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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!

Icebreaker’s Portland office celebrate their Kiwi roots

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Yesterday in the Icebreaker Portland office, the team celebrated the 1st Annual Icebreaker USA Agricultural & Pastoral Society Show.  It’s quite a big tradition in the Kiwi calendar year, and so being a New Zealand company it only seemed right that this ritual was installed on this side of the world.

It’s a day when “agricultural and pastoral interests are celebrated and promoted”, and there are many fun activities on tap for all to enjoy (American’s – it’s sort of like a County Fair).  And our show didn’t fall short of craziness – there was animal shearing (although with stuffed not live animals); wood chopping; sheep hearding; gumboot throwing; flower arranging; fruit & vege people-creation – competitions galore.

An awesome day was had and the team can’t wait for next year’s event!

New (York) Zealand: A Video Love Letter

We’re making all sorts of wonderful new friends here in Manhattan at the new Icebreaker Soho TouchLab store, including a woman who is an Icebreaker addict through and through.

She attends film school here in New York, and sent us this video with a note:

“I learned a great deal from making this video and hugely enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Gretchen — who’s an inspiration — and spend lots of time in the store! As I’ve said, I adore Icebreaker products and New Zealand. And New York. So this was a fun chance to combine the three. The footage at the beginning was from my bike trip in New Zealand at the beginning of the year.”

We hope you’ll flock to this is much as we did.

WATCH: New (York) Zealand – A Video Love Letter

New (York) Zealand: A Video Love Letter