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Part 2: We all have our reasons for doing something crazy By Ela Howard

Part 2: We all have our reasons for doing something crazy By Ela Howard

On 16 May we first shared the story of 6 HKUST MBA Students’ — Blair, Jessica, Kim, Livia, Wendy and Yoyo – journey to participating in the 2019 Asian-Pacific Business Schools Desert Challenge. Whilst Part 1 focused on the team and how training with a team for the race had improved their motivation, commitment and overall leadership, Part 2 will now focus on each individual and her different reasons for running the race and different challenges she needed to overcome. I spoke to them before they went on the race held 27 April – 1 May 2019. Through talking to them individually I was able to get a glimpse into what they personally got out of this race and how much this race has impacted their lives.

(This interview is condensed for clarity).


You mentioned you want to challenge yourself and build resilience, how do you anticipate the desert race will do that?

The most I have run is a marathon which was 44km over one day on a flat road in the cold. This will be 78km over 3 days carrying 5kg (which is almost double the distance and 2 additional days!) so it will be the toughest thing I have ever done, but it will also be a chance for me to grow. I know there will be an inner voice telling me to stop but if I can overcome that then I will be stronger. I think this experience is a chance for me to become stronger, more mature, and in life if I face ups and downs, maybe this experience will help me overcome the adversity I may face in life.


You signed up without considering whether or not you were physically or mentally prepared for the race. Now that you have started training, has there been anything physically or mentally challenging that you didn’t think about that you’ve had to work through? 

I’ve never been in the desert before and most trainings were okay because we were with a group of people. I found training on sand to be the most challenging. At first I started running and then quickly realised that I wouldn’t be able to keep this pace for 7 hours so I slowed down but I didn’t stop.

“I had to adjust my mentality to not compete with others or compare myself because I know myself.”

Even though I may be behind others I know that I can keep this pace and be persistent and finish the race. I have gained confidence in myself and sticking with my own plan and not comparing myself to others. It’s about endurance at the end of the day.

Author’s reflection: Being able to understand your own limits and boundaries is just as important as pushing yourself. I have certainly found myself in Wendy’s situation comparing myself with others. I know it can be a toxic mindset to be in as growing up I was never the fastest or strongest, but I was always very determined to push myself to improve even if I wasn’t the best at it. As Wendy emphasized being able to readjust my thinking is the key to improving, and finding more enjoyment in what I am doing.


You seem like an experienced “adventurer” having been to Nepal alone and you joined the race this time to not be alone. What have been the key differences between going solo and going as a group?

If I were to run this race alone, I wouldn’t have done it because there would be no motivation or anyone to share the experience with. Yes when I travel alone I get a local experience, I get to enjoy everything by myself but I also have to face all the risks by myself. Going there together as part of a big group, we can support each other more, take care of each other, and share all of the happiness and memories together. Although there may be some conflict because there are so many of us who already know each other well and our closeness will make the experience all the more memorable.


Clearly running has helped you mentally, and with goals setting, what advice would you give to someone who wants to set goals for themselves?

Most people don’t know their life goal, through running you can listen to yourself better, and you will know your goal better. The way I always set goals is I ask myself, do I feel comfortable with this? And if the answer is yes, then I won’t set it because it’s not risky enough.

If it is risky and will take me out of my comfort zone then I will set the goal.

Once you try hard to achieve it, and you then achieve it you will feel confident and feel like ‘wow I can make it’. Running has helped me train my mentality to never give up along the way and be very strong. Whenever I have a hard time and want to give up I will go run. If I stress out, I’ll run and then I’ll feel better. That’s how I have been able to balance my work life and school life.

Author’s reflection: Listening to Kim really made me stop and think about how I set my goals, and why I enjoy doing so many sports. It made me realise that sports is so much more then meeting new people and creating bonds. It’s also method in which we can escape from our daily struggles and worries. It’s about that short time frame where nothing matters except for what you are doing in that very moment. This is just as important for you mentally.


It seems like you keep challenging yourself to do “crazy” things that you’ve not done before. Where does that motivation come from?

I experienced an earthquake, and realised that life is so short and personally I think many decisions are to be made now or never. I’m so lucky to be part of an MBA that are so passionate about sports. I believe in the saying “If you run alone you can run faster but if you run with a group you can run longer”. This is very true with this group of people because we have supported each other throughout this whole process. The most that I have learnt from this experience is that life is short and you need to explore, and be curious about the world. The more experience you have, the bigger your world will be.


You were told you were crazy when you told friends you were going to participate in the Yasha race, and since you committed to going, you’ve experienced the “awesomeness” of the team via trainings. If other women want to do something similar (e.g. go on adventure) but are told they are crazy, what words of advice do you have?

Be crazy then! Why not? All great female athletes are crazy, (well according to Nike at least). Life is short so why not do things that are out of your comfort zone. I’ve actually never been to the desert before so this will be my first time to live in a tent and also be in the desert. You will only gain experience and life is all about experience. Through training for this race I have gained so many amazing experiences. Training with a team, supporting each other and pushing myself to run faster and be stronger.


It is clear from chatting with these women that the Yasha desert race has changed them, whether it was helping them with self-confidence, time management or simply giving them an opportunity to meet amazing likeminded people. This experience is something that will stay with them forever and hopefully pave the way for them to go on and do great things. All six of these amazing women experienced what it was like to step outside of their comfort zone. Something we rarely get a chance to do, and although it may seem daunting, the reward is far greater than the risk.

When I sat down to talk to Blair, Jessica, Kim, Livia, Wendy and Yoyo, I was so inspired to hear the way in which they share their experiences with such joy and camaraderie. The personal obstacles which they needed to overcome and the lessons they have learnt along the way. The determination that these six women have is admirable but the way they have come together as a team to love and support one another is inspirational.

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