As you may have gathered from reading this blog, self-supported multi-day ultra marathons are hard. I'd like to introduce you to a man who can do them with his eyes closed.
Kyung Tae Song is a stage race veteran. He has completed all 4 of the Racing The Planet events: the Gobi March, the Sahara Race, the Atacama Crossing, and the Last Desert in Antarctica. He's almost certainly one of the toughest racers in a field full of tough-as-nails competitors, and I can give you numbers to prove it. At a race in Namibia in 2009 he finished 167th and last, spending over 78 hours on his feet. Compare that with the winner's time (our friend Salvador, again) who finished in under 26 hours and you get some idea.
What makes this all the more remarkable is that 30 years ago, Song was blinded in a grenade accident while serving in the military. He's been completely blind since, and has finished all his races with the aid of a guide (speaking of another tough ask, try running an ultra while guiding a blind runner). But wait: said accident had left him mostly deaf as well. You can hear them from a long ways off on the course, as his guide has to give instructions very loudly in order for them to get through the course. I tried closing my eyes for a few minutes here and there on the course, but kept having to open them to take a peek. Even with a guide it must take heaps of trust and not a little courage. You can get a taste for it by reading their brief interview on the Grand2Grand website HERE.
To put things into perspective, however, here's an excerpt from an interview done on the 4 Deserts website:
"An accident with a grenade during his military service left Kyung Tae blind and deaf. Such was his despair afterwards that he tried to take his own life several times. Love and education were to save him though as, after meeting his wife, he returned to his studies. Now a father of two, Kyung Tae is president of the library of the Jeon buk and a councillor in Junju City. Along the way he’s created a computer for blind people and picked up a top intellectual award from his nation."
After resurrecting himself from a tragedy like that, I imagine that completing these runs with his eyes closed might not feel that tough after all.
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