Last time we spoke to professional explorer, adventurer and Red2Blue ambassador Louis Alexander, he had just completed a swim from Europe to Asia, crossing the Hellespont and Dardanelles strait in Turkey – one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Now, he’s taking on his most gruelling challenge yet – running a marathon in each of the seven Continents, all to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK, a cause close to Louis’s heart.
Louis is no stranger to extreme adventure. Over the last few years his successes include rowing across the English Channel, summiting both Kilimanjaro and Mont Blanc, and running 17 marathons in 17 consecutive days. It was during this last challenge that Louis discovered what he believes to be the ‘pinnacle’ of adventure running – to run a marathon on every continent on Earth. His goal is to join the ‘7 Continent Marathon Club’ – a feat that’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. According to Louis, “More people have been to space than have joined the ‘7 Continents Marathon Club’ – currently that’s only about 400 people.”
A global challenge for a global cause
It was the global element of the challenge that appealed to Louis, as he wanted to draw attention the global cause he’s been supporting for the last five years – dementia awareness and research. Louis began supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK, after witnessing his own grandfather’s 17-year-long struggle with the disease.
As if running the seven continents wasn’t enough, Louis has decided to add an extra twist to his adventure by running in the most remote location of every continent! “As my challenges grow, so must my purpose,” he says. “I’ve recently published an Open Letter to the Prime Minister. Over the next few months, I’ll carry this letter with me during my marathons in the Amazon, Arctic and Antarctica, and hope to deliver it to the Prime Minister in person upon my return.”
Louis explains that currently one in three people with dementia are never diagnosed, which means when life-changing treatments do become available, possibly as early as next year, thousands of people will miss out on the drugs they deserve. His letter to the PM pleads for £16 million towards improving diagnostics, which would increase lumbar punctures (a fast, accurate and cost-effective way of diagnosing dementia) from 2,000 a year to 20,000.
Zoom out, look around, zoom back in
So far, Louis’s challenge has taken him through African and Asian deserts, a conservation in Alaska, the Australian Outback and most recently, the Amazon Rainforest, where he was running on indigenous land within the Kichwa Community.
One of the greatest challenges to date has been the contrast in the weather across each of the continents – from the heat and humidity of the desert, to running on ice in Alaska, and most recently in Amazon rainforest. “There was a rainstorm between 18km and 38km, which created some unique challenges,” Louis explains. “We had the huge privilege of running on the indigenous land of the Kichwa community so my priority, when these adversities did occur, was to ensure I stayed present and didn’t get distracted.”
Louis’s Red2Blue training helped him to enjoy the amazing scenery around him as he ran through the Amazon. “Sometimes during marathons it’s easy to keep your head down and stare at your feet as you take each stride,” he says. “But for this marathon I wanted to prioritise looking up and around at my incredible surroundings. Using my Red2Blue to zoom out helped remind me of where I was – and avoid any Red Head state of being distracted – and therefore I could zone back in.”
Another interesting challenge, and potential risk factor, has been the local wildlife. “Getting chased by a pack of wild dogs during the desert run in North Africa, definitely required Red2Blue,” Louis jokes. While Louis expects the wildlife to continue to be a highlight of his runs, the pièce de résistance so far has been seeing brown bears during his marathon in Alaska. “That will be hard to beat!” he says.
Stay present, focussed, in control
In many ways, the majority of Louis’ work and preparation is done at home before he leaves for the airport. “I truly believe this is where my mindset development with Gazing has provided the greatest advantage. The ability to stay present, focussed and in control on a consistent basis during training camp at home, when there isn’t the excitement or adrenaline of being on an expedition, is pivotal.” That notion of ‘Getting ready now to be ready when…’ is a crucial part of the Red2Blue technique.
Combining mental training with physical training is the key to Louis’s success. Now that he’s completed his Amazon Jungle run, Louis goes straight into back-to-back marathons in the Arctic Circle and Antarctica. For these final three expeditions, he completed a 12-week training camp, training five days a week, both running and strength & conditioning with his coach Jayke.
Equally important is the emphasis on recovery. Louis uses regular red-light therapy, cryotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen chambers at The Body Lab to help prepare his body to be as injury resistant as possible. “The locations of these marathons aren’t traditional, so my preparation can’t be either!” he says.
So, what is it that motivates him to keep on pushing himself through tougher and tougher challenges? “To pursue a life of full-time adventure at a young age, I believe is the greatest privilege in the world,” he says. “Thanks to sponsors like Gazing Red2Blue, I’ve been given the opportunity to grow up through these expeditions. To see the greatest landscapes, the most incredible wildlife, meet people from different communities, as well as test myself in some of the most challenging environments. I will not throw away this opportunity – I’m all in!” That, and raising funds and awareness for such an important cause, of course.
Tougher and tougher challenges
After completing the final of the seven marathons in Antarctica, Louis plans to take a well-earned rest to pause and reflect on his first two years as a professional explorer before continuing the momentum. “I have some big dreams for this world of adventure, but for now, the focus is on finishing what I’ve started with the seven marathons running project.”
One thing’s for sure, Louis doesn’t stay still for long – we can’t wait to hear what his next adventure holds!