Miguel Sagastume: Globetrotter Without Limits
Ultramarathoner and adventurer Miguel Sagastume has traveled deserts, steppes, mountains, plains around the world (43 countries so far) and has done many challenges of hundreds of kilometers in which, he says, it is essential to have clear objectives.
Being a family man and entrepreneur has not prevented Miguel Sagastume from being named both an extreme adventurer and an unstoppable dreamer.
He came to that decision almost eight years after venturing into high-performance sports and decided instead to go to the wildest and most remote natural spots on the planet.
He participated in three ultramarathons of the 4 Deserts™ series, where the athletes race 250 km in each event in extreme deserts. From that count, Sagastume has traversed – self sustained - the Atacama deserts, in Chile; the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and the deserts of Namibia Africa.
He also ran another ultramarathon in Narok, Kenya, and several trail/ cross-country races in Azores Portugal, different places in United States, Guatemala and other countries in Central and South America. He cycled more than 1,000 km on the south coast of New Zealand in solitary and another 1,000 on the well-known northern route of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. He swam 38 km in Lake Chelan, Washington, United States, as well as 8k in Lake Atitlán in open water challenges amongst other adventures.
At the time of this conversation, Miguel does not shy away from evoking each of his adventures and the physical challenges that they have involved.
When he does, his excitement is inevitable. After expressing gratitude for the experiences, he assures that these are situations that have made him know more about his mental and emotional faculties, but, above all, he has verified that dreams can come true.
Those sporting achievements are inspiring to other people too. In a similar vein, he has developed a social transformation project with which, together with other organizations, it has provided support to rural communities where it is intended to promote new opportunities for rural girls.
Sagastume insists that to achieve dreams it is necessary to overcome fear and he is convinced that the results are unexpectedly gratifying.
You define yourself as an extreme adventurer, but how do you identify it technically from the start?
I consider myself an perhaps “extreme” adventurer, because the ultramarathons and other projects that I have done in the last fifteen years are adventures in which 250 km are covered in the desert or longs distances are covered in rough terrains. They are inhospitable places that require mental, spiritual and physical strength. To date I have run four ultramarathons , several hiking races, toured by bike long distances and did open water swims in a few lakes in the world.
What motivated this interest in touring the world of in a more natural and disciplined way?
As a child I was inspired by readings books like Around the World in Eighty Days (Jules Verne), Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe), and reading stories about explorers like Fernand Magellan and Vasco de Gama. They filled my mind with dreams an interest in knowing and exploring the world. I also was a Boy Scout, and that allowed me to have first contact with nature, hiking and camping early in life. Another great inspiration was my father, whom I saw as an adventurer. He was a national swimming champion in his youth and also a national champion motorcyclist.
Later, when I grew up, I started with 10 km runs, then 21 km races a few marathons and so on. I did some mountain biking and various triathlons. However, I got a bit bored with the triathlons and city races because they were kind of too predictable for my liking.
Later in life the ultramarathons totally drew my attention for the extreme challenge and for getting to know different parts of the world. Each time I posed a greater challenge to myself and thus generated a lot of confidence. I am not the runner who finishes first, but my goal is to always finish what I do.
Have you seen an evolution in your own confidence?
The biggest limitations we all have are our own minds and fear. One of the things I have discovered as I set goals for myself is that everything starts with a dream; it's a must-do to start a visualization to overcome fear and jump into adventure. On the other side of fear are success and the wonders of life. Trust is something that is gained little by little. I didn't start running ultramarathons overnight. It has been something that I have gained by breaking mental barriers.
What has been the adventure that has taken you the most time to complete during these years?
All three of 4 Deserts™. Each one must cover 250 km in the most rouged and demanding deserts and it is a self-sustaining race, which means that each participant must bring what is necessary to survive seven days in the desert in minimalist, compressed backpack that should weigh between 20 and 25 pounds.
The only thing that is provided by the organizers is a water and tents. Each person must prepare their food and there is no bathroom. It is whole experience is something very rustic and rough and can break anyone physically and/ or mentally.
Being alone seven days in the desert, what are you thinking about during that time?
The mind is incredible and you do not know how much it can be strong or be broken due to the intensity and loneliness until you are there. Sometimes, during the race, I start to sing, or to think about my childhood, about my daughters or to try to solve some situations.
It is a constant conversation with myself, very emotional, very deep. The most beautiful thing is that you get to have self-knowledge, as well as confidence while you are in those situations . That push to the limit makes people recognize a lot of internalized things.
Could it be said that it is an activity to be in greater contact with oneself?
It is a super therapy! I have had moments of deep depression in my life and over time I have never found a therapy as efficient as running in the open fields and mountains. It learn to know all your own strengths, to see the past and the future.
Edmund Hillary, the first to conquer Mount Everest - along with Tenzing Norgay -, said: "We did not conquer the mountain but ourselves." I agree with this one hundred percent! It is something with which I try to inspire other people because we can conquer ourselves and meet our challenges.
Why inspire others?
During these years I have been in a low profile, I honestly did not start this for publicity. Every time I returned to Guatemala from my races and adventures, I shared my experiences with family and friends over a dinner at home, and it was enriching to see the expressions when I showed photos and told what the adventures were like. Then someone asked me why I didn't share it to others. It wasn't something that was in my sight, but I understand that people need to see things for inspiration, so I did it. I have made presentations about my adventures to inspire others. Not to exalt me, but to show that dreams can be achieved.
“On the other side of fear are success and the wonders of life ”.
- Miguel Sagastume, extreme adventurer, family man and businessman
With regard to promoting dreams, you also founded ‘Amigos de la Aldea’ social project. What does it consist of?
I was blessed to be a scholarship holder when I was young and I never forget that detail of those who helped me open doors for me. After that, I made a commitment to give opportunities to others when I could.
This is how Amigos de la Aldea was born, an organization with which we have donated clean cook stoves, generated projects of solar energy and donated full scholarships in different communities of Alta Verapaz, Sierra de las Minas and Cobán (northern Guatemala).
Now we want to turn to supporting girls in rural areas, since they are usually the most vulnerable population. We have been working in Jalapa for the last two years, together with another organizations, in which we have benefited 200 girls with full scholarships that include donations of backpacks, supplies, notebooks, teacher fees and uniforms. We are excited to see that a generation of girls can begin to dream big and do whatever they want.
How has both the social project and the sport discipline itself helped you to sensitize your ties with other people?
I think it is a question of gratitude.
When you are going through difficult times or when you see that there are people in different communities suffering for lack of access to many needs, we only can be thankful for what you have and work with others to improve their lives and opportunities. Many times we do not realize that and we take it for granted.
These projects have helped me to be more aware and sensitive in seeking solutions. You receive as much as you give. It is an enriching and internal question that can only be understood by doing it.
Athletes are often seen as strong people, and even rough, but in their case they reveal a very sensitive part. Is it a contradiction?
I don't think it has to be a contradiction. Being resilient we can achieve great things.
I identify with the resilience I find different rural communities. People are there in the mountains, they smile, they have fun, and even though the difficulties and rough situations, they get ahead.
Taking into account resilience, the pursuit of dreams and the athletic aspect, what advice would you give to those interested in playing high-performance sports in nature?
My first suggestion is to find your dream. Once established, they must translate it into planning and set concrete goals. Then, work on how those objectives will be achieved through discipline.
Discipline is elementary because if there is commitment, the objectives will be reached. Finally, discipline will keep us on track with constant preparation until the day comes where we can perform and enjoy!