20 Marathons in 43 days… Preparation is always the key to success…

AP talks with Christian Havrehed about his planned adventure and the preparation which he is currently undertaking in the lead up to Swim-Run-Swim. As a core message AP always promotes the importance of preparation for any activity, including when venturing out to sea. Whether you are experienced or not, good preparation is the key to a safe and successful journey.

All of the funds raised form Christian’s Swim-Run-Swim will go towards building a bespoke boat that will be deployed later in the year to save lives at sea. Donate here

What made you think about undertaking this challenging adventure?

I love adventuring. Whilst at Atlantic College (“AC”) I biked from my home in Denmark to the college in Wales and back. Later I rowed across the Atlantic Ocean with a Chinese friend to raise scholarships for AC, and I have done some long distance runs both in the mountains and in the Gobi Desert. I sometimes wish I was born a few hundred years ago when it was still possible to explore and discover uncharted territory. Imagine venturing off the known map of the world, setting out for the Poles, or across an ocean, not knowing what to expect – and doing so with equipment, which by modern standards would probably be deemed unsafe. No satellite phone, emergency beacon, or chance of fast external assistance if things go wrong. By comparison, modern day adventuring seems like child’s play, but there is of course still a risk of dying if you are unlucky or ill prepared. But you can also be hit by a bus crossing the road on your way to work, so it is all about perspective. The key is to manage risk to a level where you (and your loved ones) believe you will come back safely. This can be done by lessening the challenge and/or increasing preparation. 

How did you decide what kind of challenge to undertake?

I came up with the idea for this adventure in March. Until then I was busy doing another project, but suddenly there was a blank space in the calendar. I spoke to my wife and she is very supportive, as long as I will be back in time to join the already planned family holiday in France starting 7 July. Brilliant! The question was then which adventure to do? Given the time available, it had to be something, which did not require much equipment or planning. That is how I came up with the idea of doing a mountain run along an established trail, and France is an obvious place for this. There are three routes running the length of the Pyrenees. One on the French side (GR10), one on the Spanish side (GR11), and one in the middle over the highest peaks (HRP). Both the GR10 and the GR11 are well marked. The HRP is not. The HRP also requires technical mountaineering skills and equipment, of which I have neither, nor do I have the time to learn. So, it had to be the GR10 or GR11. My wife is French, so I decided for the GR10 (though I am ashamed to admit I don’t speak French, so I would be equally well understood on the Spanish side). 

Tell us more about the GR10 trail?

Through a Google search I found the Association des Amis GR’distes, who are experts on the GR10. They were extremely helpful with tips and suggestions, including sending links to their website (www.gr10.fr) for accommodation, distances, elevation and average walking hours. Having studied this, it became apparent that it should be possible to find accommodation and food every night. Brilliant, because then I do not have to bring a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear and lots of food, which will be heavy and slow me down. 

So now I have a well-marked trail, with a good chance of meeting other hikers along the way, and with daily access to shelter and food. There are also different exit points along the way, which increases safety. A trail like this seems well matched to the time I have available to prepare.

How long will it take you to complete the route?

The total distance is at least 860km with 50km of elevation. I am not super fit at the moment, but I reckon I will be able to cover 20km per day on average. This means 43 days in total. Since I must complete the run by 7 July latest, I have worked backwards from that date, and my starting date is therefore has become 22 May. It is a bit early in the year for getting on the trail, but it is somewhat flat to start with, so the chance of snow is relatively low. Also, the weather conditions will be better later on in the month when I start reaching higher elevations. Still, the weather is likely to be the biggest challenge. I will bring along a GPS, which I do not expect to use much for directions, as the trail should be well marked. However, it will come in handy if I run into fog or otherwise get lost. Thunderstorms are likely to occur in the afternoon, so I will aim to finish daily by 4pm. 

What is our fitness regime in order to run on average half a marathon a day?

In terms of running, I am currently running 50km per week with my 5kg backpack for the trip. I plan to increase this each week until I leave for France. My aim is to be so fit at the start that my body won’t break and can go the distance. On the trail, I will start slow and build up speed and daily distance over time, as I work up a routine and get fitter. I don’t think I will break the record for running the GR10, though. That is an amazing 12 days and 12 hours   …   and that is just insane!

AP would like to thank Christian for agreeing to set himself this amazing challenge in order to raise funds for an AP boat. You can donate directly to the project here and 100% of the money goes directly to Atlantic Pacific. Christian has generously funded the expenses of this challenge himself.

You can follow Christian’s incredible journey via Facebook.