This week’s feature is a giant beast! Ovais Hanafi is one of a kind, an insane adventurer, hard core runner and an unconventional man. He truly lives his life on the edge, facing adversities and finds his power through mental and physical challenges. His interior is as tough as his exterior. We hope you realise your inner strength and find inspiration through his experiences.
Tell us a bit about yourself - who is Ovais Hanafi?
I am Muhammad Ovais Hanafi. I am an Industrial Designer, Marine Electrician and Model Maker. I also make videos and have a youtube channel called "Ultraextremefit" and I intend on starting a podcast soon. I have an athletic background in martial arts, football and running. This is my way of expression of freedom and strength.
What is the craziest adventure you have gone on? Can you recount a good story from that adventure and why it was important to you
I've had many great experiences from crossing Afghan border in 2003 on a Photography Tour to getting lost in the mountains and running a Solo Ultra Marathon. One of the experiences which always makes its way to the top of my list, is when I sailed across the Indian Ocean as a Marine Electrician in a demolishing vessel of an old oil tanker. After crossing Cape Town, South Africa into the Indian Ocean, our vessel drafted into a cyclone and it took us 8 days to get out the heavy rolling, pitching and life threatening experience. Falling from the bed, unconscious and getting back up was just part of sleep, and we constantly had headaches or we were throwing up on empty stomachs. We also had two fire accidents during that time. It was brutal to work under such pressure and a part of me misses it. I’ve also done several Solo Ultra Marathons in Karachi and Islamabad. I once burnt the linings inside my mouth attempting a 50 mile road run due to the reflection of the sun from the asphalt. I think I like the pain and the suffering a little bit, because that’s how I find my strength.
What motivates you to keep challenging yourself?
Personally, I don't use motivation at all. I've dealt with this issue for several years like most people. I think motivation is like money; either you earn it or someone gives it to you, but it never stays with you. I use my belief, my purpose and my curiosity.
How do you approach training for an ultra-distance run?
I've built up my mileage and time on feet over many years, so distances like 50 to 60k do not bother me anymore. A nutritious diet has played a vital role for me. I tend to drink plenty of water and consume dates or something fragmented. I believe, you also need the element of excitement and risk.
What have you realised about yourself after competing in ultra-distance races?
My first ever race, Big Stinker a 45k Ultra Trail a 540 feet ascent/descent every 15k was considerably rough because I wanted to do it with drinking as less water as possible. I did 2 loops (30k at 1100m elevation) without water and the last loop with nutrition and water. That experience made me realize my recovery was much better due to the fasted running and I've also realized my personal goals are tougher than the races.
What's next for Ovais Hanafi? Any upcoming events you're going to be a part of?
I want to do as many races as possible and crazy distances. I'm scared of drowning, so I also want to do open water swims, triathlons, ironman and tough mudders. I wanna build up races in Pakistan!
In your opinion, what makes Pakistan such a unique country to visit?
Pakistan is not a great country - Pakistan is an Ultra Country. From the highest peaks to oldest civilizations to vast deserts and breathtaking rivers. Pakistan is going to be the best country to hold any kind of Ultra Endurance Event very very soon and you can see the momentum. Well, Tri-Pakistan is the Momentum I'd say.
Mind vs. body - what is more important to you and why?
Mind can travel at the speed of light, encircle the entire earth and even go beyond, whereas the physical body is still stuck at breaking 2 hour marathon time. I think will-power can even be stronger than an impossible mind. Personally I do not think it's hard to run an ultra for the body with a trained mind which can be overruled by your grit and will to survive. It's in us. We are all Ultra Runners and the doctors are hiding it from us haha.