by Carrie Adams
On a Monday morning, most people are settling into work behind a desk, looking forward to weekend plans and just trying to make it through the day. Noel Hanna, 44, isn’t most people. I received this email from him this one Monday morning last year:
“At present I am sitting at Everest Base camp in Tibet with 4 clients who are hoping to reach the summit. I have already been to the summit 3 times from both sides of the mountain.”
He then politely offered me a phone number where I could reach him between “2000hrs until 2300hrs my time,” if I needed anything. Noel’s days often begin this way, and that’s nothing new to the Northern Ireland native.
Recently, Noel Hanna had an ambitious goal. He set out to climb the highest peak on all seven continents. On December 22, 2009, at the summit of Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, he reached his goal and earned himself a World Record for the effort. In addition to his Mt. Vinson assent, Noel scaled Everest, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro and the Carstensz Pyramid. He’s seen the world from the highest peaks on all seven continents, but he never stayed to admire the view. Instead, he raced down to sea level by running, skiing, biking, or kayaking over hostile terrain at top speeds. In the process of completing his goal, these peaks, he and his wife Lynne Hanna, an accomplished mountaineer in her own right, raised over 130,000 euro for UCF, the Ulster Cancer Foundation – Northern Ireland’s leading local cancer charity. You can read about his amazing, record-breaking journey on his website7Summits2Sea Level. He attempted and completed another ascent just this past year.
Noel’s no stranger to danger or challenge. We’re talking about a guy who’s been chased by headhunters in Papua New Guinea and survived being on the anti-terrorist squad of the RUC police force. His experience on the police squad gave Noel the thrill of challenge that he craved.
That craving for adrenaline led him to adventure races like the Eco Challenge along with endurance running like the Bad Water 135 and the marathon Des Sables. It was during that time of adventure and endurance racing when Joe Desena approached Noel about creating a new kind of challenge. “Make it a race that would break all who took part. That was a given,” he recalls.
Alongside eight other ultra-athletes, he helped design Spartan Race. The race that would challenge anyone who took part, that would push the runners into new territories of endurance and strength, and would set the race apart from any other event on the planet. And Noel should know, since he’s had a pretty lofty view.