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April 03, 2013

Endurance athlete Ryan Sandes has his feet firmly planted in Cape Town

Ultra-marathon legend Ryan Sandes loves training in Cape Town, where you will most likely find him running up Table Mountain, Silvermine, Cape Point and Tokai.

International ultra-marathon runner Ryan Sandes. Photo Kolesky/Nikon/Lexar

Sandes holds a world record for winning a trail race on every continent. In 2010 he became the first person to win all four of the 4 Deserts races, each up to a week long on a 250km self-supported route. The 4 Deserts races traverse the Atacama in Chile, the Gobi in China, the Sahara in Egypt, and Antarctica. Time magazine voted the 4 Deserts challenge second on a list of the 10 most demanding endurance races in the world. 

Sandes is seen as a runner extraordinaire, taking on the toughest races in the world, in some of the harshest terrains. 

Trail running is his life's work, and while there are not many opportunities to race in Cape Town, the Mother City is still his home. He will tackle the Red Bull LionHeart challenge early in November, a race he created. Here, runners race up and down Lion's Head as they vie to be "king of the hill". 

Right now he is busy training for international races. Marathons like the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon are not something he would generally enter, he says. But in 2010, when he did enter the race, he got lost.

"I followed the wrong markers; there had been a mountain race before the marathon and I just kept on going up the mountain. I did get lost. I was in my zone and did not notice that I was alone," he says. He didn't finish the race that year. He is now focused on doing 100-milers internationally.

He says there is not much spectator support for trail running and hopes that audiences will grow over the next few years as events like the Red Bull LionHeart become regular fixtures.

While most of his time is taken up with training, he and his girlfriend – actress and athlete Vanessa Haywood – do make time to get away for quiet weekends.

He loves the beach and used to do a lot of surfing – you are most likely to find him at Llandudno and Hout Bay, his favourite beaches. He occasionally ventures out to Camps Bay for sundowners at places like Caprice. 

His four-legged child, rescue dog Thandi, also known as T-dog, often accompanies him on his runs. 

But his favourite place and space is the mountains.

"I prefer solitude, to be alone, running in the mountains."

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