5 Lessons Learned From Running The Great Himalayan Trail

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The Great Himalaya Trail stretches for more than 1500 km (932 miles) across Nepal, stringing together a series of shorter trekking routes to create a single giant path that runs the length of the country. Much of that route remains largely undeveloped, offering visitors a look at the Himalaya that remain largely off the beaten path. Naturally, this lures some adventurous souls to the GHT, like ultrarunner Ryan Sandes. He spent 25 days running the trail from end to end, and came away with some important lessons about life and adventure.

In March of this year, Sandes and his friend Ryno Griesel completed what is believed to be the fastest known time on the GHT and their 25-day mark may stand for some time. Now, Sandes is in Europe training for the upcoming Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, which takes place in a couple of week. The UTMB has given the South African ultrarunner fits in the past, but according to this story from the Suunto website, he’s approaching it in a much more relaxed and fluid than in the past. He chalks that up to the five things he learned while running through Nepal.

So what exactly did Sandes discover on the Great Himalaya Trail? The five life lessons he picked up include the following:

1. Break things down into bite size chunks
“For ultras, it might be from one aid station to the next,” Sandes says. “For normal life projects, like building a house, find a similar way to try to wrap your head around it. Sometimes I think too far ahead, and then I get stressed. On the Great Himalayan Trail I was forced to take it day by day – it was too big to do otherwise. It was cool learning to be really present and in the moment.”

2. Be generous
“The Nepalese people are incredible, how welcoming and supportive they are. It taught me one small thing you do can make a big difference in a person’s life. It’s all about being thoughtful. Nepalese in the mountains live a basic life, but they are super family orientated and friendly. It was quite a big reminder for me, especially now I have baby boy. In the west, everything is so quick and busy, that we sometimes forget to prioritise family. It reminds me to keep things simple.”
3. Focus on the small things in life
“In modern society we have massive goals, it’s shoot for the moon, which is important, but it’s also about being content with the smaller things in life. I get so hell bent on a race, I neglect family and the small things in life. We can become so driven sometimes that life can feel empty. It’s about balance, and appreciating small pleasures.”

4. Don’t overthink it
“I learned I’m a little bit of a control freak. It taught me there are so many things I can’t control. With life in general, it’s the person who can think on his feet who does the best. You need to be responsive to what life throws at you. In the Himalayas, we had quite a detailed plan in place, but everyday everything went out the window. It was pretty cool. Don’t overthink and freak out – you won’t enjoy yourself.”

5. Focus on the positive
“In the Himalayas, I had a two day period when I was really missing home. Interestingly, that was the toughest time for me physically. The physical follows the mental. To counteract this I told myself that it was a one off opportunity, it was my decision to be there, and lots of people dreamed of doing what I was doing. I also focused on the scenery and interacting with the locals. That definitely improved things.”
There are lessons for us all to be had from list and we don’t have to be ultrarunners to apply this philosophy to our lives. Thanks to Sandes, we didn’t have to run a thousand miles to obtain these lessons either. 
Kraig Becker