Adventure, Interviews

The Winter Racer – Lee Peyton

I sat in Starbucks waiting for Lee Peyton to arrive. I was nervous, who was I but a little girl carrying a Dictaphone that I didn’t know how to use, and pages of questions to ask the endurance racer. What gave me the right to probe him for information, what did he get out of this, his name mentioned on a little blog on the internet? He didn’t even get a free coffee because he beat me to the chase.

It may not of been worth his while to meet me, but he was kind and after a small amount of persistence on my part, he agreed. But I got something out of it, I got to hear his story and now you get to too.

It’s not just his modesty that strikes you when you meet him, it’s his raw and ill disguised ambition. It’s what he has the ability to do on a whim. He organised and ran the Sally Challenge, Epic 2012, Outer Hebrides Sub 60, Arrowhead 135, the national three peaks challenge three time, The Drambuie Pursuit, the Yukon Arctic Ultra, and several marathons.

What Epic 2012 entailed was a 430 mile mixed bike, run and kayak the length of Scotland.  Broken down, the mileage consists of a 140 mile cycle, running the West Highland Way, climbing Ben Nevis and paddling the Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness, and a final cycle to John O Groat’s.

The money raised went to Yorkhill Children’s Foundation.The orthopaedic department which deals with cases of limb lengthening and straightening, reconstructive surgery for congenital disabilities, cerebral palsy related conditions and trauma. He did it with two friend’s; Garry Mackay and Greg McEwan.  McEwan hadn’t kayaked before and when asked, Peyton said of himself and Mackay; “We still can’t roll but we can self rescue.”

My impressions: he endures despite injury, he’s walked through the night, he’s hallucinated seeing chickens with sunglasses, the grim reaper, animal prints the size of dinner plates. He lifts weights, he lugs tyres along Gullane beach and all he wants is for people to get outside. Where’s good to train in Scotland I asked; “Anywhere, just get out! A lot of the time it’s just getting out the front door. That’s the hardest part.”

His career in the fire service means he gets annual leave, which in turn allows him to race. It was the fire service that prompted his entry into endurance events. “The fire service culture promotes you to do charity work, so in 2002 – 2003, we ran the Glasgow 10km in firekit and breathing apparatus sets, which combined is the weight of like 20 kilos. Then we did the three peaks challenge in under 24hrs.”

Peyton is a cold weather racer because he says it narrow’s the field as he’s not a runner; “I’m a plodder I can just finish the races, I’m not moving quickly. I did the Yukon race two years ago, where the weather went down to minus forty two, so you have got all these super endurance athletes but if they can’t manage the extremes then it’s no good.” Let the facts speak for themselves; out of the 56 competitors who started the Arrowhead 135 on foot in February 2012 only 28 finished.

He doesn’t talk about fear, only frustration; “Because of the extreme cold the pulk attachment shattered, it was a hard plastic and when I grabbed it with my hand it took heat from my hand. It was cramping, I needed to go stand by the fire and sort it out but to me that is a waste of race time. We were about a mile further on from the checkpoint and I looked at Garry and said I’m in the shitter here, It’s probably the most honest I’ve ever been.  I tried to put a heat pack in my glove, I bit my finger and felt nothing. It’s a bit shit, a bit scary. It all comes down to how well you manage yourself, if you don’t sort the logistics out or forget a glove well then that’s you gone.”

Up next on Peyton’s list is a 150km race in northern Finland in February. One which has never been completed before by someone on foot. “They clear the trails with snowmobiles but by the time the competitors get there, enough snow has fallen to cover them up again.” He is using the Original Mountain Marathon and Glenogle 33 to train for it; “It’s that adrenaline fuelled event that gets you focused again, Like life in the fire brigade, the day to day checks, go to a school, talk to the kids maybe go to an old folks home, do some training, do paperwork and computer work but then you get those peaks where you go to a fire, a traffic collision or a technical rescue, it’s so adrenaline fuelled.”

There’s no mention of possible failure; just excitement and advice;”You can always do that 10 percent more, but it’s your head that has to get you through.” Again, his frustration shines through his words. I attempt to complement all his achievements but he shields it away. “It’s all quite controlled though, because they are races. It’s no different from running the Edinburgh marathon, it’s just a different level but if you’ve trained and you are used to working in those conditions, then it’s just a race. I want to do something a bit wilder without the safety net. Everest was going to be a retirement thing and I’m doing Kilimanjaro next year for kids charity.”

Everyone give’s out about the tendency of writers/journalists for building up someone too much, for making them out to be better than they are. That annoys me because maybe, just maybe they are better than they or you think they are, and I’ve met Lee Peyton and I think he is accomplishing feats that are incredible, so he hasn’t climbed Everest, yet…. but for a seemingly ordinary man with a cool but traditional job, that he manages to do cold weather endurance events and create challenges to raise money for charity on the side. To me, that’s pretty impressive.

Follow Lee on Twitter @leepeyton or via his website Breaking Strain.

Adventure, Events

Marathon des Sables

Published in OutDare Adventures 1 Oct 2012

The progression of an endurance runner:

First you go for a walk down your street.  Then you progress to a 10km run, a sprint distance triathlon, followed by an Olympic distance.  Now you do a marathon, a double Olympics even, and then, duh duh duh, the legendary Ironman!

You still want more you say?

How about the Race across America (RAAM), or the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, the Antarctic 100k Ultra Race, or perhaps even the Namibian 24 hour Ultra Marathon?

But, none are quite as prestigious as the Marathon des Sables.  This event is the equivalent of six regular marathons all rolled up into one and dropped down in the middle of the Sahara desert. It is crazy, but it is brilliant.

All you need to survive for the 7 day, 151 mile race, rests on your back. Literally. Competitors carry all their supplies; food, water, sleeping bag, etc., in a backpack for the duration of the race. Competitors battle through rugged terrain and punishing heat; they suffer exhaustion and swollen aching feet.

The Marathon Des Sables course changes annually. The route  is not released until two days before the race begins adding another dimension to this extreme endeavor. The dates for this year are April 7-13 and will set you back a tasty US $3,900.

But just think how would it feel if you completed this feat of physical and mental endurance?

If you smile when you think of the answer, then start saving and start training, because this race could be for you.

Click here to learn more.

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