The 44-year old Leon Skriver Hansen is one Denmark’s best ultrarunners. For over a decade, he’s done countless races all over the world, running thousands of kilometers combined. In July this summer, he took on his biggest challenge yet – the world renowned Badwater 135 miles race, which is a 217 km. long ultrarace in Death Valley, USA. While preparing for the race, he got the idea of making his participation in Badwater 135 into a fundraiser for the fight against cancer in order to collect to funds for a cause, he’s passionate about. We spoke to Leon about his motivation for his fundraiser, the outcome & how it felt like to run 217 km. in one the hottest places on earth.
First of all, how did you get the idea of running 217 km. consecutively in Death Valley?
Badwater is a legendary ultrarace, that I have been dreaming of, for a few years, and this year I felt that I was good enough to enter. But I didn’t think that I would get a spot, because only 100 runners are allowed to run the race.
How did you make your participation in Badwater 135 into a fundraiser for the fight against cancer?
I had done 3 24-hours races as fundraiser runs for the fight against cancer, and I was supposed to do it again this year, but then I got a start number for the Badwater 135, so I decided to make the race into a fundraiser project.
Why did you want to raise money for the fight against cancer specifically?
It is something all people can relate to. We all know someone, who has cancer, or have a family member who has it. When I ran my first fundraiser 24 hours race, I had just lost one of my coworkers to cancer, and I got so much good response from that project, that I wanted to do it again.
How did the fundraiser turn out? How much did you raise?
I raised almost 2000 Euros. In the 4 years I have done these projects, I have raised over 20.000 Euros.
Describe what it feels like to run 217 km. in a place like Death Valley
It was like something I had never done before. It was up to 50 degrees Celsius. And that is something that you can’t prepare for, when you live in Denmark. And the mountains are also hard for a Dane, but I did my best to be prepared for it all.
What kind of person do you have to be in order to complete a race like Badwater 135? You will have to be a little bit crazy, and then have mental power is a good friend, when you feel pain all over. And a good sense of humor is a good help, when you are tired.
What were the toughest challenge about Badwater 135?
Definitely the heat. I drank a ½ liter of water for every 4 km, and we used a lot of ice to cool me down during the race. But also the length of the race was hard. The race was more mental than physical.
Have you learned anything about raising funds for the fight against cancer?
That it is a lot of hard work to get people to care for your project, and when you are training as hard as I was, it was difficult to find time and energy to put in the campaign. But in the end it was all worth it.
Finally, do you have any future plans of raising money against cancer scheduled at the moment?
Not at the moment, but you’ll never know. Maybe I will find another crazy project next year.
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