One of my favourite books, Wild At Heart is written by author, John Eldredge – a charismatic man that has a gift for inspiring adventure, bravery and purpose into the hearts of his mostly male readers. I won’t lie, I often get lost in day dreams of packing it all up and heading into the mountains with my family – axe over one shoulder and not a razor blade in sight. I hope I’m not alone in my yearning for adventure because I really believe that as men, we were not born to sit behind a desk all day long, crunching numbers and losing hair over the stress of keeping up an inflated standard of materialistic living.
I recently got to meet a true adventurer that has dedicated the last few years to some serious long-distance running that has seen him not only rack up world records, but more importantly, embark on an edifying journey of self-discovery. 56-Year old, David Grier spent the majority of his life earning success in the world of hospitality. But that success came at a price, as a chef of 33 years, David found himself tipping the scales at 112kgs, physically unhappy and yearning for change. That’s when he began to run… (cue Forrest Gump soundtrack)
How did ‘change’ come about, David?
Initially I went out, in a way, to find myself, and in the process I realised it’s not just about finding yourself, it’s about connecting with those around you. My journey became a healing process but also a process whereby I could make a difference. It’s been a privilege to see what adventure has done for me as an individual – it’s getting in contact and in touch with reality and realising that there’s so much more to life than we perceive it, and as you say, more than sitting behind a desk, chasing a career. You’ve got to live your life and there has to be a balance.
So what did that look like for you?
If I take myself as a chef in my restaurants, I worked six days a week. I wasn’t up when my kids went to school, and I wasn’t at home when they went to bed at night. If I look at myself as an adventurer, I’m there 90 percent of the mornings when my youngest daughter wakes up, I tell her a bed time story at night, and every 14 or 16 months I go on an adventure.
What are some of the adventures you’ve been on?
It first started when I ran the Great Wall of China with a friend of mine. It was 4200kms and we ran it in 98 days. Then I came back and we ran the coastline of South Africa – Namibia to Cape Town to Mozambique – that was 3300kms in 80 days. Then I did my first solo trip where I paddled from Africa, across the Mozambican Channel, to Madagascar. Then when I got to Madagascar, I ran around the entire island. After that, I went to India and I ran from the most Northern Hindi temple to the most Southern temple – 4008kms in 93 days. Andrew Stuart who was part of my crew for that journey became my running partner and we then ran, before the Olympics, from John O’Groats to Land’s End (970kms) in the UK. Then we went across the island and ran from Mizenhead to Malin Head – that journey we only had 7 days to do it because of the Olympics opening. So we averaged 74kms every day for seven days – no break, nothing. When we finished, we had a day to spare, so we said, “okay, let’s run Hadrian’s Wall (distance of 135km) in one go.” We did that in 22 hours, so we were a bit slow (laughs). After that we managed to get into Cuba and we ran the whole length of Cuba – about 1800kms which we did in 28 days. More recently in December 2015, we ran a race called ‘Man vs Beast’ where we ran against three long-distance horses and their jockeys from Alexander Bay to Cape Town. It was a distance of 800kms in 16 days and we averaged 50kms per day and the biggest day was 80kms non-stop, we just slept at night. So that was a monster one.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs are men who have come alive.” – John Eldredge, Wild At Heart
What would you say to 21-year old David Grier, if you had the chance?
You know, I think the biggest thing that I’ve learnt in all honesty, is that it isn’t always about me. And in the beginnings of my life and my career, I was really selfish and self-centred. So that was one part, and the other part was to never let yourself go. I, as a chef, was abusing my body and just not taking care of myself. From a running perspective, I don’t think I would do anything different because a big plus point was that I only started running at about the age of 30, so my knees and all that are still in good shape, but it took me at least 8 years to work out the formula. And that I would tell myself as a youngster, that you’ve got to get to the end – it’s body maintenance the whole way.
How do you feel when you’ve finished one of these mammoth adventures?
The celebrations a lot of the times was myself, standing at the end in tears, absolutely trashed. I just couldn’t believe that I had gotten to the end. And then, it was over in a split second, and you begin to look back over the entire journey. It’s then that you begin to see what you’ve drawn from the journey and the mental strength you’ve gained, the understanding of your body, and the understanding of people around you. All these things begin to flow back and those are the lessons I cherish, that are so special.
David is an absolute pioneer, and a true adventurer in every sense of the word. A man that, despite his age, manages to achieve the impossible time and time again. The brief moment I spent with David reminded me that every man has something inside of him that makes him unique and more than a conqueror. Some of us just need to reignite the flames and find what no money can buy – purpose.
*David is also a trustee and ambassador for the ‘Cipla Miles for Smiles Foundation’, raising funds through adventure for Operation Smile, South Africa, who perform corrective surgery on children born with cleft lips and palates. His message is of hope and ‘making a difference’ in people’s lives through change, positivity, the right attitude, recognizing opportunity and never giving up. You can read more about David and his adventures on his blog, and you can follow him on Facebook & Twitter.