WATCH | Ryan Sandes has an ultra good time in the Alps

17 August 2018 - 06:30
By Dave Chambers
Ryan Sandes says the secret of his success is sticking to picturesque routes and embracing the pain.
Image: Kelvin Trautman, Red Bull & TBG Archive Ryan Sandes says the secret of his success is sticking to picturesque routes and embracing the pain.

The Alps have always defeated top South African trail runner Ryan Sandes - but with the help of “the okes” he says he’s ready to get his own back.

Sandes will line up alongside 2‚300 other runners on August 31 to take on the 171km Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB)‚ often described as the trail running world championship.

On his two previous attempts — in 2015 and 2016 — the Cape Town athlete dropped out before he’d completed 40km.

“I’ve had every single dream and aspiration completely crushed‚” he said.

But he hopes a “rad adventure” on the course earlier this year with friends Luke Powers‚ Kane Reilly‚ Andre Gie and Andrew King will stand him in good stead.

A 13-minute video‚ “Running Happy with Ryan Sandes and The Okes”‚ tells the story of the runners’ circuit of Mont Blanc‚ which begins with them finding no room at their first inn and having to spend the night in a cowshed during a downpour.

“UTMB is a race that has never gone well for me and I think in the past I have put too much pressure on myself‚” said Sandes‚ who earlier this year set the fastest known time of 24 days and 14 hours for the 1‚406km Great Himalaya Trail.

“It was really refreshing to pre-run the UTMB route over a few days with a group of friends earlier this year. It was a pretty unplanned disaster-style lap ... but we had an awesome few days on the mountain with lots of laughs.

“I have so many good memories from the trip and I will take that positive energy with me into the race.”

In the video‚ Sandes‚ 36‚ said his previous attempts at the Mont Blanc race almost made him want to stop racing. “It wasn’t fun any more. That’s why now I’m so fearful for the race‚ and I’ve got such a big mental block. I’ve got no good memories and no good experiences from the race‚” he said.

“Sometimes racing can almost suffocate the reason I started running. I realised after racing for 10-plus years that the races are the things that often drive you‚ but it’s all the experiences that fit around those races that I remember and that are important.”

This month’s race‚ which takes runners through France‚ Italy and Switzerland and includes ascents totalling 10‚000m‚ follows the Tour du Mont Blanc path which normally takes hikers between seven and nine days.

Sandes and other leading runners are expected to cover the course in just over 20 hours‚ and the final cut-off time for stragglers is 46-hours and 30-minutes. The race is termed “semi-self-sufficient”‚ with 10 food and drink posts.