Ultramarathon man: What’s the limit to our endurance?

Kevin Carr

marathon 300x225 Ultramarathon man: What’s the limit to our endurance?“If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.” ― Leo Tolstoy

I have  always wanted to see how far I can go, just how far can you push? What’s the limit to our endurance?

After all that’s what endurance sport is all about, it’s not V02 levels, body fat percentages and resting heart rates, no, true endurance is a measure of ones ability to ‘endure’, to suffer pain albeit self-inflicted and not to give into the pain nor try and fight against it but to simply bear it, to endure it.

Kevin Carr here, I’m an ultramarathon runner based on Dartmoor, Devon UK. I’m 32-years-old and busy preparing through both physical training and logistical planning, to claim two world records for Great Britain. The first person to circumnavigate the globe on foot and the fastest run around the world.

“Why?” It’’s the inevitable question, a simple off the cuff comment people make after they discover my plans to run around the world. I reply with an arbitrary one sentence reply which they’re expecting, but more often than not it results in a feeling somewhere between anger and confusion arising in my gut. I suppose the nearest word to describe the feeling would be bewilderment.

I simply just don’t understand – why ‘they’ don’t understand! I suppose it’s because when people ask “What do you do?” what they’re really asking is: “What do you do for work?” When I explain I run incredible distances they know that this doesn’t pay the bills, and on those grounds it doesn’t answer their question, it makes ‘no sense.’

I’m obsessed with being the absolute best I can be in a discipline I have a natural talent for. It seems the most straightforward, obvious thing to do. If it were cycling rather than running, I’d be on a half decent salary as a team rider. If there had been a flair for football rather than running, even as a mediocre player in the fourth division league, I’d be receiving a very healthy wage and very few people would ask “why do you do that?”

Given that ultramarathon running enjoys an extremely low profile there’s simply no money in the sport. Hence rather than it being regarded as a profession or even an occupation, it’s seen as an eccentric hobby. As a runner you can focus on going faster or going farther, I simply want to hold the record as the fastest man around the world (quite literally). I believe it’s the ultimate and the purest test of endurance – it’s the natural limit of planet Earth, you simply can’t go further on our world, unless you begin running laps!

I can make the run, the question is, can it be done at the pace I’m aiming for or will I fall apart under the strain? It’s daunting not knowing for sure if you can reach your goal, but then without risk of failure there is no reward to be found, and what then, would be the point?

The first circumnavigation of the world on-foot, is quite possibly the last ‘great’ expedition left. All of the world’s tallest mountains, the vast oceans, the frozen polar caps, everything has been grabbed and conquered, often many times over. To be the first to complete a loop of the world on foot has to be up there with Everest or the Poles, the scale is just staggering. Over 36,000,000 steps 1.25 marathons a day EVERYDAY for 19 months.

Running around the world is a big step, it’s 14 times larger than my largest run to date, but not 14 times tougher. In 2009 I ran what was quite arguably the toughest endurance run in UK history, the first ever off-road run between Lands End and John O’Groats – 1,254 miles – solo and unsupported.

The whole run was completed ‘mountain marathon style’ meaning on my back was a pack containing everything you need to be self sufficient in the mountains for days at a time, food, water, tent, stove, sleeping bag, shoes, clothing etc. The terrain was coastal path, boggy moorland, national trails and the mountains of both England and Scotland before continuing north hundreds of miles through the wilderness of the Scottish Highlands and it’s mountains.

Running on the roads is a lot easier going than boggy mountain passes. Also having enough food to fuel you will be a massive help. During the John O’Groats run I lost a stone in the last eight days alone – you can only carry so much in a backpack and still be able to run. Food was very limited, dangerously so.

Being that the world run is on roads, I have the option to tow a trailer – much like polar explorers on the frozen ice caps haul their kit along on sleds, the only difference being my ‘sled’ has wheels! The two charities that will benefit from the run are SANE, a charity established in 1986 to improve the quality of life for people affected by mental illness and the British Red Cross Disaster Relief, who respond to hundreds of disasters all over the world, from floods to earthquakes.

The ‘hard way round’ title for this event is a play on words to Charlie and Ewans’ ‘the long way round’ motorbike ride around the world, this challenge is similar except there is no machine doing the work for me and there is no support crew – hence it’s doing it ‘the hard way’.

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  • Kevin Carr

    Thanks Jon

  • Kevin Carr

    Tom, thank you for taking time to get in touch during your run. I was not aware of the alternative book of records, I tried a few years ago to see if another body to GWR held records internationally recognised but failed to find this.

    I hope the rest of your run goes to plan, at the moment I can only imagine what it’s like to run for such a prolonged multi day.

    I feel I have been misled by GWR I applied to break Jesper’s record for fastest run around world. They replied essentially stating that they don’t recognise his run as being around the world as it didn’t include antipodals, which is a bitter pill to swallow. But they told me I’d be starting a new category of circumnavigation on-foot, considering you applied for the criteria for this two years ago they should have disclosed this to me before suggesting I go for ‘ first circumnavigation’ when they are aware someone is already over half way through an existing attempt.

    Hopefully my route will coincide with your whereabouts at some point and maybe we can run/chat properly for a few miles, would be great to meet you.

    Best of luck.

  • Kevin Carr

    Tony you are right it looks like both you and Tom will beat me to be first. I may only be able to go for the fastest, attempt. Kevin.

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