Conquering the Four Deserts Grand Slam

2012-11-27 13:58

Only 11 competitors have managed the Four Deserts Grand Slam – which means they have completed all four gruelling 250km self-supported foot races in one calendar year.

Only one athlete has won all four desert races – Ryan Sandes.

Prof Tim Noakes, world-renowned sport scientist and author of Lore of Running, analyses Sandes’ skills.

1. Mind over matter
What makes Ryan so remarkable as a long-distance runner is his mind and self-belief.

He doesn’t even contemplate the possibility of losing a race.

It’s not arrogance; it’s what’s expected of you if you want to be the best in the world.

He is also extremely humble, and prepared to risk everything to prove that his self-belief is well-grounded.

2. Physical preparation

He trains about four to five hours a day, and reaches his peak at just the right moment.

His belief that putting in the hard yards will yield the perfect results contributes to his success, just like it did with Bruce Fordyce.

That’s why he has won the 250km foot race through the Atacama desert in Chile, the Gobi desert in China, the Sahara desert in Egypt and Antarctica.

3. Paces himself

You could easily underestimate Ryan’s pace, which he maintains at 10km per hour.

It is truly amazing to maintain that over 60km, and few people can.

But after 80km, nobody can touch Ryan.

To sustain that pace over a period of 20 hours is truly extraordinary.

In August he thrashed the record over the 90km Fish River canyon hiking trail from 10 hours 54 minutes by almost four hours.

He won the Canyon race in six hours and 57 minutes, a testimony to his stamina and his pace.

4. Body matters

He is light and springy with a very low body-fat percentage, between five and eight percent.

There is not too much bone and muscle to have to cart along in his races.

5. Despises losing

He finished in third place in the 2011 North Face 100 race in Australia.

Most people would have been happy with such a performance, but Ryan was devastated.

He said he would return Down Under and wanted to win it.

This year, he returned and won in a time of 9:22.45.

His competitive spirit and his stamina make him special.

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