then eventually the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc when my mountain running gets stronger.

The Beauty of the Irrational is a wonderful piece of cinematogrophy charting Ryan’s journey with the Fish River Canyon

The Beauty of the Irrational from The African Attachment on Vimeo.

Find out more about Ryan Sandes

 



I’m Holly - born and raised in the rural British Counties, my mother began life on a sugar farm in Zululand. After reading Anthropology at university in London, working for a political activist filmmaker in India, and doing a short stint under the bright lights of Bollywood – I decided it was time to return to the motherland. To earn a crust in the name of wanderlust, I finished up a post grad in media and hotfooted around South Africa as a freelance travel journalist.

Africa Geographic