SKINS newest sponsored athlete might be a fresh face on the ultra-marathon scene, but Karel Sabbe is already blazing a trail through some of the toughest footraces on earth.
Taking Serious Amateurs Seriously
If there’s one thing that impresses SKINS about amateur athletes, it’s that they aren’t shy to set some pretty serious fitness goals and then do what it takes to make them happen. Because when you’re a weekend warrior with a day job, getting in the hours of training to compete with the elite is a challenge in itself. So when a Belgian dentist with an appetite for adventure starting popping up on our ultra-running radar, we couldn’t help but take notice.
So without further ado, allow us to introduce our newest running ambassador, Karel Sabbe: a former-football-playing, ultra-running Belgian dentist with a passion for sport and the great outdoors – in a nutshell.
Meet Karel Sabbe
Karel spends his days brightening Belgian smiles, but it’s in the outdoors where this dentist really shines. Since his first marathon, he’s run close to 8000km in 31 countries, ticking off some of the world’s most extreme endurance challenges along the way. And here’s the crazy part: he’s done all that in a year and a half! While he may be new to the whole ultra-thing, Karel is no stranger to serious exercise. Or adventure.
Growing up with a sports teacher for a mum, Karel’s family life revolved around all-things-active. Holidays were spent outdoors, hiking in summer, skiing in winter and on the sports field in between. He started playing football at five and he was hooked for the next 18 years, but by 23, Karel had outgrown his local league and was craving more – a challenge that would put his fitness and mental toughness to the test. He found that challenge while on sabbatical in New Zealand: the Kathmandu Coast to Coast.
Keen for the Extreme
When it comes to extreme endurance races, the Coast to Coast is right up there with the world’s most challenging multisport events – and it’s not hard to see why. Crossing 243km of New Zealand by foot, kayak and bike is a pretty wild task even for elite endurance athletes, but something in it piqued Karel’s interest. The fact that he’d never raced an ultra-event didn’t put him off either. He started his prep with a casual 50km ultra-marathon back home in Belgium where he finished 8th overall, which isn’t too shabby for a beginner. By the time he took part in the Coast to Coast in February last year, he was the fittest he’d ever been and finished 37th overall. But that was just the start.
In the year and a bit since, he’s competed in the Amsterdam Marathon in October, a 100-mile charity run for Music for Life in December, and the Marathon des Sables (a multiday ultra-marathon in the Sahara desert) in April where he finished 37th from over 1200 participants. Since then, he’s focused his time and energy on preparing for his next ultra-endeavour, to run the Pacific Crest Trail in record time.
Quest for the Crest
So where is he now? Karel is just over halfway through his 4427km-run from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail. As an avid hiker and nature lover, Karel has travelled the world ticking trails off his bucket list. Now that he’s added ultra-running to his CV, he’s stepped his hiking pace up a gear. When we asked him why he chose to run this popular hiking route, he answered, “Sounded like an awesome, crazy adventure…why not?”.
Compression for Ultra-runners
As a sponsored athlete, Karel is decked out in SKINS running gear. And so far he’s chuffed! “I’ve run through some extreme conditions and none of my SKINS have shown any signs of wear and tear. The compression and loose-fit clothing dries quickly, which is great because I wear both every day, and they haven’t started to smell, either. SKINS products live up to their promise, and I am proud to be sponsored by them.”
Welcome to SKINS!
Karel proves you don’t need to be a pro to achieve the stuff of dreams, something that SKINS Chief Marketing Officer Christian Gut believes is a great example to other amateur athletes. “Ultra-runners are role models when it comes to pushing their boundaries and reaching their goals. We believe Karel is a great ambassador for young and passionate athletes, and we are proud to support him in his ventures. Welcome to team SKINS, Karel!”