Events, Interviews

Emrys Davies – The Atacama Crossing

Featured in Beyond Limits Magazine 5th June 2012

The desert?

The Atacama Desert?

You are going to run across the Atacama desert?

This is the place where temperatures summit at 40 degrees Celsius by day and plummet to 5 degrees by night. The place where rain has never fell, where shade has never crept, where altitude sits 3000m above sea-level and where storms are made of sand.

No offence Mr. Davies but are you crazy?

I jest, I know he is not crazy, Emrys Davies is just another being to aspire to be like. This is not a first attempt or a Guinness world record . This is just another man trying to find his limits by entering a race dubbed the second greatest endurance challenge on the planet by TIME magazine. Bow down before the 6 stage, 7 day, 250km ‘Atacama Crossing‘.

Emrys Davies has served for 14 years with the South Wales fire brigade and eight years with the urban search and rescue team. On top of that he is a sector medic, mountain leader and expedition leader. Apt training for a desert sprint. This event which is a blend of too far and seriously awesome is seen as a welcome release by Davies.

“I’m 43 this year,” Davies said, “I’ve had a few family related hard times recently and the training and organization for the event has become my coping mechanism.” Sometimes it is easy to forget the power of adventure.”

The Welshman has taking the long term approach to training, rotating between 45 minute to two hour runs.

“I’m just out there pounding the trails, tracks, hills, beaches and sand dunes and mixing it up, running with no rucksack, running and walking with rucksack, walking and running with poles too,” Davies explained, “In the summer I will be getting down to Pembrokeshire coastal path to do some back to back long distance days and increase the distances throughout the year, peaking by the time next March comes round.”

The crossing will require competitors to cover 40km a day and on the “long march” day, they will need to cover a distance of 60-70km. There will be no vehicle support, no support team, everything he needs for the march is literally on the participant’s back. Checkpoints sit at every 10km, the final checkpoint of each day being the finishline and campsite.

Davies runs for three charities – the Fire Fighters Charity, Help For Heroes, and Bobath, a therapy centre for children with cerebral palsy. Davies aims to raise £1,500.00 for them and he is going about it the traditional way; organising supermarket collection days and quiz nights with raffles. He is also sponsored by Outlook Expeditions, the sports trauma management company Lubas Medical and The Village Kitchen and bar. Sponsorship is a necessary step to cover an entry fee of $3,500. It’s a big deal.

“I’m definitely nervous about it but in a good way..a respectful way,” Davies said, “I respect the challenge so therefore I will be preparing to the best of my ability for it. it’s a kind of nervous that gives you motivation ..a certain level of nerves is a good thing as it prevents you from being blasé about it.”

It’s easy to see only the rawness of the course, to be caught up in the sheer scale of the task he will soon endure. But as always in adventure there will be beauty in the trip that is guaranteed to make the pain worth it. The Atacama Desert is a world away from the Welsh background of Emrys Davies youth but in March 2013 he will join a throng of 150 competitors to race by day and assemble around a campfire by night. Then after 7 horribly blissful days, after all the preparation, the exhaustion, the pain, it will all over and he will have done it, he will cross a finish line manned with the flag of every competitor’s nation.

“There is definitely a mental challenge to processing the idea that I’m going to embark on one of the greatest endurance challenges on the planet but part of that process is realizing how fortunate I am to be doing it and what an opportunity I have in front of me to prove myself, this really isn’t for the fainthearted and I want to prove beyond a doubt that I have the mental toughness to do this,” Davies said, “I want to be able to say I was up to the challenge and I delivered, failure isn’t an option for me!”

To help Emrys complete his adventure, visit 


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