The Youngest to Conquer the 4 Deserts Grand Slam 2018
Yoo Dong-hyeon (Department of Electrical Bio-Engineering, 1st year)
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An ordinary young man serving in the military was fascinated by a magazine that he read by chance, which covered the story of three first reserves (military reserve force) who completed a marathon in the Gobi Desert. “What brings these people to the desert? Why would they do such a thing?” Many questions emerged in the young man's head, which later led him to chasing some life-changing experiences. The young man in the military was Yoo Dong-hyeon (Department of Electrical Bio-Engineering, 1st year), who became the youngest male in the world to complete the Grand Slam, at the age of 22.
The rocky beginning
Yoo was strongly drawn to the idea of participating in the race, but by the time he found out about the four deserts race series, he only had three months to prepare. He was still serving in the military, so he needed permission for overseas travel. Moreover, he had to receive donations to cover the races' costly entry fees. He mostly received sponsorships from companies, individual donations from seniors that he knew from high school, and from colleagues from the military. It was Yoo’s first time participating in a marathon, so he needed to exercise and enhance his stamina before the real events began. Many factors were in the way of his participation, but fortunately, with great luck, all was set and he was signed in.
The courses of the desert race
The Sahara Race was first in the 4 race series that began in late April until early May, and took place in the Namib Desert in Skeleton Coast National Park on the coast bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The Gobi March takes place in Central Mongolia during the hot summer months, and the course brings runners through vast green grasslands, stupas, and temples. His favorite race was the Atacama Crossing in Chile. The course consists of infamous salt flats, huge sand dunes, canyons, and glittering night skies. It was also the most memorable because his shoes got ripped and his feet bled due to the piercing salt from the region. However, the place had the most beautiful night skies with thousands of visible stars. The Last Desert in Antarctica had 10 courses including many tracks that visited islands and bays.
During the race across the desert, Yoo met many people of various backgrounds and nationalities. Among them, there was a visually impaired man and a person with one leg. While Yoo had been complaining all throughout his life about things small and big, his new friends were relaxed and seemed happy. “I learned to be thankful for what I had and to be more relaxed in my life.”
After the marathon
“What does a marathon mean to you?” After hearing this question, Yoo took his time to answer. “Marathon is now what I live with every day. I used to give up easily, but now I know that hard times pass, and regardless of the speed or the time it takes to get there, I can finish the race.”
Although he is very proud of his achievements, Yoo also felt hollow after the marathon. Looking for more challenges, he is planning on participating in a triathlon held in Korea, as well as going on a cross-country bike trip across America through a contest being held in July 2019.
With his glowing eyes full of excitement, he advised, “Do not hesitate. It is easy to be frightened by the titles like the race of the polar regions, but human beings are stronger than you think. I hope you challenge yourselves to grow bigger.”
Kim Hyun-soo firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Lee Hyeon-seon
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