How Adventure Runner Richard Bowles Runs Across the World’s Most Remote and Dangerous Nations

Adventure Runner Richard Bowles
Photo credit: Jessica Parker

My web presence states that I’m most famously known for my world-record running projects, covering wilderness mountain trails that span nations 1,000 kilometres to 5,500 kilometres in length, navigating crocodile-infested rivers, traversing desert war zones, negotiating with lunatics with shotguns, showered in rock and ash from an exploding jungle volcano.

Furthermore, Australia’s Channel 7 quoted, “I’m a hybrid of Forrest Gump and Bear Grylls.”

Now, this sounds good from a media standpoint, but I feel that labels me a bit of an ego-driven idiot, wannabe adventure rockstar! Here’s the thing, I’m not any of that, I’m just a guy who went and did some stuff. To be completely honest, I’m not passionate about running! “What?” I hear you say; you heard it right, I’m not passionate about running long distances the hard way.

Think about it? If I tell people I average 85 kilometres a day for months at a time in some of the world’s most remote and dangerous wilderness mountain areas, while carrying everything on my back, suffering from pain physically and mentally, and then said I was passionate about that, I’d be taken away in a straightjacket with men in white coats!

The Bear Grylls, Forrest Gump comment, well, If you have seen the movie Forrest Gump, you’d be aware that he wasn’t that clever, and Bear Grylls, he’s famous for drinking his urine, I’m not either of those!

The best thing about all that is it leads me down a research path to understanding why I have done what I have done. I now partner with some of Australia’s top faculties and work with the country’s brightest psychological experts in understanding what drives people to gain results, specialising in “perseverance”.

I’m mainly based in Australia but work globally. I deliver keynote presentations and educational programs sharing my experience and research on how organisations leaders and their teams persevere towards results.

Adventure Runner Richard Bowles
Crocodile-Infested River. Photo credit: Jessica Parker

How and why did you get into adventure running?

“How” I got into Adventure Running is an easy answer, “why” I did, is a little more complicated. The how was a progressive journey. I started running to keep fit and lose weight, I then entered a 5km fun run, which turns into a 10k, half marathon, a full marathon and later on to an ultra, I wanted to see how far I could go, so, I just didn’t stop.

The why? Well, my initial research was to look for that answer because I was always asked it. I never knew why, I used to make something up like “I’m searching for the why in the hope to never find it” like I thought it was deep or something, or, I used just to tell people what they wanted to hear. The truth is, I still have no idea. The consensus was that I could be happy with “just because” we don’t always need to know why. It made me depressed trying to find that answer.

I feel that why doesn’t always help, I know that goes against what we are told continuously. However, why you do something isn’t what is going to drive you forward. I know this from experience, I have had a shotgun stuffed in my mouth on one of my adventures, why doesn’t matter at that point, no matter how deep my why may have been, it isn’t going to make you move forward at that point.

My experience and research have led me to understand that we need strategies to progress us forward, in the current world we are told that it’s about our why and having the passion for what we do. I think both of those are valid, but it’s why most people are still trying to work out why their struggling.

Adventure Runner Richard Bowles
@runpreneur on Instagram

How do you prepare for your adventures?

Preparation for these massive projects is the first enormous hurdle, logistics alone for a wilderness trail that span 5,550km across Australia is super difficult and time-consuming. But when it comes to the psychical training, really have to ask yourself, “How do you train for such a distance?” Well, you don’t know as such. Unlike a marathon where you might run up to 38km, which is almost the entire distance of the marathon (42.2km), you are never going to run 4,000km to see if you might be able to run over 5,000! So, I believe that it’s an accumulation of distance over time. I run long miles throughout the year and bank those kilometres, and I deposit them when it comes to a project.

What’s more important is your mental state, having a plan to overcome the psychological challenges that you know you will face. It’s so obvious what will take place when running such a long way making it easy to prepare for in advance.

Adventure Runner Richard Bowles
@runpreneur on Instagram

How do you finance your adventure projects?

My adventure projects have always been funded and sponsored. I have found this to be relatively easy over the years. It’s super time consuming, but if you tackle it the right way, organisations will help you achieve your adventure. The money aspect is important, after all, I’m taking up to eight months out of my life to do nothing but be on a trail, somebody needs to cover the bills!

When It comes to gear, it’s nearly always sponsored. However, I’m fundamental in my approach to equipment; I’m comfortable with any types of a brand I use.

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

When it comes to sleeping on an adventure, that can be anywhere. Tent, camper van, friendly strangers’ homes — I’ve done it all. What I have learnt over so many projects is that it’s better to stay on the trail because shooting off to different places are both times consuming and tiring, mainly when you have to have conversations with other people.

As for food, you might be interested to know I don’t have a super clean diet, in fact, I believe if you run 85km a day in the mountains for months…. well…. You can eat what the hell you like! I do have a sports dietician, but he just makes sure the calorie requirements match up to my output. I’m eating regular meals only large serves of them and topping up in-between with sports nutrition; imagining consuming 15 gels in a day for months, yeah yuck. It wasn’t cheap to visit my dentist last time either!

Adventure Runner Richard Bowles
@runpreneur on Instagram

How do you bring your things with you?

When it comes to carrying equipment, there is a fine line between too much and too little. After all, I am covering every type of environment sometimes on the same day. I can go from the beach to the snow and experience every kind of weather, so I need to carry clothing and equipment for that. This means that at times my pack can be 18kg, but with more weight comes more food, which in turn means more weight, which then means slowing down with means more food still! I have recently been a human guinea pig for Monash University in Australia where I ran 60km a day for two weeks on a treadmill to work the exact science out on this, a research paper to come soon.

I have been sponsored by SOURCE Hydration for five years now. It was a surprise sponsorship. I originally purchased one of the bags and ran 5,330km with just that one pack. They knew their bags were fantastic, but even they were wowed! After that, I have been using their super reliable packs ever since.

Adventure Runner Richard Bowles
@runpreneur on Instagram

How do you organize things in your bags and how do they hold up?

When it comes to filling my bag, it’s as simple as putting what I don’t need first on the bottom and what I do need first at the top. Nothing more complicated than that.

As mentioned above, the gear has been super sturdy. I wouldn’t change anything, it was all part of the experience, and I wouldn’t have wanted another way. I don’t do these things for it to be super easy. Everything will go wrong at some stage, if you know that, then you can be prepared for how you handle it.

What is your best advice for other adventurers?

The one bit of advice I can give and it can apply to everything: Stop making it more difficult than it needs to be. Overthinking every little detail is a waste of time. I keep everything super simple and understand that there will be problems and difficulties along the way, it’s part of life. How you respond and deal with these challenges is what is going to make you a success or not.

Adventure Runner Richard Bowles

What will the future bring?

The future will bring more knowledge and insight into the world of human performance. I want to make the path of getting from where you are to where you want to be even more accessible. It’s easy if you just move out of the way. It’s you that makes anything harder than it needs to be.

I’m not entirely sure on my next running project if any, I have a few ideas. Right now, I’m more interested in the research and helping as many people across the planet as possible.

Visit Richard Bowles on his website and follow him on Instagram and Twitter

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