Simon Harris is currently launching Ultra Africa, an ultra-endurance events company that creates unique sporting challenges taking place in some of the most stunning parts of South Africa. His aim is to engage and inspire the community through the power of sport and Ultra Africa is partner with local charity Imagine Nation.
How did your career start?
It was about two years ago when I started running. At first it was about dealing with a bit of heartbreak, but as time went on I started to meet the most amazing people who had stories of wild places and amazing races. A few trail marathons here and there and I was hooked, and by the end of an 18-month period I had run five marathons and seven ultra-marathons, and had entered the marathon des sable, a 257km race through the western Sahara which I finished in April. It was after that race that I definitively knew that organising ultra-endurance events was something that I wanted to do.
Did your parents do anything similar to you?
Growing up my father was a human-rights lawyer during Apartheid in South Africa, he was and still is a major inspiration to me. I admire his sense of right and wrong and his perseverance and patience in everything that he does is amazing. At the time my mother was a producing programs for a news network called ATN. Her kindness and patience with me growing up is something that I will never forget. Both pretty tough jobs given the political climate of South Africa at the time.
What was school like?
I loved school, I was at a boarding school called Michael House in Kwa-Nulu Natal. I was quite naughty growing up. Admittedly I did find myself in trouble more often than not.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
There seems to be less and less spare time! If I’m not travelling or competing in ultra-endurance races you will find me having a few drinks with friends.
How would you describe your business style?
Hard question, I believe simplicity is key. Be honest in all your interactions. Never expect someone to do something that you are not prepared to do yourself. Don’t micro-manage and work smart. Most importantly have fun and take pride in what you do.
What was the defining moment in your career?
The defining moment thus far has been the decision to fully commit myself to making Ultra Africa a reality and a major competitor in the sports events world. We still have a very long way to go, but that initial commitment is the moment it all began.
Are there any of your piers that you admire?
There are so many people that I admire for different reasons. Ralph Fiennes and so many others come to mind, hard to choose.
Who did you admire when you were growing up?
My parents, still more so today than anyone else.
Were there times you thought you wouldn’t make it?
What do you think you’d be doing now if you hadn’t have gone into ultra-endurance?
I’m not quite sure… I'm led by my passions and I tend to follow them pretty tenaciously, I've always been pretty stubborn. – I guess I would have liked to have become a lawyer.
Do you have any early memories that you can share with us that are tangible to the ultra-endurance?
We were always exploring as kids encouraged all the more by my dad. I spent a few weeks exploring the Arctic Circle with him when I was ten. Thinking of it now that was probably the moment I fell in love with the outdoors.
What advice would you give someone going into business?
The only thing I can say is: unashamedly be yourself.
Whats next for you?
Next year I’m off to race across the amazon basin (five days and 230km) with the Beyond the Ultimate Team led by Kris King. Then after that Ultra Africa’s 9 marathons in 9 provinces in 9 days (400km in 9days).
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