No, I’m not sure how I feel about this. The geek inside is pysched. The purist is appalled. What’s everybody else think?
Just in time to beat the voting deadline… ultra long distance runner Lizzy Hawker makes up our 10th and final look at National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year, 2013. Don’t forget to vote by January 16!
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You know that scene in the movie Forrest Gump where, after the girl leaves him, Forrest heads off for a run that takes him across the country about six times? Seemingly no limit to his endurance? That’s what I think of when I read about Lizzy Hawker. A petite British woman who didn’t run a professional race until she was 29 and entered NorthFace’s Ultra Marathon du Mont Blanc on a whim – and won it!
Some fish are born to swim, right?
In his excellent post for Nat Geo, Fitz Cahall paints the picture in all its grueling colors. 103 miles (168 km) with a cumulative 31,168 feet of uphill climb. As anyone who has run a regular marathon can tell you – this is quite an achievement. Lizzy has won the women’s title 5 out of the 6 times she’s run it.
Since finishing her PhD in oceanography, and her work with the British Antarctic Survey, Lizzy has concentrated on endurance running. She credits her success to a natural level of endurance and a deep love of the mountains. In fact, it seems like just being in the mountains is her primary motivation.
Perhaps even more impressive than the large, well organized UTMB, was Lizzy’s try at the Great Himalayan Trail, across Nepal, solo.
You have to realize that a trail like that – criss-crossed for thousands of years – doesn’t exactly come with trail markers. “There are lots of old hunting trails. The animals have worn parts [of it] as well. It’s very easy to get off the main trail. I was in really steep old-growth forest. I managed to lose a small bag that had the satellite phone and permits for the entire journey.”
Losing that bag meant the end to Lizzy’s trek. Without being able to make her daily sat-phone check in, she knew her friends would be calling out a rescue party.
Of course she’s planning on trying again. When you’re Lizzy Hawker, you don’t need a prize at the end of the road. You just need the trail, your shoes and the mountains. How pure is that?
“For me, moving fast in the mountains just comes natural.”
As promised, we begin our look at National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year with Renan Ozturk. I have not met Renan, other than to shake his hand at his movie premiere in Telluride last year, but I am a big fan. Not only does he climb with the best, but his filmmaking skills rock. Haunting, evocative, intensely personal glimpses into the expeditions he and buddies go on.
If you can, take a look at the film he and Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker made about their Return to Meru (also known as “The Shark’s Fin” for its crazy, bladed ascent into Himalayan mythology). Not only did these guys return after a grueling defeat just short of the summit, but Renan signed up for the return only six months after a near fatal skiing accident that fractured his neck, and left him almost immobilized. So we get two big comebacks in his movie. The team’s. And his. I can’t tell you which was more powerful. Both were huge. And are probably a good part of why Renan was nominated this year.
But to think of Renan as just a mountain climber, even a great one, is to miss the point of his chops as an artist. His awesome ability to translate shooting, climbing, painting into a visceral experience for the rest of us. Life – as Renan – isn’t necessarily heroic. But it’s always engaging.
Not to be overlooked, Renan’s paintings are wildly expressive. Part sherpa, part Van Gogh, awesome filmmaker and (apparently) unstoppable climber. What else could you want in an Adventurer of the Year?