What I Learned From Simon Donato’s Adventures

The book introduction was very well written as Simon Donato explored the most basic human fear in life as he wrote,

“I don’t think people are afraid of failure, I think they’re afraid of success… they’re afraid of the effort required to attain success.”

This statement is an accurate description of how I personally feel after I was done with my first term in UBC. The example Simon used however was very physical, practical and was based on his own personal experiences in adventure racing; like the decision he had to make (to give up or to push his limits) halfway through a marathon.

My particular fascination about this introduction is that the purpose of this book was not to simply share how he reflected on the lessons he acquired from his past races to be a great, successful competitor in the field of adventure racing (he is way over that now), but was to particularly tell the insight of how he had to film his TV series entitled Boundless, as a professional.

the cover picture of the TV series Boundless. Simon Donato is the shirtless man on the right.

For the first series, he had to film 8 adventure races all over the world (Hawaii, Iceland, Kenya, South Africa, Utah, Egypt, Cambodia and Thailand) in the span of time of only 6 months, regardless of the fact that he knew that the injuries every participant obtained might at least take 2 to 3 weeks to heal before they can participate in another. However, as he had to fulfil the needs of the production team, he crammed it up but definitely learnt a lot along the way.

Entitled “The Worst Races are Often the Best Teachers”, the first chapter conveyed the lesson of ego during two of Donato’s races which are the Molokai 2 Oahu (M2O) in Hawaii and the Amazing Maasai Marathon, a 75 km run in Kenya. In the Molokai 2 Oahu, I find that it was almost impossible as of how a professional like Donato, didn’t knew the difference between trainings of the stand up paddle-board race in a lake would affect his actual performance in the ocean later.

I felt that it was weird that he did not take the ocean waves into consideration when he trained for it with a professional, in a lake. What’s more interesting was how the trainer even failed to mention that the ocean waves will definitely be a major contributing factor to his performance in the competition later. Consequently, he did not just failed to finish the race standing up (as stated in the rules), he even was brought near to the finishing line by the production team.

Knowing that he entered the race for the sake of shooting his series, he let his ego down but made the production team vow to never interfere with his race again.

I love the fact that he explicitly admitted his mistake for being as how ignorant he was, assuming that he was the dark-horse of the race. In the book, he wrote, “my ego outshone my ability in some ways”.

The third race which was the 75km run in Kenya was his ego acting out again. After injuring his knee during the second race in Iceland, he was hoping that his knee would flee through the 75 km run without a hitch, but life never gives you the chance to reap out the rewards before you actually bleed for it.

Long story short, mid-race, his knee was acting out, and the production team suggested that he quit and just shoot the rest of the episode later since injuring himself now will bring more harm than good (considering that he has another 5 more races to shoot for the first series).

Again, putting his pride aside, he compensated his loss to be massaged by a local woman, smiling, resembling a light of hope made him reconsider his decisions. So, he decided to power walk his way to the finish line and managed to do so. He realized that there was no shame in being competitive.

To me, the reason why he came to this conclusion was mainly because he knew that his main intention to enter the race in the first place was to shoot for his series anyways, not to win.

There were countless experiences where Donato reflected on his pride and ego which is something I found particularly admirable. I used to compete in basketball and I know how hard it is to maintain your composure in the heat of the moment. Especially when you’re burning the last few energy you have left.

Simon Donato showed that you are always in control of yourself, your actions and most importantly, the words you utter.

If you guys have time to spare, this book is a really good read. And if you did, I would love it if you guys could share with me what was the important lesson that you found from Donato’s unique adventures.

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