“Superhuman qualities are qualities that exceed those found in humans. Superhuman abilities are found in some fictional characters, especially as superheroes in American comic books. Fictional characters have been portrayed as having psychic abilities, flying abilities, impossible strength, or exceptional proficiency beyond human capability. Superhuman can also mean something that is not human, but considered to be superior to humans in some way, e.g. a tiger may be described as having superhuman strength.” – Wikipedia
After this year’s Ultra-Trail Cape Town, I felt so inspired that I managed to convince myself, while resting beside a stream in the forest, photographing Ryan Sandes flying past, that I too could do this. All you have to do is just keep running, I told myself. That’s all Ryan was doing. Not stopping. Simple.
I realised the error of my ways when I signed up for a 15 km mountain trail race a week later and found myself wondering at the 10km mark how in the hell anyone could do this ten more times. I put my absurdist expectations down to the ridiculous accumulation of inspiration – an equation I’m sure Einstein looked into. The mass sum of witnessing too many inhuman feats all at once, as carried out by mere humans.
But as much as I was discovering that this 100km ultra-trail thing was the realm of superhumans, I was also reminded again and again of the very real humanity of it all. Watching Ryan take his beaming wife and son into his open, still moving arms, I saw a family man. A dad. I saw my dad. Watching his social media posts about the race and reading his comments, I saw such humility and warmth. I saw a friend, a son, just a guy in red shorts and funny glasses. Which stupefied me even more. Which inspired me even more.
It would take much more than just not stopping to complete a 100km run over our mountains and valleys, but it would be possible. Unlike those superhuman qualities like flying or seeing through things. Those I’d never achieve, but this, ultra-trailrunning, I just (might, maybe, perhaps) could, Ryan was showing me.
I had to find out more from him, even though I knew he’d rather continue resting in his pool at Bastiaanskloof after taking a mighty 2nd place in the UTCT 2017… Read the Q&A with trailblazer, Ryan Sandes, below.
Mountain Creatures Interview with Ryan Sandes
1. Every experience is a lesson. What did you learn from your experience at this year’s UTCT?
There is no place like home; my family; friends and the local community. It was really magical to race at home and get so much support and love from everyone.
2. What keeps you inspired both in running and in life?
I really enjoy challenging myself and making the most of everyday on this planet. I would rather fail trying to achieve a dream than regret not have attempted to do something. I am really passionate about what I do so waking up to every day excites me. I am also proudly South African and want to see our country be the best it can be.
3. What five things has running taught you about yourself, life and love?
- Don’t try and control what is out of your control. Focus on what you can control.
- Always try stay positive in a negative situation and learn to think on your feet.
- Don’t stress the small stuff, life is too short. Keep things simple and don’t over complicate your life if it is not necessary.
- If you love what you do and put in a lot of hard work anything is possible. Our minds are far stronger than what we think.
- The best things in life are free and no amount of money can buy them.
4. What book, film and person has inspired you most in life and why?
Book: The Ultra Marathon Man – Dean Karanzes. I took a lot from the book and my friendship with Dean when starting my running career. He was a great inspiration.
Film: Ummm… there are quite a few films that come to mind but I really enjoyed the short film Trail Dog by Salomon TV. I love dogs and think we as humans can learn so much about their loyal and gentle nature.
Person: Nelson Mandela – to be imprisoned for 27 years and not be bitter and twisted is pretty amazing. He did so much for our country and the world.
5. The best way to ruin a race?
Let your ego get in the way and don’t run your own race.
6. What do you get up to in the solo stretches on a race, when no one’s looking?
Ha! Nothing too out of the ordinary. I guess it’s just about putting one foot in front of the other and staying in the present. Running is pretty simple and that’s why I love it so much.
7. What is your spirit animal?