running

I ran 555km!

Last summer I decided to do something different… to run every day that I was in Europe. This meant 55 days straight, with the aim of clocking 555km. The adventure started as soon as I touched down at Amsterdam airport. As I loaded my family and luggage into the taxi, I tightened my laces, waved goodbye and got started…

I ran mostly on trails, away from tarmac and cars, away from the concrete jungle and urban surrounds. It wasn’t about clocking mileage… more about the spirit of adventure… about exploration, about discovery, about checking out new sights and sounds in my running shoes. I relish the simple things that life has to offer, like drinking water from source, smelling fields full of flowers, breathing in fresh mountain air, enjoying the sunrise, watching cows graze, picking berries and chasing wildlife. I pretty much always returned to base long after I’d promised my wife…

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I’ll be honest though. It was a push to run every day. Trying to fit running time in with family time and a pretty ad hoc holiday schedule didn’t come easy but often the runs that started with a “because I have to” attitude, turned out to be the most awesome.

My biggest fear throughout was getting injured and a pretty serious ankle injury lingering from last summer acted as a strong reminder to be cautious. The key, I think, was to build up slowly mileage-wise and hit the rocky trails with respect. Thankfully, my body didn’t let me down. Towards the end of the summer as my runs got longer, there was little or no time for recovery. At the start of the last few early morning runs, I felt like a stiff, old man but once my body warmed up, I loosened up and fell into a nice rhythm. Lesson for next time? More yoga in between.

I got lost multiple times, ran out of water, got caught out by darkness and was attacked by dogs. I ran in the mountains, got to the top of Mount Ventoux, turned around and raced back down, played around the Matterhorn, ran through farmlands, across rivers and amongst vineyards and fruit farms. I ran races, with a hangover once or twice and shared runs with friends, family (always a highlight) and with strangers. I clocked up some insane elevation gain, enjoyed an awesome night run in Switzerland, upset mountain bikers by running on their tracks, got soaked in the rain and found myself bruised, cut and chaffed in all manner of places. Need I mention that I loved it all?

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Memorable runs

My love for running really took off when I moved to Dubai in 2002. It all started with my first half marathon in Abu Dhabi. Marathons and triathlons followed then eventually I discovered that my true passion lay in long distance trail running. There are so many reasons to love trail running. I love exploring new places. Nothing beats heading off in a random direction and just discovering where the path takes you. Trail running also unites interesting people and amazing places. On longer solo runs, I get to munch on business topics; my keynote at World Art Dubai came together during the 30k night rebel race. There’s alot to be said for using solitude to feed your creativity.

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These are my top most memorable runs over the years:

> My best run last summer was with my friend Ilonka, who runs a mountain lodge in the France Alps. We both love alpine runs and got up early one morning to hit the mountains. I don’t own any cold weather running gear and can remember it was a bitterly cold start in just shorts and a light fleece at 5am. Still dark, we used our head torches to wind through the forest trails, past little mountain village Narreyroux and on to Col du Bal. Running on the high ridges with spectacular views and fresh mountain air is when I’m in my element. These are truly magical moments.

> A run filled with anxiety and excitement… or perhaps more an escape run! I fled my parents house back in 2003 to run free. It was my wedding day and the house was full of family and friends… it felt like chaos and I just needed to get out there on my own. I enjoyed an amazing run through the forest and remember feeling so free.

> Day seven of the Gobi March, a 250k self supported running race in remote China. Day seven marked the final stretch to the finish line and I can remember running the entire way, despite the blisters, aching limbs and immense fatigue. Running through the Flaming Mountains and ending at a Buddhist village made for an incredible setting. It was pretty much all downhill at that point. Crossing that finishing line came with such immense relief and pride before receiving the biggest medal ever. I felt on top of the world.

> A memorable run to be that remains in the pipeline will be a dash with one my boys, either in a competition or just a run down the street. Having seen other dads during that proud moment of first running with their sons, I can’t wait to do so with my own.

> Living in Dubai means living pretty much in the desert. In just a 30min drive, you can hit spectacular dunes which make for perfect training ground. Running in soft sand builds character, turns a run into a serious workout and requires a decent sense of navigation. Followed by setting up camp with the family, these runs can turn into a really fun weekend. I remember one run not far from Bab al Shams, when off I started, with a loaded pack at the usual crazy hour and there, beautifully lit by the early morning sun, was a stunning white Arabian Oryx. It was perhaps only 100m away, staring intensely at me… probably wondering what on earth I was doing… for what seemed an age. I stood still, staring back at him and then he just dashed off. And so did I.

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555 Challenge

I’m currently prepping for my annual escape from the heat… Dubai, you may have heard, was recently marked as the hottest place on the planet! As always the loose agenda involves quality family time in Europe, fresh air, green mountains, local produce and hooking up with friends. A little work but mainly play, a chance to take a breather from Dubai’s hectic work-life balance…

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This trip is also pinned to be a chance to crank up my running mileage again, digging into my passion for trail running and exploring new places. So with 55 days in Europe, I’m up for a little challenge. The question is, what challenge? One that gives me ample chance to run but also falls in line with family time… I wouldn’t swap valuable time with my wife and kids for any race. Being too sore to play with my boys or falling asleep during dinners just isn’t an option.

So my decision landed on committing to run every day… 55 consecutive days and 555km total mileage. I’ll run a few trail races (listed below) and in between I’ll just crack on with daily jaunts myself. I figure by writing down my wish list, I’m making myself accountable… telling the world via the world wide web. I plan to record my runs too with my Suunto Ambition 3 so stay tuned to my Facebook page where I’ll be posting updates, stories and images.

  • 19k Trail De Schaak – Holland
  • 24k Oosterhoutse Trail – Holland
  • 30k Utrechtse Heuvelrug Trail – Holland
  • 26k  Trail du Ventoux – France
  • 31k Matterhorn Ultraks – Switzerland
  • 31k  Trail des Fantomes – Belgium
  • 16.5k Trail Landgoed Bornia – Holland
  • 29k Kromme Rijnpad – Holland

Why am I doing this? I’m not going to answer that question. If you can’t answer it yourself, just take the plunge and give it a try yourself. You’ll soon discover why!

As for how I came up with the 555 challenge?

I was inspired by my South African friend, Lisa de Speville, who started off running every day for the 35 days before her 35th birthday. She’s been doing this ever since, adding a day with each passing year. I loved the idea and started off with a 40 day running plan, to mark my turning 40 this year. Somehow that evolved into 55 days! Lisa runs her own adventure blog and also www.AR.co.za… a must visit for avid runners.

To avoid running injuries and ease myself gently into the mileage, I’ve been doing some shorter runs here in Dubai. 5.30am starts mean I can beat the sun rise and the soaring heat. Each one acts as another reminder of why I’m escaping next week!

Wishing you all an awesome summer…

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New Nike brand images

Nike seem to shift their brand creative at a rate even more frequent than I buy new gear… and that’s saying something!

Wouter Kingma Blog for Nike Running Middle East 05We took some amazing environmental shots last year to put Dubai on the map at Nike Global. And now, we’re working in an entirely fresh direction. After going through an extensive 77-page brief, we’ve brought together this new set of creative content, a set of strong, black & white images, guaranteed to make an impact.

This epitomises what I really love shooting, in terms of both subject and art direction. And the style reminds me of an industry piece I want to put together called RAW. Just that… RAW. Strategically strong yet unpolished, crafted images, seemingly un-staged, moody and easy to connect with, a bit of dirt perhaps but not dirty, a blend of motion & unfiltered energy.  Sure, the focus may be a little… (more…)

Pro athletes portfolio shoot

I’m so glad we got this one together. Svetlana and I had spoken about it a number of times but trying to align her busy race schedule with my hectic shooting itinerary proved a challenge. A matching day finally arose and we certainly made great use of the opportunity. Here’s part one of a day spent with a professional triathlete.

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Prior to the shoot, I put together a moodboard with images I liked. Some very triathlon driven and others more arty and fashion oriented. For over a decade I’ve been collecting images, art pieces, ad’s and illustrations so when stepping into a portfolio shoot like this, I find it helpful to go through my… (more…)

New Nike brand images

Nike seem to shift their brand creative at a rate even more frequent than I buy new gear… and that’s saying something!

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We took some amazing environmental shots last year to put Dubai on the map at Nike Global. And now, we’re working in an entirely fresh direction. After going through an extensive 77-page brief, we’ve brought together this new set of creative content, a set of strong, black & white images, guaranteed to make an impact.

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This epitomises what I really love shooting, in terms of both subject and art direction. And the style reminds me of an industry piece I want to put together called RAW. Just that… RAW. Strategically strong yet unpolished, crafted images, seemingly un-staged, moody and easy to connect with, a bit of dirt perhaps but not dirty, a blend of motion & unfiltered energy.  Sure, the focus may be a little… off or there may be an added strain of lens flare which might otherwise render a shot an imperfect picture, but RAW is a lifestyle and an approach to how we see the world.

So how does this filter through to the imagery we see today?

With this Nike shoot, the timing and location threw in some challenges. I knew it had to be dark and the location on the iconic Palm Jumeirah was pretty much a given. But how do you then deal with the combination of faint darkness and furiously fast athletes? Five years ago, I would have struggled badly but now we have great camera’s where you can just keep on cranking up the ISO. Most images here are taken in the range of 8.000-12.800 ISO, shooting borderline handheld shutter speed. The Canon 1DX is a master machine in such conditions, made even sweeter by my beauty lens, the 50mm f1.2.  When darkness falls, there’s just no need to call it a day!

My thanks to Tristan and Dania at JWT for their support and ideas and a big hands up to Coach Tom at PTX Dubai for coming out on his birthday and bringing his awesome crew along. Together, we made it work. Wonders! And we created RAW. In all its glory.

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Trails & tales with The North Face

My very first experience with The North Face goes back to a purchase some 25+ years ago and over the years, I’ve trashed their packs, duffles, tents, tops, base layers and shoes at exciting places all over the world. They’re an awesome outdoor brand just crying out to be played with.

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So when the phone rang and Craig, their Middle East brand guy, asked if I wanted to do some trail running work with them, it was a no brainer. Their logo is on my ‘brands I would love to work for’ board so needless to say, I was eager to grab this opportunity.  I did some work with The North Face brand ambassador, Dean Karnazes in ’08 and ’09 with some extreme running in Chile and China and my… (more…)

2014 Sahara Run

Where do I start? I left with a million memories, stories and impressions. I’ve been back just eight weeks but already, with my usual whirlwind pace of life, details are starting to escape me so I forced myself to sit down and record my recollections…

February 12th, I landed in Amman, Jordan for a gig I’ve long been passionate about. For a little over a week, I would be surrounded by some amazing athletes, both full-on pro’s and weekend warriors, all bound by some quest for discovery, all intimidated, nervous yet excited by the challenge that lay ahead. My history with the Racing the Planet / 4 Deserts goes back to 2007 when I shot their Sahara Run in Egypt, which was quickly followed by my covering their races in remote China and the salt flats in Chile. I just loved them. The growing understanding and … (more…)

5th Abu Dhabi Triathlon

The fifth event saw me back shooting for the fifth time. Always a fantastic gig to work on. I just love the atmosphere when you have a huge combination of athletes, some newbies to the sport, some going hard for a new PB and some pro’s racing insanely fast to grab that podium finish. The finish line ends up having no shortage of huge sweaty hugs and tears… 2,400 personal and powerful stories within a few short hours.

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From a photography point of view, the mission is avoid shooting the same old content year on year. Going through this year’s imagery, I’m pleased to see that I managed a few new monster shots, pushing on creativity and… (more…)

Extreme 3

Just recently, I completed Dubai’s Extreme 3, a three day ultra race covering local desert and mountain terrain across a grand total of 140 kilometres. If I could sum it up in one word, that word would be AWESOME. I just loved being on the other side of the lens and it was truly refreshing not having to worry about f-stops, iso settings or RAW conversions. Instead, my days were filled with clocking up mileage,  freeze dried meals and trailing pink flags.

The course was spectacular. I’ve been exploring the UAE for over years and I still find I’m constantly discovering new places. The route took us through farms where you could smell the local herbs, through exposed wadi gorges, interspersed with massive boulders and, of course, through its fair share of deep sand! The desert always looks stunning but after hours on foot.. (more…)

2014 Salomon Wadi Bih Run

Heading into the Hajar Mountains from the coastal town of Dibba never fails to bring back fond memories. I’ve been heading out to this area for over twelve years and it never fails to impress. Past trips have included endless camping adventures on the higher ridges, my introduction to trad climbing, a top three finish in the inaugural Jebel Qiwhi run, landing the winners trophy at the Arabian Quest, lot’s of long mountains runs, wadi floods (not recommended!) and last but not least, the witnessing of a super special wedding proposal by my best mate silhouetted against the moon. So when the phone rings and I’m asked if keen to cover the annual Wadi Bih run, my answer is always a resounding yes!

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Those who follow my blog will have read about the race before. It’s a 72k run through a dry river bed, up the mountain and back, completed solo or as a relay team of five. In previous years, Nike were key sponsors of the race and my brief was guideline heavy. This year, the brief was very open. I was simply to create a bank of images that connect with the race. For me, this meant roaming around the wadi and just shooting where the light was at it’s best. I really couldn’t have asked for it better! The race actually takes place in (more…)

2013 – Recap of an awesome year

Each passing year seems to fly by more quickly and each seems to get better and better. Here’s a brief recap on how my 365 days in 2013 panned out… the stories, the highlights and the game changers.

A big slice of my 2013 pie was car work. I’d say a good third of my photography work is automotive related. I came to this realization when I visited the Dubai Motorshow last November and took this one picture. All the luxury brands came together and it dawned on me that I had recently worked for all of them. I hope to continue this trend and further extend our relationship over the years to come. It’s all about putting the Middle East on the map with… (more…)

The Nike running season has commenced!

With the hot and steamy summer now behind us, we’re all back to enjoying the magical outdoors again. As many know, I’m a big fan of getting outdoors and exploring new places. My personal project ‘Exploring Old Dubai’ was a prime example of venturing somewhere new, even when it was right here on our doorstep.

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The Nike Running Club has changed their formula this season whereby, every month, they plan to gather a crowd and take them to new running locations. Last weekend, they kicked off from Downtown’s Vida Hotel and ran a route around the Burj Khalifa. 21st century city slicker running at its best! The previous month they took on the energy of… (more…)