Ultra. A word tacked on to events or items to create a new category to challenge us. Ultra marathon is one of the terms we’ve seen in outdoor adventuring circles. It suggests that we’ve raised the bar and pushed the limits of our bodies to see what we can endure. Maybe we all should strive to this potential, or maybe only a select few are prepared to mentally tackle these events we’ve created.

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Simon in Egypt

I interviewed one such man. Simon Donato pushes his physical and mental strengths to reach goals and to find the answers to his dire questions about the earth. He’s a man of many titles: ultra marathoner, adventure science seeker, and now TV personality on Boundless, he strives to educate and push limits at every turn. He uses mind, body, and faith (science) to complete his extreme excursions in places yet to be explored.

Since moving from Ontario to the Canadian Rockies, Simon has been exposed to all sorts of ultra-athlete exploration. With the Canadian Death Race near by, he was eager to test his limits and join the sport. He was invited to run the Caballo Blanco 50 Miler in Copper Canyon in Urique, Chihuahua, Mexico, so he did. Simon explains, “I thought it was a great idea and joined them, got destroyed, but fell in love with the sport at the same time.” He didn’t just sign up to run around the world. Simon discovered the ultras within: cycling, paddling, running and beyond.

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Simon climbing in Utah.

Boundless, his new show on Esquire Newtwork (USA) and Travel + Escape (Canada), documents Turbo, his friend, and himself racing around the world in these ultra events. Pushing themselves to their limits and still finishing with a smile. Even with this interview completed, information in hand, and a basic understanding of what Simon and Turbo do for Boundless, I couldn’t sit down and write this piece. I needed more. I personally needed to feel the torture of these races.

By watching a few episodes of Boundless, I got the experience I needed. Pushing your body to complete the battle no matter how long it takes shows your physical and mental capabilities. I am truly in awe of these experiences and congratulate them both on their past and future accomplishments.

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For Simon, his toughest races to date are the Tor des Geants (TDG)  in Italy and the Charlie Ramsay Round in Scotland. While all races are difficult, these two stuck out to him for several reasons. Simon explains, “As a whole, the TDG is an insane 333 km (206 mi) race through tough mountain terrain in the Aosta Valley near Mount Blanc. Unfortunately, I had to cut this race short due to an injury. With such serious conditions your health needs to be in tiptop shape and your body needs to be ready.” Like other athletes, he understands that you can’t hide an injury from the mountain.

The Charlie Ramsay Round is a 24-hour running race around Ben Nevis. It is a 56-mile race with 28,500 feet of climbing involved. In the 35 years it has existed, there have only been 74 successful attempts as of September 2, 2013 to run it in under 24 hours. To put it in perspective, Simon says more people make it up Everest in a season. What made it difficult this time around was the weather. The conditions were close to a tropical storm with winds over 40 knots and torrential rain. With intense terrain, conditions and preparation, Simon learned a lot about himself that day.

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These types of races benefit from endurance and preparation and yet while several people prepare for the events, many don’t complete or even make it to the start line. As an athlete you need intense motivation to keep your body going. Simon reaches deep with a desire to explore and push his limits while also devoting his strength to Adventure Science. With great athletic ability, his team can endure terrain that most can’t, which furthers their research and assisting with gathering data for research, government projects, and several other issues going on in these remote regions. Simon says, “It’s pretty awesome to be able to go into an area and know that you are one of very few humans to have been there. In addition, when we are involved in Search and Rescue operations, there is a huge sense of pride in working for a greater cause, which is very motivating.”

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Simon climbing in Thailand

Recently Simon has been filming for the second season of Boundless traveling to Austria, Mongolia, Scotland, Holland, and Peru. Still to come are four races before the start of 2014. As for Adventure Science he’s wrapping up the reporting from the 100 Miles of Wild Project in North Dakota, and trying to narrow down next year’s projects.

Keep up to date with Simon and his team by watching Boundless every Wednesday on Esquire Network or Travel + Escape.

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