After running for 21 hours straight, covering 151km of rough terrain and – in the process – raising thousands for The Inspire Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis and RAISE, NATHAN FARRUGIA yesterday pulled out of the Spartatholn Ultra Race due to strict cut-off times at checkpoints to ensure participants complete the gruelling 246km marathon in36 hours flat. This was by no means either the first or the the last challenge the philanthropic athlete has set his eyes on and here he speaks to The Malta Independent on Sunday about what drives him to keep challenging himself.
Nathan Farrugia has become a name that is synonymous with ultra challenges – how do you choose which one to do next?
Although the media cover the sports challenges I undertake, I’ve always lived my life challenging my own limits and testing myself; whether it was managing Inspire, setting up my own business or emigrating to the UK as I did a few years back, it was always a way of pushing myself further. As for sports, I tend to choose the ones that create the most curiosity in me. From the desert, to the mountains, to sea swims and non-stop efforts, I’m always keen to experience what goes on in my head when I’m at the edge of human endurance.
What inspired you about this particular challenge?
The history of Pheidippides and his success in completing the distance despite having very rudimentary support, for example having run in sandals. The historic value of it makes the effort even more symbolic. The fact that Pheiippides died upon arrival is what made it legend. I don’t aim to repeat that part!
Last year your ultra challenge involved more than one discipline, you were running, swimming and cycling. This time it’s running all the way, do you consider this your favourite sport or your strength?
I’m not particular about any of the three sports. Indeed, I’m curious to try extreme kayaking, sledding or sailing, if the opportunity arises.
Last year was an exception. I suffered severe dehydration half way through my challenge and had to be admitted to hospital for treatment but I soon recovered and finished the challenge. Most of the time my challenges have had predictable outcomes yet sometimes it’s just Murphy’s Law and anything that can go wrong, does. That’s what happened last year. This year I’m taking all the usual precautions like I always do and hope for the best.
What are the mental challenges involved and how do you overcome them?
The main challenge is to keep putting one leg in front of the other regardless of the pain and discomfort. This year I hardly trained because I was too busy setting up a new business, so the mental side is going to play a major role.
When the going gets really tough, what is it that pulls you through?
It’s a little voice in my head. We all have it; we just need to realize that when it’s discouraging or telling us to give up, it is not our real voice. Once we understand that and quiet it down, we can always go a little bit further. I just hope to have it in me to reach the finish line this year. Mindfulness helps me stay in the ‘now’ and not worry about the voice telling me to stop, or reminding me what a long way there is to go.
Just like last year your friend and guide Ebi Ebidanaid will be seeing you through this year’s challenge. What is his role and why is it important that you choose the right person for this job?
Ebi knows how I think. He knows to let me continue when others don’t believe I should. He understands WHY I push myself. Also, he is an excellent massage therapist and knows a lot about nutrition and hydration. Besides Ebi, the support from my wife Deirdre is also very important. It takes a lot of time to train for such challenges and she is always patient and supportive.
Do you believe that anyone can train to do something like this,or is there something that you either have in you or you don’t?
We can all run marathons. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ran marathons every day chasing their dinner. We’ve lost that endurance since all we need to do is walk to the fridge. Necessity drives performance. We need to get out of our comfort zone a little bit more.
Your family seem to support your every challenge, even though you seem to put yourself in danger every time. Was it always the case or have they given up trying to dissuade you?
I rarely intentionally put myself in danger, although I have comevery close to the edge a few times in the past. They believe in my sensibility and that I would always put them first. That’s why I’ve never considered Everest yet. Deirdre is an ex Olympian so she fully understands the dedication required, and supports me. Pushing my limits is also an example to my kids, not to give up and keep exploring. Besides, I wouldn’t be ‘me’ if I didn’t get out of my comfort zone from time to time. They’d probably miss the real me.
You’ve managed to merge your passion for ultra challenges with your desire to help others through charity – why does this work best for you?
I firmly believe that we should all use what we have to help others. Whether it’s our precious time, volunteering, whether it’s money that we can afford to give away, or a business resource from a CEO, giving is always a good thing. I use my love for extreme challenges to raise awareness about certain causes through the media, and to raise funds from the public. If we can’t make a difference doing the things we love, then what’s the point?
This year you chose to fundraise for three charities – The Inspire Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis and RA1SE – why did you choose these charities in particular?
I know first hand what great work the Inspire team does, so that decision was straightforward. The other two organisations are run by friends who are passionate about their cause. Their passion convinces me that they are worth supporting.
Donation lines are still open – you can support Nathan and the charities by donating online. or via SMS by sending a message with the words “One4All” to 50618080 TO DONATE €4.66, 506 18 926 TO DONATE €6,99 or 506 19 215 TO DONATE €11,65.