Hong Kong's Sean Kesluk talks about leading 24 Hour Race, a global student relay

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 April, 2015, 6:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 April, 2015, 6:11am

Some give, others give everything for a greater cause. This month we follow three benevolent souls who use their love of sport in grand ways.

Sean Kesluk has always dabbled rather than dived into sport, preferring to dedicate his energy to charity. From aid coordination in South Sudan to disaster relief in Haiti, Kesluk's sporting interests have often lagged behind his philanthropic résumé - until now.

He's the new charity director of the 24 Hour Race, a student-led movement of 24-hour relay races for 14- to 18-year-olds across Asia that raises funds to end human trafficking. Youths organise the run, then take part in it, gaining a philanthropic education while developing the stamina required for such a gruelling event.

Now in charge of these epic challenges, Kesluk has upped his fitness game.

"Don't laugh but I've taken up CrossFit three times a week, and I'm working on my running," says Kesluk, 23, from California. Discovering Hong Kong's trails has been part of his new regime.

"I had no idea Hong Kong offered so much green space or was home to such a huge cohort of weekend warriors … Every day I hear about new exciting races and people doing exceptional things, and I'm so inspired to be a part of this culture."

At the charity's Peak24 event next month - a team relay of 24 loops around Victoria Peak that totals 81.8 kilometres - Kesluk aims to spend roughly eight hours running on the course.

"My goal during the Peak24 race will be to run and stay on the track the entire time. Even though it's a relay, I want to be out there, pushing everybody and keeping up the positive vibes," he says.

His greatest source of inspiration comes from the youths.

"They are not endurance athletes. They're not even athletes, and yet they keep going," Kesluk says. "The furthest many of them have run before is 10km or a half-marathon, and we find they tend to run 30km in the relay over the 24 hours. It's a huge step up.

"I remember running around The Peak late at night during our last event, and I overheard two students. One was complaining if she'd done a 10km race, she'd be finished by now. The other said: 'But then you wouldn't have done anything. It's not the 24 Hour Race'… That's something you can't help but be motivated by."

I think charity is about identifying what you can give. It's a question of asking, "What am I really capable of? What am I willing to sacrifice?" Is it time, a bit of sweat or just being a voice? While funds are obviously critical, I think individuals can have a wider impact.

Sport and physical challenges are a powerful medium for a charity. I like to think of the 24 Hour Race and Peak24 as "accessible endurance". The young people we work with aren't necessarily runners, but the challenge helps them achieve something big and meaningful for a great cause.

My first taste of endurance was in 2011. I was helping out in disaster relief after one of America's worst tornadoes ripped through Joplin, Missouri. The days were long; you would get at most three hours of sleep a night. You'd push yourself so hard because you had no resources and there was such a need for help. Every now and then you stopped and reflected: "How am I doing this?"

When you don't focus on yourself and your own personal outcomes, I think you can really push yourself. When you focus on the impact you're able to have [as a team], that keeps you going.

Our mission is to challenge everyone - not just youth - to get involved. It's one thing to say you care about the cause, but it's another thing to put your body on the line.

After the Peak24 is all over next month, I'll be holding out for a big cheeseburger, followed by a nap.

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