With over 400km of trail running and 145km of paddling to complete, BEN SOUTHAL fits a gruelling training schedule into an already-overloaded lifestyle.
– and over the harbour bridge
nine great walks
Racing along the precipitous edge of an exposed ridgeline, feet scramble to find a hold on the loose rock that’s momentarily under foot. I tear downhill to a water-logged gully, feet and fingers numbed to the core. Daylight fades, slowly replaced by the beam from my head torch, gouging a path through the darkness ahead.
With hours to go until the end of the trail my brain’s tired and body aching, but I’m here in the moment, immersed in the expedition and loving every minute of it.
After months of careful planning, being out in the great outdoors running ultramarathons, kayaking rivers or sailing oceans are more often that not, the easier parts of an expedition. If every detail’s been thought through, every eventuality planned for and the right team and partners are in place, the chance of failure should be incredibly low.
The support of those partners only comes from the expectation of a successful expedition through which their brand or product can be showcased or gain exposure. Failure isn’t good for anyone involved.
Taking the age-old adage of the six P’s – Perfect Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance – and given enough time, logistics are easy enough to plan for, but fitting a gruelling training schedule into an already-overloaded lifestyle, is much more difficult.
The New Zealand 9 is my latest adventure – an attempt to complete New Zealand’s nine Great Walks in just nine days. With over 400km of trail running and 145km of paddling to complete, being battleready for the back-to-back endurance and demands the landscape is sure to subject me to, will be paramount.
I’d always trained myself, believing I knew what was best and how to get myself match fit, but for this expedition I decided to work with the team at the University of Queensland, School of Human Movement Studies. On top of the rigorous training schedule any personal training instructor would give you, they’ve helped identify my weaknesses and put a training emphasis on core strength, damage-limitation and injury avoidance – essential areas that’ll be crucial over nine days of back to back torture.
Running has always been my Zen and the place I have my clearest thoughts. I never run with music or headphones, or any other distraction. It’s a chance to brainstorm, think things through and plan.
I often take to the trail or streets around Brisbane at 5am, aiming to have a half marathon under my belt before breakfast to set me up perfectly for the day ahead. Then each week on a Sunday morning I head into the bush for a longer, slower trail run of between 25km and 40km.
In the lead up to a big event I add around 10 per cent to my total distance each week, up from my usual 40km, to an exhausting 90km. Finding time to fit everything into an already busy life, along with training for a new discipline has been tough, but introducing paddling on a surf ski (our boat of choice for the Whanganui River) twice a week has been a welcome break from the hours of continual running.
Every expedition I plan requires a different training routine and schedule. From the marathons I ran and mountains I climbed during my Afritrex expedition, to the 1,600km sea kayak paddle along the Great Barrier Reef during Best Expedition in the World, to the trail running required to set the world record for Aussie 8.
When I set out on my first African expedition in 2001, I never thought 13 years later I’d be making a living from adventure. Putting pen to paper and writing my first book The Best Job in the World – How You Can Make A Living From Following your Dreams, was an adventure in itself and one that made me realise it you want something badly enough you can make it happen.
To me life is all about adventures – some big, some small. The more I strike out into the world and learn about it, the more it excites me and the more it drives me forwards to plan the next one.
We have one chance on Planet Earth. Use it.
Ben Southall . . .”Being battle-ready for the demands the landscape is sure to subject me to, will be paramount.”