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Trail Blazing with Ryan Sandes

Trail Blazing with Ryan Sandes

“Around 38 – 42 beats per minute…” – that is the answer I received after attending Ryan Sandes‘ launch for his book, Trail Blazer, and asking him what his resting heart rate normally is! (For any normal human being, you would almost be considered dead or dying with that sort of “normal rate”.)

Launching off …

First and foremost Ryan was very quick to kill all rumours that this book release was a sign that he was ending his running career! This book simply allowed him to share his love for what he does with us, as well as give us a glimpse into what goes through his mind before, during, and after his races!

Ryno Griesel was also there to “interview” Ryan and gave us a taste of what we could expect from the book: “reading the book, you feel like you are sitting and chatting to Ryan…” – and Ryan was very quick to add that writing the book was probably harder than any 100 miler he has ever had to run! Thank goodness for Steve Smith and his writing skills… 😉IMG-20160318-WA0005

I found the whole book launching event truly inspiring and humbling after meeting THE Ryan Sandes. I was excited to get started on this story of an ultra runners’ journey from start to current state, and held tightly to my freshly-autographed book as I headed out the door, into the world of opportunity. ?

Getting stuck in …

You know that you are dealing with pure talent when you flip to the back of the book and see that within seven years, the man has achieved more goals, won more races, and broken more records than we could ever dream of completing in our lifetime! Ryan’s love and passion for running really shows in his stories; and in his thoughts around his races, struggles and triumphs.

“You need to accept it for what it is. You can’t fight a mountain. It’s always going to be bigger than you.” – This was one of my favourite quotes from this insightful book, and you really feel like Ryan is talking to you through the words on the pages as he describes the scenery as “gnarly” and how he would be feeling “hundreds“. Filled with stories of all his races – from his first road marathon to his latest 100 miler trail race, Ryan carefully describes all the gory details and what he learnt through each experience. All false pretenses are left at the door as he opens your eyes and mind to a new world of international racing – and experiences that most of us will probably never get to witness first hand!

What I felt was particularly great was the fact that after every paragraph he gives you a break down of exactly what he learnt from each experience, and then gives you tips, or little nuggets of wisdom, that you can take away and apply to your own training and racing – heck, he even tells you how to pee whilst running (aimed more at the male runners) and how to get yourself a sponsor!

My nuggets of wisdom

Without giving too much away, what  I found particularly interesting was how specific his training would be for his specific races (Understandably so!). For example, if a race had more sandy/ desert sections then he would do more long beach runs, whereas if he was tackling another 270km, 7 stage, self-supporting multi-day race then he would focus on training more with a really heavy pack – something very few of us actually train with for our own ultra-distance races!

Another interesting insight was how well he knew the race route before starting it. He would know where the climbs are, where the flat recovery sections are, the fast downhills, the really technical single-track parts – everything! It seemed to really help compartmentalise his races for him – and would probably be a great strategy for anyone to adopt so as to know when to exert yourself and when to take it easy and not blow your race! This valuable ‘nugget’ in itself seems so simple to do yet I think is often overlooked by many – including myself!

His novel teaches us what a normal ‘oke’ Ryan really is and how he battles through what a lot of us go through occasionally; losing his passion for running both mentally and physically after having to pull out of a few races, and finding it again by simply running with T-dog – with no training schedule, no agenda… just running for the sake of pure enjoyment… something we all tend to lose sight of occasionally.

“Trail running is a lifestyle…” – and that’s something we should all try to remember.

Image via

Image via

What’s in store for Ryan Sandes for 2016 and beyond?

Ryan reckons that he still has a lot to achieve – with UTMB being a big focus this year – and he believes that he still has his best 100 miler in him. He also wants to do more exploring around Africa, and possibly traverse the Rwenzori mountains… the rest you’ll have to read for yourself 😉

Trail blazing through life

Overall, I loved every chapter and found the book an eye-opening experience into the life and mind of one of South Africa’s top trail runners!

Whilst I would hate to ruin the book for you and give too much more away, I just had to end off with the following extract which I think we should all aim to achieve – in one way or another:

“I want to be someone who has lived his life to the fullest. I want to lie on my deathbed smiling and thinking, “Shit bro… you’ve lived a flippin’ crazy life.” I want a bunch of epic memories. I want to know I’ve pushed myself to the max. And, hopefully, in doing that, I’ve done some good and added to this world rather than taken from it.”


Natasha Papini

Blogger at UltraRunner ZA
Trail running junkie, workaholic, health nut - in that order!

To call me an "outdoorsy-person" is an understatement! I run to maintain sanity and see places normal folk wouldn't normally get to experience

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About The Author

Trail running junkie, workaholic, health nut - in that order! To call me an "outdoorsy-person" is an understatement! I run to maintain sanity and see places normal folk wouldn't normally get to experience

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