Pro Wellbeing

Finding your Ikigai on the road to Death Valley

Ikigai (生き甲斐, “a reason for being”) is a Japanese concept referring to having a direction or purpose in life, providing a sense of fulfilment, and towards which the person may take actions, giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning.

Understanding your Ikigai is the key to waking up like a kid on Christmas morning, inspired to go to work, feel safe and motivated while you are there, and go home fulfilled at the end of the day. Over the years I have worked hard to find my Ikigai and share the concept with those around me.

It is a healthy and happy way to live. I often get asked for examples of people that are truly following their Ikigai. One guy that is always high on my list is Andrew McCrory. Andrew is a local legend and all round good sort.

When I first started coaching him five years ago he told me that his ultimate goal was to one day run the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon through Death Valley. Having crewed at this event in 2008 for another Kiwi Lisa Tamati, I had a good understanding of what was going to be required to complete this mission.

One of the key factors is a strong purpose or Ikigai. Andrew definitely has this.

So what exactly is the Badwater 135?

It’s globally recognised as the toughest footrace on Earth. Runners start at Badwater Basin in California (which is 85m below sea level) and finish at the Whitney Portal (500m above sea level.) There is a total of 4500m elevation across the 135 mile/217km course which must be completed in 48 hours. It’s all run on road in extreme temperatures up to 54 degrees.

This is no walk in the park. The Badwater 135 is and always has been an invitational race.  Applicants are considered purely upon their race application and its specific written merits.  They are then selected to run in July of that year via a live Facebook announcement. There is a strict entry criteria which involves running at least four ultra-running races of 100 continuous miles or longer with one of them being between January 1, 2023 and the day of submitting the application.

There is only one preferred qualifying race in New Zealand and that is the Northburn 100 in Cromwell. Andrew McCrory has been working towards running the Badwater 135 since he began ultra-running 5 years ago. He has completed many ultras including five runs over 100 miles and the Northburn 100 in March 2023. He has also run the length of New Zealand, completing 2,060km over Christmas and New Years 2021/22.

While Andrew is undertaking these amazing feats he also raises money for charity. His main charity is helping children with Cerebral Palsy to get Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery in America and helping with the intensive rehabilitation once they return home. He has also raised money for other organisations such as I AM HOPE which supports mental health, and the NZ RSA Poppy Fund which supports all Service veterans. All up so far he has raised close to $90,000.

In July, Andrew will be realizing his goal as he stands at the start line of the 2024 Badwater 135. One of the few Kiwi’s to ever be selected to compete in this race he considers himself privileged to be there. He’s taking his fundraising efforts to a global stage and wants to continue to help many more New Zealand children to achieve their dream of being able to walk. He’s on the lookout for sponsors – so please reach out if that sounds like you. Once you have clarity on your Ikigai you can achieve some very cool things.

For inspiration you can follow Andrew and his build up to Badwater by checking out: @Running Aotearoa for SDR on Facebook or Andrew McCrory Ultra Runner on Instagram Or schedule a session with Neil to check if your Ikigai is on point. 

Neil Wagstaff is the owner of Peak Fitness in Havelock North. He has over 25 years experience in the health and fitness industry.