LONDON — What motivates someone to run tens of thousands of meters for almost 24 hours to complete?
“That’s a good question,” Fabian de Prey, 42, said.
De Prey is the head of global equity-linked products in EMEA for investment bank RBC Capital Markets. But in his spare time, he runs ultramarathons — any race above 42.2 km, the standard length of a marathon.
Business Insider spoke to de Prey to discuss how he finds the time, why he does it, and his tips for any aspiring ultramarathon runners.
de Prey recently completed the 85km L'Échappée Belle ultramarathon over the French Alps, raising over £2,500 for Great Ormond Street Hospital in the process.
The gruelling race, known for its complex ascents and descents in the mountains, took him 23 hours and 26 minutes to complete.
'Why (did I do it)? I don't know,' de Prey said. 'It keeps me focused, I guess, having a target. It's not about the race itself, it really is about the journey to get ready on the day itself both physically and mentally.'
'The one I did, on my watch I had 7,000 metres of ascent and 8,000 metres of descent. You can only imagine what toll that takes on your knees.'
Ultramarathons are competitive races of any length above a marathon and de Prey caught the bug for ultras around six years ago when a friend convinced him to take part in a 100km trail walk in Hong Kong, where he was living at the time.
'When you're out there for 23 hours -- it's like a meditation. You're pushing your body to the limit, you get to understand your body, in the sense that you could be absolutely knackered and get cramps everywhere, and think about just giving up. Then you just sit down for five minutes, drink a bit, have a gel, start slowly again, and then you surprise yourself -- one hour later, you're running, against the odds.'
De Prey has done 'five or six' ultramarathons since he started, raising an estimated £20,000 for various charities.
It can be tough finding the time to train given his demanding job.
'I never really have long, long sessions,' he says. 'Going out for a 30km run just for training -- that never happens.'
'I try to go to the gym every day if I can or run in Hyde Park with my partner on weekends, say 15km. In the gym, I workout on step trainers. I've done it over lunchtime today for 40 minutes.'
RBC is supportive. The bank is a large charitable donor and sponsors the Race for the Kids in London, a 5km run that supports Great Ormond Street Hospital. The bank has sponsored the race for eight years and helped raise £2.5 million for the hospital.
De Prey ran in the Race for the Kids this year but in some ways finds runs like this harder than ultramarathons.
'It's too packed, too flat, too many people, too noisy,' he says.
Incredibly, he has never done a marathon.
'It's so different to what you experience when you're in the mountains -- (in the mountains) you've got a guy like 200 meters ahead of you shouting at you and then you take off your earphones and you realise he's just telling you there are three cows on the path and you should be careful. It's completely different. You could spend hours in the mountains on your own.'
'It's really about going through that motion of different emotions during the race, having to push your body, trying to find your body.'
Still, it's not all zen and spiritual communing.
'I can't think of one race where I haven't hit at least one wall,' de Prey says. 'I've lost a lot of weight during a race, mostly water. You need to carry on feeding yourself.'
'I've seen a lot of people give up. It's usually because they're not mentally prepared or feeding. People, if they're too nervous or too tired, they struggle to eat. And if you don't eat... you can only last for so long.'
But he adds: 'Everyone thinks 85 or 100 is incredibly challenging -- I'm not saying it's not, but I'm 100% sure everyone can do it. It's very mental. An ultra is 70% mental. You need to be a bit stubborn.'
Despite only just completed his latest, he already has two more lined up: a 102km race in Italy and a 100km race in Cape Town.
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