A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers

- Pink Floyd



Apr 16, 2018

Ultra Resilience: The Tough Go Trail Running

A trail runner and endurance athlete’s take on heartbreak, and how he copes when the going gets tough.



Queenstown, New Zealand: 11:00pm and it was –3 degrees with heavy gale winds. While my flat mates were all cuddled up next to a fireplace in the cabin trying hard not to freeze to death, I put on my running shoes, picked up a headlamp, filled up my water bottle and headed out for a run. A long run.

I ran when I was angry with God and ended up reconnecting with Him on the same run.

She lives in Australia and we were going to catch up after four long months apart. I had been thinking of ideas to surprise her. The wood fire was going with a fine bottle of red wine and dinner ready. I had been looking forward to this day but life had other plans. An intense conversation ensued, she told me why our relationship wasn’t going to work. Not the kind of conversation you want to have on a date.

The story of how we met is Hollywood worthy but that’s for another time. I blame it on my constant travel- always seeking adventure. The girl and I had spent less than three months together last year. She wanted more. I was spontaneous, adventurous, a dream chaser and lover of mountains and people. All the reasons she loved me had all of a sudden become a deal breaker.

I tried to reason with her but she didn’t seem to understand and stormed out with tearful eyes. For the last five years, running has been a huge part of my life. I ran through thunderstorms, blizzards, blistering heat and even through three feet of snow. When I didn’t get a long overdue promotion, I ran. I ran to restore my ego, I ran to regain my lost identity, and I ran for solitude. I ran when I was angry with God and ended up reconnecting with Him on the same run. In order to overcome post traumatic stress, I ran. I even ran when I had symptoms of cancer and I ran when the medical tests were negative. I ran to deal with the loss of a good friend and I ran when I learned that a close friend was counting her time on earth.

When a couple breaks up, it doesn’t matter who does it, there’s always panic. One begins chasing, begging, pleading and calling. I started running. Running has always been my drug of choice. That night I wanted to run to dull the voices in my head, to ease my heartache, and to numb the pain. Heartbreak is emotionally draining and leaves you feeling empty. How does running in the middle of the night in –3 degree weather help? It just does.

Naresh Kumar

‘Runner’s high’ is a real thing. I knew I could count on my friends to listen, and a bottle of bourbon whiskey to ease the pain, but that night, I just wanted to take it out on the trail. It was just me and the open road. I longed for quiet, for my brain to shut up, but it didn’t. So I increased my pace. It was the only way I could shut it down and keep myself warm in that weather.

Read Next on The Outdoor Journal: Naresh Kumar completes Te Araroa trail in sandals, nominated for Outdoor Hero award by Kiwi magazine.

At the summit of Mt Tongariro, Tongariro National Park, North Island, NZ

If there’s one thing that running ultras has taught me, it’s resilience and

mental strength.  

Sunrises and sunsets from mountain summits, lying under the stars by a fire sipping hot tea, refusing to leave a tent to face the cold weather, and other good memories came storming in. It was even worse when it dawned on me, that it was all over and history now. I cried my heart out, sitting by lake Wakatipu.

The wind picked up and the waves crashed upon the shore signaling that it was time to move. A relationship that I had hoped would last the rest of my life and lead to a beautiful family had ended painfully. Self-doubt and insecurity started creeping in. The struggle was real. I picked up my pace.

I told myself it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. This didn’t mean I had to spiral out of control. I just had to put one foot in front of the other. This too would pass and I would be okay.

If there’s one thing that running ultras has taught me, it’s resilience and mental strength. To be confident in myself and not seek the approval of others. To persevere in the face of adversity. I have DNF’d (Did Not Finish) during races before but I have always returned stronger, and more prepared. Life and love are intertwined.

It was 2:00am when I finally got home. After running over 25km, I quickly got out of my sweaty clothes, hit the shower and crawled into my bed. It didn’t take long to pass into a deep sleep due to exhaustion.

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. The mental strength necessary to reach my potential in ultra running will benefit my entire life. It helped me to deal with my heartache, to accept reality and to experience pain. Though nothing but time truly heals, running helps too. That’s how I found myself, on a freezing cold and dark winter night, in miserable and gusty weather.

Read Next on TOJ: Running a 100-Minute Mile at The Barkley Fall Classic.

Feature Image © Richard-Bowles

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.



Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma


“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”


For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

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