INNAM Graduate Challenge Namibia

In May, three cyclors from the INEOS Britannia sailing team headed south to Namibia to take part in the INEOS IN NAM Challenge, a once-in-a-lifetime expedition for all third-year INEOS graduates, featuring 320 kilometers of trail running, mountain biking and hiking across the harsh Namibian desert and Brandberg Mountain. Ben Cornish, Neil Hunter and Matt Gotrel were invited to join the INEOS graduates, alongside other INEOS athletes from the INEOS Grenadiers cycling team and OGC Nice Football Team. 

 For Neil, it was an opportunity he simply could not miss. 

“INEOS sport athletes being involved in the IN NAM project is a huge opportunity for both the business and sports people to learn from each other and really integrate the two sides of the INEOS family.  It was fantastic to see the grit and determination displayed by the graduates and execs on our trip.”

Matt similiarly enjoyed the opportunity to share his insight with the INEOS graduates, "having the INEOS Sport athletes around gave the graudates an insight into what training and competing at the highest level in sport looks like. We had many conversations about our experiences as athletes and I hope they in turn realised how much they could apply to their day to day lives and continue to push themselves physically and mentally."

Shrek and Neil enjoying a nice sunrise on Brandberg Mountain.

The itinerary is given out months in advance, allowing the graduates to mentally and physically prepare for the enduring marathons and bike rides. However, the cyclor’s invitation must have gotten lost over the Sahara, as they only had five weeks to wrap their heads around running. Luckily, cycling was already on the training programme!  

While in Namibia, each day would start with breakfast at about 5am, with the main activity starting at 6am, as a way to beat the heat. The daily activity would be finished by mid-afternoon, which could vary from a full marathon, road cycling, mountain biking or shorter trail runs. “The longest day we did was a full marathon, followed by 40km on a mountain bike.” Ben noted that, “the bike mileage doesn’t sound hard, but the biking was through sand that you could barely ride through which meant getting off to push quite often. It took a while to get through.”

However, when asked what the hardest challenge they cyclors had to partake in, Ben said, “ The biggest surprise was the ascent and descent of Brandburg Mountain, which is 2,570m high. The morning after the descent, my legs felt like absolute bricks.”

Unlucky for Ben, this was the morning he was also tasked to run a full marathon.

The start of a 51km bike ride to Brandberg Mountain

However, for Neil the hardest day was the day after the marathon. “ We had a half marathon in the morning followed by a long bike ride in the afternoon. I think everybody was really feeling the effects of the marathon the day before, with a lot of fatigue in the legs.”

 In order to get through this challenge, there is a lot of emphasis placed on the mindset. “ The team spirit was really strong and everybody knew that they had to play their part in getting through the journey together. It wasn't a race, the objective was clear: for everyone to get over the finish line.”

For the first time ever in the InNAM series, the graduates had a 100% completion rate, all 21 individuals successfully completing all 320km of running and cycling.

Upon reflection, Ben states, “running was something I never really tried before this trip, I had never even run a half marathon before. It has forced me to do something different that crosses over with the fitness that I need  for the America’s Cup. I have now also run a full marathon, in Namibia. It’s great to be able to say that.”

To apply for the INEOS Graduate scheme click here:

Schedule of the Week:

Day 1

  • 45km cycle to the Messum Crater.

Day 2

  • 21km run out of the Messum Crater.
  • 51km bike ride to Brandberg Mountain.

Day 3

  • 21km hike up the Brandberg (more than 2000m elevation gain). Team to carry own gear (15kg backpack).

Day 4

  • Descent of mountan with kit (8-9 hours)

Day 5:

  • 42km marathon run along base of the Brandberg Mountain.
  • 35km cycle towards Ugab river.

Day 6

  • 21k run through the Ugab Rock formations
  • 81km cycle past the Doros Crater and down to the Huab River.

Shrek, Neil and Corndog in Namibia: 

A beautiful sunrise on top of Brandberg Mountain.
Corndog mid marathon!
Corndog hiking up Brandberg Mountain.
A beautiful sunrise in Namibia.
The team mountain biking at the base of Brandberg Mountain.