Running Across A Frozen Lake At -50°C
Darren Grigas has gone from not being able to complete a 5km Parkrun in his 30s, to finishing the 248-mile Cape Wrath ultra, and hot footing it across Outer Mongolia’s frozen Lake Khövsgöl – he’s testament to the fact that it’s never too late to transform your life into an adventure
Ultrarunner Darren Grigas wasn’t always so active. It took being involved in a roadway pile-up in his 30s for his sedentary lifestyle to get turned around. He went from only being able to manage a mile or two, to running Parkruns, to taking on bucket-list challenges like the 156-mile Marathon des Sables, across the Sahara desert.
In the process he has raised tens of thousands of pounds for charities, clocked up thousands of training miles and is helping to push the boundaries of what is possible in an adventurous ultramarathon. In 2018 he travelled to Mongolia to run 100 miles across a frozen lake as part of a recce by the Rat Race adventure team, in temperatures as low as -50°C.
Commit to becoming the version of you who can believe and achieve those goals
Q: Did you question the wisdom of running across the ice at any point, and what was it like doing a possible world first?
A: ‘I had confidence in the ice being safe(ish), the Mongolians drive across it, avoiding to the occasional open trench into the 260m depths below. It was amazing to realise what I was doing out there, I’d gaze at the surreal surroundings and think: “Wow, I’m really here doing this!”’
Q: What’s been the toughest race you’ve ever run?
A: ‘The Cape Wrath Ultra was my toughest race to date, but also the most beautiful and enjoyable; 248 miles and 11,000m of climbs. Where I live, I can go on a 30-mile run with a total ascent less than 300ft, so to cover 22-45 miles a day climbing the height of Ben Nevis was a real challenge. My nickname on camp was ‘Flatlander’; the climbs would screw me, but I’d have fresh legs on the flats!’
Q: What do you think is the main thing that holds people back from taking on these massive distances?
A: ‘A practical reason (excuse) is often cost, but you can always get more money, time is finite, and you may never get this chance again. So, say yes, then make it work. Consider it an investment in yourself. Ultra-running for many can often have a life-changing impact that’s worth every penny.’
‘Fear of failure: many assume ultra-distances are for ‘other people’ because ‘they’ could never run that far. We all started with that first mile. Only a few years ago I couldn’t run two miles without needing to stop for breath. Commit to becoming the version of you who can believe and achieve those goals. Where the mind goes, the body follows.’
Q: Is the challenge of ultrarunning as hard as it sounds, or can you break the edifice down with strategies and tactics?
A: ‘Slow down. That’s the most common piece of advice I give to people wanting to run further. I’ve seen course records smashed on a 69-mile ultra with an average pace of 8m 30s per mile. Ultra-running is a longer, slower race, so manage your fuel and hydration, trudge along at a conversational pace and you’ll get there. Consider it a mobile picnic!’
Darren Grigas is a Bio Synergy athlete – follow him at Darrengrigas.com – and if you think you have what it takes to join the same athlete program as Darren Grigas, contact MakeItHappen@bio-synergy.co.uk