x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 December 2017

Dubai resident plans a half marathon a day through Himalayas

Furlong has challenged himself to spend four weeks running through the ­Himalayas – completing a half marathon, 21km, every day for 30 days, starting from January 1

Dan Furlong with children from the BlinkNow Foundation in Surkhet, Nepal.
Dan Furlong with children from the BlinkNow Foundation in Surkhet, Nepal.

January is just around the corner and, for many, the new year will mean new resolutions. These could be diet related; they could involve seeking out a new hobby or a new job; or attempting to be more financially savvy. Or, as in the case of the Dubai-based entrepreneur Dan Furlong they could mean heading to Nepal to run 600 kilometres from Katmandu to the Kopila Valley.

Furlong has challenged himself to spend four weeks running through the ­Himalayas – completing a half marathon, 21km, every day for 30 days, starting from January 1, to raise awareness for the BlinkNow Foundation, a non-profit organisation that supports children and women in Nepal’s Kopila Valley.

“I’m just combining my passion for fitness and helping others, and taking on the biggest endurance challenge of my life,” he tells us over the phone from London. “I can’t wait to get started, to get those first miles on my legs and just get cracking.”

The social entrepreneur fondly recalls how as youngsters he and his brother, Nathen, used to chase ice cream vans. It was in those moments that two of his passions were ignited. The two launched the ice cream company Desert Chill in the UAE more than 10 years ago, and Furlong has become a keen runner.

“In 2013, I was going through some personal struggles and I was at a difficult time in my life. I decided to go across to Nepal and meet Maggie Doyne and the children at the BlinkNow Foundation. It was a trip that changed me for ever. It allowed me to get a really good balance in life and obtain a level of spirituality, which has become a major part of my life,” he says.

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Having visited the foundation several times since, Furlong says he is thrilled to be returning, but this time to do something significant. He explains the rationale behind his chosen distance of 600km.

“Number one, that’s the actual distance between [Katmandu and the Kopila Valley]. Secondly, when I took my first trip to go and visit the children, the weather was so bad that the internal flight was cancelled for visibility reasons. I took a 17-hour bus ride from Katmandu to Surkhet, which was one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done.

“When I got off that bus I said I’d rather walk or run that distance than do that ever again, which is probably where it all started. The third reason is that I want to show the world the story of Nepal and I think, over the distance, I will be able to showcase some of the ­struggles the people go through. In doing that, I want to show the children that they can also do something this big, if they put their minds, their hearts and souls into it; they can achieve anything they want to achieve.”

In preparation for the run, the adventure seeker’s training regime has picked up significantly. He trains in seven-day blocks, each focusing on a different level of intensity. This might involve hill training, shorter sprints, or just spending the time covering distance, rather than going for a time. But Furlong does have a competitive streak. “I want to give it 110 per cent in Nepal. I want to push the limits and I want to find out new things about myself, too.”

In between the blocks are all-important rest days, which is something he strongly encourages others to include in their programmes too.

“Rest days are crucial. There’s a fine balance between overtraining and undertraining. Getting the balance is up to the individual. So you need to listen to your body.”

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Another vital element he is working on is nutrition. Simply put, his advice is to just get it right. “My approach is to fuel my body to repair rather than perform,” he says. “Performance is key, of course, but with ultra-distances, it’s important to replenish the calories you burn in training.”

His diet consists of good carbohydrates, like sweet potato, grains and a healthy balance of fats and proteins. With the demands of training and running a business, it is sometimes hard to get the right quantities and nutritional values required. His go-to product for that is Juice Plus, a company that launched in the market earlier this year. There are, of course, days when a good treat is in order, though, so while ice cream is not a feasible option for the journey in Nepal, he will be packing some Desert Chill cookies.

Furlong has introduced a digital component to his campaign that will allow fans, followers, friends and family to keep up-to-date on his progress. In addition to the collateral he and his support crew of four will be uploading, Furlong is encouraging people to show their support via the hashtag #RunWithDan10km.

“In January everyone has their resolutions. A lot of people don’t stick to them, so what I’ve found is that if you have an end goal in sight, the chances of you sticking to them are a lot greater,” he says.

“My hope is to get you active, outdoors, doing at least one 10km run in the month. If someone does this say eight times, it could become a nice habit and a good way to ease into the new year.” With the pleasant weather and races like the Dubai Marathon coming up, he recommends residents make use of the various facilities in the UAE, including one of his favourites, the running path along Jumeirah Beach.

Furlong admits that he is a little nervous about his ­upcoming adventure at times, but the goal is clear, and that’s what is most exciting for him. “I think your struggles can become your greatest lessons. What will also be important for me is to keep moving forward; whatever happens, you can’t give up.”

And with that he’s off to tackle the first half marathon of seven in this training block.

Follow Dan Furlong’s adventure on Instagram: DanWFurlong or track his progress via #Nepal600