Born - 1947 ; Location - Blackheath, Surrey, UK ; Sport - Ultra distance running
A round, tubby guy...
… is not the way you'd expect to be described if you are an athlete capable of running 150 miles across the Sahara desert in 6 days. But that is exactly how David Seys describes himself.
He wasn't always capable of that kind of endeavour. Not sporty as a child he only began running in his late 30's as a way of countering the ravages of a lifestyle worthy of the musician and composer that he then was, who worked much of the time in advertising. The running started when a colleague took him out on a run round Richmond Park one Sunday afternoon after a leisurely lunch left him feeling rather the worse for wear, and it was definitely kill or cure. Despite feeling disgusting after that first time he persevered, running first half-marathons and then full marathons and that was the start of a long running career during which time, as well as increasing his own fitness, he raised a great deal of money for TV Times Leukaemia Research.
When marathons became less of a challenge, along with some friends he looked for a greater one and research led them first to the sport of Ultra Distance running (any race above marathon distance) and then to the Marathon des Sables, an Ultra Distance race covering the aforementioned 150 miles, and run across the Sahara desert in 6 days. More research was needed to learn about the requirements of the race, what he needed to carry with him in terms of food and clothing in order to survive the ordeal. He and his friends then spent a great deal of time training for the greater distance involved, running a marathon each weekend for more than 6 months. And they would train by train. That's to say they would ride by train some distance from home, up to 50 or more miles, and then run back - often using the canal network, and occasionally sleeping overnight at the side of the canals before continuing their running training the following morning.
With the change of event his running style had to change, too. Having achieved a good style for urban marathon running, with longer strides and kicking heels, he had to dispense with all that and go for what he calls "the desert shuffle" which involves small strides and very little lifting of the feet in order to minimise energy expenditure. This manner of running enabled him to just "go and go and go" for long distances.
Evidently, he got quite a buzz from the achievement as he continued with many other Ultra races, competing in the Trans 333 - a 333km race across Mauritania - and other races in Jordan, Niger and the Himalayas. In fact, the remoteness and harshness of the terrain became treasured elements of his own assessment of his achievements. He never expected to win races, there are always elite athletes taking part; but being there, doing it, finishing it, achieving better times or longer distances gave him a satisfaction of their own. And sometimes merely surviving to the end was enough.
Running became part of his life, and he experienced benefits from it in other areas of his life - as long as he runs 25 miles a week his weight stays down, and when in training for a race he can lose up to 2 stone. There are no short cuts to being a Silver Grey athlete but, as we continually say, if you continue to put in the work, you do reap the rewards,
As mentioned earlier, David was not an athletic child, and he insists that, despite his running distances that would make most people go pale just at the thought, he is still no athlete. "I'm just a round, tubby guy who can go and go and go" he says.