Ultra-distance runner Ken Krys deserves to put his feet up this festive season more than most because in recent weeks he has completed two more challenging events.
Although the intrepid Krys found them relatively easy because he is now a veteran, having initially conquered the Marathon des Sables, the world’s toughest race, he gets props simply for taking them on in the first place.
The first one was the Volcano Marathon in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile last month, a typical marathon distance 42 kilometers (26.2 miles), but it’s an off-road race starting at 4,450 meters above sea level near the Bolivian border and passes by 10 volcanoes.
The Caymanian businessman actually used it as a training run for an ultra soon after. The organizer, Richard Donovan, invited entrants to arrive in San Pedro de Atacama a few days early to acclimatize.
They did some training runs in the Valley of the Moon and the Valley of Death, near San Pedro.
It is 2,400m up, which helped Krys prepare a little for the higher altitude. The rest, he said, was just about being in shape.
The 51-year-old CEO of Krys Global enjoys traveling the world taking on these events, and he knew Donovan from completing Antarctica a few years ago.
The opportunity to do some training runs in some of the more interesting sights in the Atacama inspired Krys.
“And, of course, any chance I can get to run someplace unique and fascinating, I am naturally interested,” he said. The run may not have been spread over an exceptionally long distance for five or six days as he usually does, but it was nevertheless extremely tough.
The lack of air at that high altitude and the freezing weather, the wind, the sharp ascents and descents and the sandy and rocky terrain tested even the most experienced and hardy.
To give some sense of how sapping it was, the winner, Gary Thornton, has a personal best marathon time of 2 hours 14 minutes, which is world class. He finished this race in 4:10.
Krys enjoyed himself despite the hardship, finishing eighth among men and 10th overall in 7 hours 01 minute. There were only 21 total in the field which is a reflection of how challenging it is.
“The scenery was amazing,” Krys said. “Because of the ascents and descents, you really got to see a lot of scenery in those 26 miles.”
He paced himself well, passing many in the second half of the race which ended with a 500m hill.
“That was heart breaking. After you got up 300m, you got to a crest and you thought you were done, but after turning the corner – which ironically had a small cemetery on it – you found you had another 200m up to go. A fair number of the runners needed oxygen when they finished.”
Then he took on the Ancient Khmer Path in Cambodia.
The entrants were dropped off a couple of hours out of Phnom Penh, the capital, and the race was the 220km to the ancient capital Angkor Wat, through villages and the jungle.
For once, Krys felt comfortable because it is a relatively flat race in a hot and humid environment, similar to Cayman. He learned about this event when tackling a Madagascar ultra run previously, and after reading their website wanted the experience.
“The opportunity to mix a bit of culture and understanding the country, while being able to enjoy it as a run was attractive and consistent with what I look for in these events.”
As ultras go, it was the easiest he has done so far, he said, partly because there was no need to carry food and night gear, which is the norm.
Also, the organizers are pretty relaxed if competitors want to stop at a local shop and pick up a drink or foodstuffs along the trail. “In races like this, that’s a luxury.”
He really liked the places they stayed overnight, including two temple ruins. One of them was the location for “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.” They also slept in a monastery and two local villages.
“As we were often in by early to mid-afternoon after 6 a.m. starts, we really got a chance to experience the local culture and learn about the history of Cambodia.”
His most interesting story was the day before the race, Krys was touring the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek when he was approached by someone who noticed his Off the Beaten Track T-shirt, an annual event Krys created for local competitors. The next one is in February.
“He saw the mention of the Cayman Islands and introduced himself and it turned out he was the brother of one of my senior employees. What a small world!”
Krys finished 24th out of the 43 who started the six-day event.
“I had a chance to take a few days after the run to visit some of Cambodia’s best known places like the Killing Fields, Angkor Wat, the ruins where Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed.
“I really enjoyed the format, so have registered for the organization’s next run in Sri Lanka in March 2015.”