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In April 2013, Wellington’s Greig Rightford and Willie Tokona tested their physical and mental limits in the Marathon of the Sands, a 6-day ultramarathon ranked as the toughest footrace on earth. In scorching heat, air “so dry your lungs are almost bursting” and with 8kg of supplies strapped to their backs, Greig and Willie raced across the Sahara Desert. AC/DC’s Highway to Hell provided a fitting send-off at the starting line.

Both Greig and Willie were recovering from injuries – a broken neck in Greig’s case – but this just made them more determined to “knock the bastard off”, as Willie put it. They’d made a pledge to raise money for New Zealand’s Malaghan Research Institute. Nothing was going to stop them.

“We just made up our minds that we were going to do it,’ says Greig. “It was a mindset.”

Together with 1,022 other competitors from around the world, Greig and Willie travelled 230km through punishing terrain, traversing rocky plateaus, mountain peaks and steep sand dunes.

“Sometimes we couldn’t believe how hard it was,” Greig says. “But we were inspired by our competitors. You’d feel exhausted, but they’d help build your spirits back up again.”

One sand dune, around 1.5km high, was so steep that they resorted to crawling on their hands and knees, only reaching the top with the help of a rope. “It was slippery and we weren’t moving fast but our breathing was so labored,” says Willie. “It was mayhem.”

The searing heat – reaching 54°C on day 3 – compounded the challenge. ”You’re so fragile in that kind of heat. It affects your decision making,” says Greg. “Whoever made the best decisions, performed the best.” For Greig and Willie, the decision on day 3 was to rest in their tent, and it paid off, sparing them the heat exhaustion suffered by others.

At night, they faced the opposite problem, with temperatures plummeting to around 7°C . “Others brought sleeping bags, but we just slept in our Icebreaker base layers and space blankets,” Greig says. “If we hadn’t worn Icebreakers we would’ve really struggled.”

Water was rationed – “we didn’t waste a drop on washing ourselves,” Greig says – and by the third day, their concentrated food was playing havoc with both Greig’s gut and Willie’s mind. “I’d see a lilo and wonder what it’d taste like,” Willie says.

Something Greg and Willie found comfort in was their #Icebreaker gear. “We had reservations about wearing wool in the desert,” Willie says, “but those tops were great. We never overheated.” For Greig, it was his Icebreaker cap that he couldn’t have done without. “It gave me lots of airflow and I’d wet it to keep me cool – it retained all the moisture.” Both were also impressed with their gears’ lack of odour, especially given that they wore the same Icebreakers the whole time. “We were amazed that we didn’t smell at all,” Greig says.

As well as succeeding in “knocking off” the Marathon of the Sands – Greig finished 62nd overall, and Willie 75th – they raised approximately $29,000 for the Malaghan Research Institute. They also served as an inspiration to their many supporters, including everyone at Icebreaker. Congratulations, guys!

Support Sahara Charity Challenge 2013 – 5 Marathons in 5 Cities in 5 Days!

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Grieg Rightford and Willy Tokona our crazy New Zealand sponsored athletes are off to run 5 marathons in 5 cities, in 5 days! Why you may ask? These guys are training for the Marathon of the Sands (234 kms across the Sahara Desert) and are aiming to raise $50,000 for the Malaghan Research Institute.

Greig and Willy love running in our light weight tee’s and shorts as it keeps their temperature regulated, is breathable and it doesn’t stink! (You would hope so after 5 marathons in a row!). They will also be wearing Icebreaker in the toughest footrace on earth in the Sahara desert in 50degree heat!  So New Zealand fans, get to your nearest marathon city (dates below) and support them as they run! We know we will be.

Dunedin, 28th Jan, 8:30am at Logan Park COMPLETED – YAY GUYS!
Christchurch, 29th Jan, 8:30am at Hagley Park.
Auckland, 30th Jan, 8:30am at The Viaduct then heading off to Victoria Park for a loop, then back into the city and then along the waterfront and the bays until they reach Dalton St for the turn around.
Rotorua, 31st Jan, 6:00am at Redwood Forest.
Wellington, 1st Feb, 8:30am Around the Bays to Seatoun starting at Foxglove Ba.

Find out more about Grieg and Willy’s adventure here on their Facebook page.

Icebreaker underwear for Superstorm Sandy victims

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In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Icebreaker learned of a plea for underwear for displaced residents. “What we do need right now … is underwear. Undergarments for children and adults,” Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro told a local TV program. “That’s what we need. That’s what we’re in desperate need of.”

Icebreaker has answered the call with a donation of 500 pairs of underwear. Pictured here is Our NYC Regional Manager Autumn Joyce and John Fletcher of Grand Central Neighboorhood Social Services

“Sometimes a gift as simple as a fresh pair of underwear can make someone’s day and their outlook on tomorrow a bit brighter,” said Autumn.