Mountain Lifer: Simon Donato

Donato (far right) filming Boundless in Egypt. Photo courtesy Travel+Escape.
Donato (far right) filming Boundless in Egypt. Photo courtesy Travel+Escape.

Simon Donato competes in some of the toughest endurance events on earth but the Merrell Canada ambassador wears several hats. He runs Adventure Science, a company that leads scientists and search parties into remote locations. He also heads Stoked Oats, a Calgary-based breakfast cereal company. And as host of the adventure travel show Boundless, he travels the globe competing in some of the most gruelling ultra-endurance races on the planet, from the barrens of interior Iceland to the Sahara Desert and Cambodian Jungle. This 10-part documentary sees Simon pushing himself to the limit and beyond in some of the world’s most extreme races.

During the course of last year’s first season, Donato ran stage-races in Iceland and the Sahara, ultras and triathlons in Kenya and Cambodia as well a 50km stand-up paddleboard race in Hawaii. Like any competing athlete, Donato experiences all the rollercoasters of emotion inherent in these epic events.


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Donato in Kenya. Photo courtesy Travel+Escape.
Donato in Kenya. Photo courtesy Travel+Escape.


“Last year we really did get to tackle some dream races in exotic destinations,” said Donato in a recent interview. “Kenya was a nightmare, though. The heat, altitude, and my knee injury all pushed me to the edge and I was incredibly close to quitting – but I’m so happy that I chose to continue. Crossing the finish line in the Kenya race was so rewarding after I had to watch my goals evaporate and literally walk 15 miles to the finish. Cambodia had its ups and downs, but seeing my friend Sophie nearly die from hyponatremia was certainly the most frightening and unnerving experience from the season. The most challenging race for me however, was the Sahara race. The final day was an 86 km stage and it took every ounce of energy that I had to make it through. From about 50 km onwards, the heat was so brutal that all I wanted to do was walk, so I had to continually convince myself to keep running. It was a serious mental battle that only became easier in the final 5 km, when I knew I would make it. My greatest memories are from the moments where I persevered through the greatest challenge. Ultimately, finishing well was good, but it didn’t lead to the most profound experiences.”


Photo courtesy

Donato’s go-to philosophy sums up his adventurous, thrill-seeking spirit best: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat” – Theodore Roosevelt.


Photo courtesy Kensington Tours Flickr.