Cayman businessman Ken Krys is the extraordinary ultra-distance runner who every few months takes on a herculean challenge and the latest one he completed was the six-day 155 mile Gobi March earlier this month.
Krys is the CEO and founder of Krys Global in Governor’s Harbour who finds these incredibly arduous feats keep his life in perspective and, in the process, raise money for charity.
Last Thursday, he gave a presentation of his Gobi March at his offices.
The Gobi Desert in Mongolia is extremely inhospitable. The largest desert region in Asia, it is also the windiest non-polar desert in the world. Blisteringly hot by day and freezing at night, Mongolian tribesmen are amongst the world’s toughest and most resilient people as a result.
Although he has completed the Marathon des Sables, the world’s hardest race, and always does his own 50k race through rough terrain here, the Off The Beaten Track, the Canadian adventurer was not blase about finishing this grueling one. Nevertheless, he claimed to have “had a great time.”
Krys said, “It’s truly a beautiful part of the world with a lot of history and culture. Basically, you’re near the border of Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. This region is known for the Silk Road and Genghis Khan.”
The race started with 113 runners from more than 40 countries and finished with 95. Krys placed 65th so his goal of completing and not being last was handsomely achieved.
The hardest part, as expected, was the difficult terrain and extremes in temperatures. Furnace by day, fridge by night. On the longest stage of 72 kilometers, there was a stretch where they climbed 1,300 meters over a 19km span.
It wasn’t just the ascent, but the ground had big tuffs and rocks and was on an incline, so Krys was always trying to find flatter spots to step on while at a 30 degrees angle.
“My feet were not happy about this part. We then ran down 600m over a 9km span, only to have to climb another 500m over a 7km span,” Krys said.
The demands on the mind as well as the body was tortuous. The erratic weather was frustrating and difficult to cope with too. They had temperatures near 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) a couple of days, but on other days had cooler temperatures, a little sleet and strong winds – and even hail one day.
A few evenings were chilly and wet. Temperatures got down to zero with winds around 30 miles per hour. Everybody had to desert the first day’s camp as it was washed out by heavy rain. That night they stayed in some miners’ shelters instead – not exactly the Ritz-Carlton.
Stage 3 was shortened by 20km as the temperatures were too cold and the mountain pass they were to run through was too dangerous.
Relieved that he came through again largely unscathed, Krys, who turns 51 in October, finds it difficult to compare these epic events.
“The landscape is different and you have different hurdles. If pushed, I’d probably say it wasn’t as hard as the Marathon des Sables, and certainly not as hard as the Jungle Run. But it’s not easy either.”
His favorite experience from the Gobi March occurred on the longest stretch, stage 5. It was around midnight, dark and chilly. He had been on the road for 14 hours by then and anxious just to complete the last 15km. It is stressful as well as exhausting running in the dark and essential to focus on the terrain and at the same time keep looking up to find markers to follow.
He suddenly saw a light coming towards him and presumed it was a local farmer out wandering around or one of the volunteers issuing new directions.
“As I got closer, I found it was a Japanese woman (Sachiko Hamaguchi) who was running in the opposite direction. I stopped her to tell her she was going the wrong way.
“But she spoke no English and I no Japanese. So we must have spent 20 minutes pointing and gesturing as we tried to persuade each other that each one was going in the right direction. Eventually, I convinced her to go with me. Thank God, my way was the right way!”
Krys was running for Facing Africa charity. “As always, I received a lot of support from the business community for these endeavors,” he said. “I appreciate the support I got.”
With no intention to ease up just yet and back at World Gym for regular workouts, Krys is preparing for a similar toughie, this time in Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean, in late August.
“It’s a similar format, 260km over six stages. I’m told there are not as many hills so this run should hopefully more accommodate my abilities.”
It’s described as a “roving” ultra, which means it is not an annual event. Maybe participants are still roving from the last one!
“It should be a lot of fun and it’s another part of the world I always wanted to see and experience,” Krys said.