What’s better than riding your motorbike or running marathons around the world? Both. At least, that’s what Andy Dukes believes.
The adventurous 47-year-old started riding his motorbike around the world in early 2017.
“My aim was to combine my love for adventure travel on my motorcycle with my passion for running,” he said. Dukes’ plan is to ride his motorbike through six continents, to run six marathons.
He was in Kuala Lumpur in May for his first marathon: the 9th Standard Chartered Marathon at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur (SCMKL) which drew a crowd of about 36,000 runners.
“I rode 18,000km through 18 countries for 11 weeks, just to run 42km. What was I thinking of?” he said laughingly.
Dukes, who is a member of his local running club back in London, said that he had done numerous 10km runs, half-marathons and even a few off-road ultramarathons before coming to KL.
“I much prefer the longer events!” he enthused.
Clearing the mind
When asked why he was doing this, he replied: “I love riding my motorbike and I love running, so why not combine these two passions in one great adventure? What I hope to achieve is a bucket full of memories that will last for a long time.”
Dukes, who does work at the public relations agency for BMW Motorrad in Munich had also worked as a journalist before embarking on his great adventure.
“I love running because it’s a great way to clear my mind from all the day-to-day issues. I can work through problems and return home refreshed and invigorated … unless of course, I’m doing hill training, then I return home in pieces,” he laughed.
Duke has been an avid motorbiker since he lived in Paris, where he got his bike licence. “I’m using a BMW F800 GS Adventure, simply because it’s built to go where other bikes can’t go. I don’t want to tempt fate, but it just keeps me going … through dirt tracks, sand, gravel, and potholes huge enough to swallow a bus.
“As for contingency plans, I don’t really have any, besides relying on the kindness of strangers … but it’s got me this far,” he said good-humouredly.
Painkillers and isotonics
On his experience at SCMKL, he said: “It was brutal – no sleep the night before, followed by an interview, a warm-up and the start … it was very humid and I’ve never seen so much sweat before the start of a marathon … the course was rather undulating too.”
By the 25km mark, his legs were shot.
“I was swallowing painkillers, gels, salts, isotonic drinks and whatever else I could get down,” he said, adding that he poured the water over his head to try and cool down his body temperature.
“The last hour was really tough and I was wishing that I had respected the distance more. But I was happy to cross the finish line,” he said.
Some of the countries he has travelled through on his motorbike to get to Kuala Lumpur include England, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand.
Since SCMKL, he has done more motorbiking and running. He has ridden deep into the Australian outback for a second marathon, biked into the South African townships for a third marathon and then rode from England to Berlin for his fourth run, the BMW Berlin Marathon.
In November, he rode across the USA to run a marathon in “Sin City”.
“About Las Vegas. I knew it wouldn’t be the place for me because I struggle with the excess, the gluttony and the gambling but what a place to run a marathon,” he recalled.
“The organisation was slick and superb – it’s no mean feat to shut down the entire strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) for thousands of runners but what a memory to run on it past numerous live bands while being cheered on by loads of noisy supporters.”
Out of his system
How does his family feel about it?
“Honestly, they are worried about me … not because they think I’d fail, but because they’re so used to having me around. I’ve always had a home office, so it’s normal for my kids to see me as ‘part of the furniture’,” he joked.
According to Dukes, his 19-year-old daughter thinks it’s “pretty cool”, and his 15-year-old son didn’t want him to go on his own, while his wife just told him to “get it out of his system”.
“She gave me a book on the day I left England. It’s a travellers’ picture phrase book from 1994, which she had bought me in the early days of our relationship. Inside, she had written, ‘you’ll need this on your travels’, which goes to show that I’ve been talking about this trip for well over 20 years!” he added.
When asked how he trained to prepare for his big adventure, he admitted that he’d never really focused much on the training aspect.
“I know I’m in poor shape because of tough riding every day, but just making it to the start line for my marathon in KL already makes me feel like a winner,” he said positively.
“A lot of people out there would love to go on their own big adventure, but many don’t seem to be able to take that first step to just do it,” he said.
Dukes, who has motorbiked all over the world, from Canada and USA in North America; to Argentina and Chile in South America; to South Africa; and all over Europe, said it’s hard to pick a favourite place.
But Bhutan in the Himalayas is definitely right up there, because of its outstanding scenery, fresh air, and cool weather.
“The country also has a GNH (Gross National Happiness) policy, which makes so much more sense than using GDP (Gross National Product) to measure a country’s well-being,” he explained.
After his motorbiking to marathon adventure, he hopes to embark on a Cairo to Cape Town bicycle ride. “But shhh … please don’t tell my wife,” he added with a laugh.
“I enjoy mountainbiking best because I love escaping into the tracks and trails close to where I live.
“I’m not into road bikes so much, probably because there are too many MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) on the roads near me!” he added.