From Burger Boy to Badwater 135: Welsh Ultra-Athlete Rhys Jenkins Inte

February 11, 2020

We talk to Badwater 135’s first Welsh competitor and all-round top bloke, Rhys Jenkins about what lead him to compete in the toughest foot race on Earth, how he fits his ultra-training around his everyday life, and how even being robbed at the start line won’t stop him completing a challenge.

Rhys Jenkins Badwater 135

Could you give a little bit of background about what has led you to become an ultra-endurance athlete?

In my early teens, I was slightly overweight to the extent that I was actually nicknamed Burger Boy! To get into shape I started playing team sports, such as rugby and football. However, it was while working at a summer camp in the USA, my best friend, Rusty Tolliver, introduced me to running.

I quickly caught the running bug, and after completing two half marathons and one full marathon, I jumped into the deep end and ran across America! To this day, the Boston to Austin American run provided me with the biggest learning curve in endurance running and has largely shaped the last 10-years of my running career.

Badwater 135 Rhys Jenkins

How do you fit your ultra-training in with life? 

Whilst I regularly undertake ultra-endurance challenges, I also have to juggle my ultra-event business, Pegasus Ultra Running (to which Rokman subscribers get 20% off race entry), a full-time job, a social life and my wife!

I achieve this by building my training into my lifestyle. My training is usually done first thing in the morning and I pride myself on not missing a scheduled session. To me it’s a holistic approach - taking into account the running, the strength, the recovery, the nutrition and mental wellbeing - they all come together to give me forward motion. Plus I have a very understanding and supportive wife! #BrowniePoints

That would be my ultimate advice to anyone trying to juggle training and life. Build it into your lifestyle and never compare yourself to others. 

Badwater 135 ultramarathon athlete

Why do you undertake these challenges? 

Firstly, it’s my desire to push my boundaries, test my limitations. I believe physical challenges provide a journey of self-discovery where you truly discover who you are and what you’re capable of.

Secondly, it’s to raise as much money for charity as possible. Over the last ten years, I have managed to raise over £100,000 for charity by taking on these crazy endurance challenges. It’s amazing what people donate when you run through the hottest place on Earth!

What has been the hardest challenge you have take on?

Badwater 135, the toughest foot race on the planet, a 135-mile footrace through the hottest place on Earth over three mountain ranges provided me with the toughest running challenge of my career so far. However, as an overall test, it was actually a team endurance cycle challenge from Rome to Paris that was the biggest challenge. The reason being is because our minibus with all our equipment and belongings was robbed on the start line! We lost pretty much everything apart from the minibus itself and one bike, but somehow we managed to pull it together and still complete the task! We’d only raised £500 but when the news broke we brought in just short of £10,000 for charity - it was incredible! I saw the best and worst of humanity in a very short period of time. You should try sharing cycling kit for 4 days without washing - it was terrible!

Do you have or subscribe to any particular philosophy on life?

Be nicer. You never know what someone is going through and a little niceness can go a long way. A smile, a high five, a word of encouragement... Pay it forward.

How do you define mental toughness?

Mental toughness comes down to a couple of things but my main reason is life experience. The challenges you overcome in everyday life, they give you a new perspective and layer of grit.

Rhys Jenkins Badwater

How did you physically prepare yourself for Badwater 135, the toughest race on the planet?

Badwater 135 was my dream race, a 10-year journey, it was the most I’d ever prepared for an event.

I ran A LOT in the build-up. My furthest training run was 145 miles, which was a great opportunity to test my approach, my crew, my legs and equipment. As for the heat aspect of the challenge - I started heat training 9 weeks before the event, lived in the sauna 5 times a week, wearing clothes in the sauna, a neoprene wetsuit and actually trained my body to eat and process food in the sauna.

An average training week was about 100 miles of running across 6 days, 5 sauna sessions, 3 strength sessions plus a lot of recovery sessions.

When things got tough, what did you call upon to help you push through the pain to the other side?

I went back to basics, I focussed on my breathing, I focussed on the here and now, I trusted in my ability to adapt and the team around me.

If you could share the most important motivational quote with our members, what would it be?

Find a lighthouse in the dark.

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