Aussie runner seeks record with 1009-km Israel run

Country "might give me something I never experienced before," Melbourne-based Richard Bowles tells 'Post.'

By
April 8, 2013 23:36
‘SUPER SPRINTER’ Richard Bowles

Super sprinter Richard Bowles 370. (photo credit: Vicky Sanders and Jessica Parker)

A 34-year-old Englishman-turned- Australian “super sprinter” will take to the Israel Trail next week to complete the entire 1,009-kilometer path in a span of 12 days – the first person ever to do so.

Richard Bowles, based in Melbourne, will weave his way through desert and mountainous terrain, beginning at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel’s Eilat Field School on Wednesday, April 17.

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Completing an average of 83- 84 kilometers per day each day, Bowles will continue his journey until he reaches the trail’s northernmost point at Kibbutz Dan. He estimates that he will spend between eight and 15 hours running each day, depending upon the terrain, and he will stop to speak to local people and observe nature points along the way.

“I often stop and talk to different people and if I see anything particularly fantastic, I might stop to take a look at that,” Bowles told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “I really like looking at the sky – I think the sky is really beautiful; it’s a constantly changing picture frame.”

As might be ascertained from his use of the word “often,” the upcoming journey on the Israel Trail is not the first – and not nearly the lengthiest – extreme long-distance run in Bowles’s history. Last year, Bowles became the first person to run the world’s largest marked trail, a 5,330-kilometer route on Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail, beginning in Healesville, Victoria, and ending in Cooktown, Queensland, according to information from his personal website. Beginning on March 25, Bowles ran the equivalent of 127 marathons over the course of five-and-ahalf months and in doing so raised funds for the Australian mental health organization SANE.

Prior to the trail in Australia, Bowles completed a 84-day, 3,054-kilometer run in December 2012 on TeARAROA: The Long Pathway in New Zealand, which stretches from Cape Reinga in the north of the country to Bluff in the south.

During that journey, Bowles averaged about 50 kilometers a day.

“I think somewhere along the way I lost my mind,” he told the Post. “I started off like any runner, really. You start by running around the block and I joined a few fun runs around the city and then it just escalated from there, from 5 to 10 to the half-marathon to the marathon and now the beyond.”

Bowles’s interest in the Israel Trail originates in the story of Avraham Tamir, a children’s book author who hiked the Appalachian Trail at age 78 and afterwards proposed the creation of the Israel Trail. His Israel run only came to fruition after Yair Perry from the Israelbased company Source Outdoor saw a photo of Bowles on the cover of an Australian magazine, sporting a bag from the Israeli firm. After another bag Bowles was using during one of his runs fell apart mid-trail, he purchased one of the Source bags at a nearby store, Perry learned, after making contact with the runner.

“Since then, this bag served him on runs of almost 7,000 kilometers, and it is still in usable condition,” Perry said.

“Bowles surprised us by offering to run the Israel Trail, and of course we jumped very quickly on this opportunity and took the matter into our own hands. We see this as an opportunity to support nature conservation in Israel and raise awareness about the Israel Trail.”

When Perry contacted Bowles, it turned out that the runner had already been thinking about tackling the Israel Trail, and “the whole thing was born from there,” according to Bowles.

While financially endowed by Source Outdoor, Bowles’s partners in the run are SPNI – the organization responsible for the Israel Trail – and Give One Chance, a charity that receives funding from Source.

Give One Chance supports such international causes as distributing water to impoverished people across the globe, providing living skills for disabled adults in Portugal and nutritional education and training for Australian indigenous communities as part of the Fred Hollows Foundation.

The Israel Trail, meanwhile, opened in 1995 as an initiative sponsored of SPNI, winding its way from Kibbutz Dan in the North, passing through the Galilee, the Carmel and Ramat Hasharon along the outskirts of Jerusalem and through the Negev and the Dead Sea region down toward Eilat. Thus far, the longest contiguous run on the Israel Trail has been a 700- kilometer segment, which was completed in 12 days, 13 hours and 37 minutes, according to SPNI.

Bowles will start his journey in the south, by the second day reaching Shaharut and the third day Mitzpe Ramon, SPNI said. By the fourth day, the runner’s aim is to reach Nahal Ma’aleh, by the fifth day Yatir Forest and by the sixth day Beit Guvrin. SPNI officials said they expect Bowles will reach Mesliat Zion by the seventh day, and then Tel Aviv on the eighth day, Furedis on the ninth day and Har Yonah on the 10th day. The goal for the 11th day will be Miron, after which he should reach Kibbutz Dan on the final day.

Bowles’s run will raise awareness for the conservation of nature and environment in Israel, as well as increase the recognition of the Israel Trail all around the world, the organization said.

Because he is from Australia, Bowles said he is accustomed to coping with hot temperatures, and he ended last year’s run in the tropical climate of Queensland, the country’s southern tip. While running, he carries three liters of fluids and tries to meet with his support crew as often as possible. In Israel, he will meet with the crew where the trail meets with roads, and a driver will follow him in a four-wheel-drive vehicle when he runs on the desert terrain, he explained.

Although he does run with plenty of water, Bowles noted that he does not listen to music during his journeys.

“I can listen to all the beautiful sounds are out there,” he said. “I really enjoy it when the wind blows past my ears or you can hear a bird.”

Although he is not particularly religious and has never been to Israel, Bowles stressed that he is looking forward to seeing the country and expects to find something unique while traversing its natural beauty.

“I’m not a religious person but obviously Israel is the cradle of many religions around the world,” Bowles said.

“These things in some ways are very spiritual. You learn a lot about yourself and question things. I think Israel might give me something I never experienced before.”


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