If you had shin splits, a chest infection or a fever, the last thing you’d expect to have to do is run a marathon. Or two in two days. But that is exactly what Louis Alexander did last year when he ran 17 marathons in 17 days, one for each year his grandad lived with Alzheimers. Louis left the school in 2018, and has since made a full-time career of doing expeditions to support Alzheimer Research UK, funded through sponsorship and speaking engagements.
As if 17 marathons weren’t already enough he’s now running a marathon on each of the seven continents, something that only 400 people have ever done in the past (for context, more people have been to space or to the bottom of the ocean).
This expedition has led him to Alaska, the Agafay Desert in Morocco, the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan and the Australian outback. Most recently Louis swam the two miles of infamously icy and choppy water from Alcatraz prison to San Francisco Bay, completing the stretch as the only one of 60 swimmers (one of whom being Harrodian alumni and close friend Lucas Donovan-Lafuente) without a wetsuit.
Expeditions often come with some near-treacherous situations, from encounters with extreme weather to close shaves with wildlife. While climbing Mont Blanc last year, Louis traversed across live ice, “which is essentially ice on top of ice and it can slip at any point,” he explains nonchalantly. “I was with a guide and we were roped up to each other but he said to me ‘if we slip here, we can’t catch each other and that’s it.’ Luckily obviously we didn’t slip, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. It was a nightmare but we reached the summit.”
In the Agafay Desert he was chased by a pack of wild dogs. “Which sounds ridiculous,” he laughs, “it was.” Not knowing what to do, he just started running. It is in moments like these that he relies on the benevolence of locals, and his support team, to get through. “These guys in this four by four ahead of me instantly stopped, started reversing, jumped out and clapped and shouted and stomped their feet in a special way that scared the dogs off. It was amazing.”
But getting through these situations isn’t just down to others — more often than not it’s down to his unwavering perseverance. “The truth is I thought ‘I’m not getting in the car because the easiest thing to do is jump in the four by four and obviously then you’re safe. But I was halfway through the marathon so if I got in the four by four I would have had to go back to start again and it wouldn’t have counted. And I was like, I’m exhausted, I’m sunburnt, I’ve run half a marathon through a desert. I’m not stopping and starting again.”
Having a life filled with experiences unimaginable to most, particularly other 23 year-olds, means that “being back at home is a little bit more mundane,” he reflects. “When you go on these expeditions it pushes your adrenaline quite high, so it’s harder to get that excitement from everyday life and the little things, which is terrible. My close friends and family can get the most enjoyment from little things in life, which I really admire them for because I think that is the answer to happiness, I genuinely do.”
Regardless, adventuring is his raison d’être. He trains five days a week at Body Lab London, which involves 10 hours of training (split between cardio and strength conditioning) and 10 of recovery, which might involve anything from oxygen chamber sessions to compression therapy. What’s more, his age gives him a niche that stands out from other adventurers, whose average age is 40.
“Some people are doing it juggling a full-time job, a family or both,” he explains “But I don’t have a family, no commitments, all I have is this. So I’m able to put a hundred per cent in. People say ‘do you want to a die?’ because running through a desert as a red head sounds so ridiculous.”
“I don’t do it because I want to die,” he clarifies. “I do it because I want to live, I do it because I love it.”
Louis will run a further three marathons (starting with the Amazon Jungle next month) completing his dream to run on each of the seven continents. You can follow his journey on Instagram or his website and support his expeditions/ Alzheimer’s Research UK here.
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