It Needs to be Tougher

The original plan was so simple.

Throw treadmills into two separate rooms, take the clocks off the wall, remove our watches, and eliminate all distractions to see who could run the farthest in a few hours.

Tough enough? Maybe.

Locked & Loaded, 24 Hours of Isolation (LL24H) is the result of two guys spitballing about how to increase the difficulty of an already preconceived idea to race each other in a sensory deprived state. After 9 hours of travel to an Ultramarathon, we had carved out what, on paper, seemed to be a crazy idea that was initially going to be executed in our backyard and livecasted using our phones. As I say to everyone, we were going to do this event whether it was on the world stage or not. Or whether anyone watched, or not. I’ve been asked throughout this experience: why did you created LL24H and what was it like during the experience. Personally, I am still collecting my thoughts and feelings about the ‘what it was like’ phase. As one could imagine, there is a lot going on inside the box (literally and metaphorically speaking). What I am capable of explaining at the moment is the ‘why we created this challenge’ question. 

So why create this challenge?

Simply put, to challenge ourselves to something that had never been done before. Sure, people had run on treadmills previously for 24 hours. And, many people have done multi-hour or multi-day endurance events that leave them sleep deprived. None of those had been done in a sensory deprived state. Which, for us meant no external stimulus (music or fan fare) or biofeedback (such as time, distance, pace, etc). It also meant depriving ourselves of the primary sense of sight by eliminating light.  

On a deeper level for me personally, the challenge was new whitespace to be explored. How would my mind and body respond to conditions foreign to me in a racing context? What could I learn from the experience? And, would this help me improve my athletic performance in future endurance races? 

This desire to challenge ourselves and the personal questions we were seeking answers for compelled us to think about using LL24H as an opportunity to do something bigger than ourselves. We were inspired by a good friend of ours who suffered a serious brain injury and prior to the incident was an extremely physically fit dude. Although not able to train anymore due to the injury, his mental fortitude to endure and persevere remains strong. Thinking of Craig and his mental strength led us down the path of wanting to do something for Mental Health.

A big societal issue.

The numbers are staggering and the issue seems to be getting worse, not better. The most startling stat we came across was that 50% of people dealing with a mental health issue never report it to a doctor. I am no expert, but that seems like a pretty alarming statistic in a society where acceptance is the common theme in breaking down barriers and walls on previous biases. Digging deeper we learned that people often don’t report these issues because they are either afraid to ask for help, embarrassed, or don’t know where to turn. In other words, stigma still exists in a world where mental health is an ever increasing topic. 

Admittedly, we knew we were not going to be the answer that solves all problems. But, we knew that being inside a shipping container, isolated and deprived, was symbolic of what people struggling with mental health related issues experience. 

As LL24H evolved from being a backyard challenge to something with a purpose with other collaborators, the event evolved into something with much bigger meaning and purpose. From a social cause perspective, this was about paying it forward. Breaking down barriers. Challenging conventional thinking. Doing something for the greater good of humanity regardless of which country we lived or our nationality. This was about our brothers and sister silently suffering and not knowing where to turn. This was about hope and being a vessel to showcase that anything is possible when we place ‘one foot in front of the other’.  

Sometimes in life we need to go to the places not yet explored simply to discover the truth within ourselves and each other. LL24H was an experiment of sorts, but it was done knowing that collectively, we were going to do something that challenged beliefs. 

Ultimately, it was an incredibly special adversity challenge, done with a special group of people, supporting an important cause, that led to tremendous growth.

Check out the full story here.

With gratitude,

John.