Stewen is French, Daniel is Mexican. They have been experiencing similar races and both are senior athletes. We could stop here but the adventure they have lived together last March on the Ultra ASIA Race 2020 has forged ties, leading them beyond the race…
An « unlikely » pair
They met for the first time in 2016 during an African marathon. They could have crossed on other tracks and leave it at that. But this race revealed a strong friendship.
Stewen tells that they immediately felt connected despite the language barrier. Daniel outlines that even if they ran just one race together for now: “we are always relying on each other, supporting and helping each other.”
He recounts an anecdote that created strong links: “In Vietnam, the night before starting the race, all runners were sleeping in a converted barn. At sunset, such a festival! All dogs and roosters around began to sing and shout but, most of all, in an adjacent room, an old women kept burping and spitting. Impossible to sleep. With Daniel, we get out around 2 am and during more than an hour we could not stop laughing.”
He talks about Daniel’s impressive track record and adds that he is a star in Mexico. Humorously, he evokes an unlikely pair – “seeing our physical appearance, the playboy and the bad boy…” – who will be a team on the Ultra Norway Race, postponed to July 2021 because of coronavirus. For him, trailing in Norway with Daniel in whom he has great confidence is like an evidence.
In the same time, Daniel says they have a great connection due to their friendship and the champion skills of Stewen. “We are always challenging each other and that makes us stronger. That is why we want to run and live the Norwegian adventure together. In moments of pain or weakness, it is always an honor to count with someone like him.”
The unique taste of the Continental Challenge
Our question was simple: What do you like the most in the Continental Challenge races? Their answers are clear. Stewen:
“This challenge is well-planned, professional from A to Z. We want difficulty and we are served. I come for sporting achievement but I also can see incredible landscapes, flora and fauna that only my legs allow me to discover. We go back to the basics of exertion… Feel happy by refueling fresh water at a check-point or a fresh fruit after several days running… No geolocation. I you want to tackle nature, you will lose. If you are in osmosis, it will give you medals, unexplainable emotions but most of all, a real liberty, an unusual and non-standard life.”
Resolute, he wants to be sure that everyone understands his message: “extreme racing is my life and Canal Aventure changed my life.”
“It is first the challenge, knowing how far I can go, my limits and the people I met. I can assure that these people become your family… we are friends for life. And if you had that you get to know other cultures and countries, it is really exciting.”
Pretty tight agenda and flawless motivation
2021 will be a busy year and a turning point for the two friends, with common and personal goals. From September 2020 to July 2021, Daniel Almanza will run all the ultramarathons of the Roadsign Continental Challenge: Bolivia, Mozambique, Vietnam, Australia and Norway. When we ask how he is preparing for it, he humbly answers: “It is complicated, unfortunately the situation with the pandemic made this a little bit more complicated. I try to be mentally focused and in good shape physically, running, working out in the gym.”
On his side, Stewen will meet up with Daniel on THE TRACK in Australia in 2021 and in Norway in July. He will run less different races but with highly personal motivations. He ran THE TRACK in 2017 and 2019 where he scrapped due to injury. Uncompromising with himself, he admits he did not care enough about physical and mental health at this time and adds:
“You don’t leave to run the world longest self-sufficient stage marathon like you prepare a 10km race for a village festival…Understanding is learning so, in 2021, my goal is to be the first French runner to achieve twice this mythic event.”
In May, he will share the Australian bivouac with Daniel in order to prepare the Ultra NORWAY Race in July. He has no doubt that they will succeed together by winning the Roadsign Continental Challenge.
Round-trips between France and Mexico in sight
We could not talk about this friendship without evoking meetings outside the races. They had no time to discuss it but the thought crossed their minds. Daniel tells it would be awesome and thinks it will happen: “I would love to go back to France and I will be honored if Steven came to Mexico, get to know the culture, the food, my family and why not, maybe to run a race here.”
Just let the last word to Stewen: “most probably we’ll do it someday… When you share so strong emotions, you are forever linked. It is something you never forget, no matter the kilometers.”