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17 April 2020

He is known to the do the craziest things – so running 160km around his house in Noordhoek, Cape Town, should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Ryan Sandes. 

In the early hours of Friday morning 17 April, Sandes ran into the front door of his home in Noordhoek for approximately the 1463rd time to complete a 100 miles (160km) in 26 hours and 27 minutes.

For the Red Bull ultra trail runner, who holds the joint FKT of the Drakensberg Grand Traverse (with Ryno Griesel), has crossed the Great Himalaya Trail on foot and has won major trail races on every continent (including the prestigious Western States and Leadville 100), the personal challenge he dubbed the #HomeRun was likely one of the most arduous things he has ever completed.
"It was a lot tougher than I expected" a visibly exhausted Sandes commented in a smartphone video clip filmed by his wife Vanessa after completing the run at 03:42am. "I'm pretty relieved that it's finished," he added.

Sandes started his run at 01:15am on Thursday 16 April and stopped only to refuel at his dining room table and change into a fresh running kit until he completed the entire 100 miles.

"Now I can chill for a week or so and don't have to do any of the kind of half-hearted 5km garden runs or anything like that," Sandes said jokingly. Like many other professional athletes, the Capetonian has had to radically rethink he's racing and training schedule for the rest of the year.

That was not the only motivation behind the challenge, however: Sandes referred to something the legendary trail runner Scott Jurek (who won the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run a record seven straight times, among countless other accolades) said a few years back. "He spoke about how the ultimate challenge was running around a track for 24 hours because of the boredom - the mental fatigue," Sandes yes.

The loop on which Sandes completed the route was just over 100 metres long and included some stairs which means that over the 100 miles he covered over 4500 metres of ascent (the equivalent of half the height of Everest, and nearly 300m of ascent off the height of Mont Blanc).

"There was no space to open up on the lap or get into any kind of rhythm, so it was nothing like 100-mile trail race," Sandes said. "I knew it was going to be really slow and tough on the body." According to Sandes, he tackled the challenge as he does all of his other races and Fastest Known Time (FKT) projects: by breaking it down into smaller goals. "I pushed into that first night stretch and then the day stretch and then again into the night, ultimately breaking it down into four separate marathons or just about."

Sandes had wife Vanessa and son Max as 'seconds' the entire way and knows he would never have been able to do it without their support. Vanessa made sure that the 'aid station' setup on the dining room table was always well stocked with Red Bulls, soft flasks filled with water, as well as electrolyte and carbohydrate mix along with sports bars and various other snacks. "It was nice to have so much choice," Sandes added, commenting that he was tempted to stop and sit down for breaks but he knew that might set him back so he would pick up the soft flasks and run the laps with them in his hand.

Gear too was also an essential part of the challenge and Ryan ran in Salomon Sense Ride 3. "They're perfect for non-technical trails and 'a bit of everything' as well as super lightweight," he said.

Sandes will feature on Sports Saturday at 5pm on 18 April on Red Bull South Africa's Instagram channel where he will be talking about the challenge and answering followers' questions. Tune in.

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