If you have climbed Mount Kinabalu, you must have seen this man carrying towering loads on his back, climbing up and down mountains, lugging climbers’ gears over difficult terrains, yet showing his enthusiasm and friendliness!
Daved Simpat, a 37-year-old Sabahan, is a mountain porter on Malaysia’s highest peak, a member from The North Face Adventure Team as well as an ultra runner who has won numerous ultra races all around the world.
From becoming a mountain porter, joining his first ultra race, having his tibia bone injured, overcoming adversity during recovery, to being ranked as Malaysia’s number one ultra trail runner, Daved shared with us what makes him the athlete that he is today.
After spending many years working as a store keeper, Daved realized that he needed to change his monotonous lifestyle and make a better living, so he decided to become a mountain porter.
Becoming a mountain porter requires a lot of physical strength, but Daved certainly has a good level of fitness. Having born and brought up in Kampung Kiau, he grew up spending a lot of time outdoors. He has always loved running and have been running on the trail all his life.
“I became a mountain porter in 2009 and it was also the year when I knew about Mt Kinabalu International Climbathon. I was determined to take part in the race. With my familiarity with Mount Kinabalu, I believe that I have the skills and abilities for the job. Working as a mountain porter allows me to train for my running, so it is a win-win situation,” said Daved.
However, Daved would not be where he is today without undergoing pain and hardship. When he first started as a mountain porter, he had to carry at least 50kg on his back every day. “It was undeniably suffering as I frequently had sore muscles. I took more than 2 months to adapt to the new lifestyle,” he continued.
Nowadays, Daved has reduced the weight by carrying 20kg of goods and trek up to the Panalaban Base Camp. “As I became more experienced and knowledgeable, I started wearing proper running shoes because of the comfort, cushioning, and support,” said the dedicated porter.
Daved’s hard work and effort have paid off.
During the Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon 2013, Champion System was recruiting new athletes for the team. Daved was running with one of the team members from Champion System and surprisingly won the race by 30 minutes.
In the same year at The North Face 100 Hong Kong, he ran his first ultra race and performed unexpectedly well in the 50km category. The mountain porter was fortunate enough to be selected for The North Face Adventure Team.
“It is a great opportunity and I truly appreciate it. Being part of The North Face Adventure Team, I believe I will be able to improve my running and gain more experience,” said Daved. However, there’s no free lunch. Being The North Face Adventure Team member takes time and commitment.
“I have to compete in different races at least 4 times a year. 2 months before a race, I have to participate in training programs provided by The North Face Adventure Team. They will be keeping an eye on my training progress.
After venturing into trail running, my full-time job as a mountain porter became more meaningful as I can work and train for my race at the same time. This is my advantage that other runners might not have,” said the mountain porter turned ultra runner.
Daved’s running journey is not always sunshine and rainbows. He ran his first 100 kilometres at TMBT Ultra Trail Marathon 2015, but also in the same year, he severely injured his tibia bone during a local ultra race and needed more than a year to recover.
“The recovery process was intimidating, but I believe there is always a rainbow after a rain,” Daved was crowned the champion of Cameron Ultra Trail Marathon (CULTRA) in 2018 with an unofficial time of 12:43:39.
“Being a mountain porter and ultra runner is physically and mentally challenging, what others see is only our physiques, but no one sees the emotional breakdown we have to go through behind the scene. No matter what happens, I always try to let go of my negative emotions, focus on my training, preparation, and look forward to achieving my goals,”
Daved’s racing plans for next year are pretty exciting. Besides the international races held in China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia, the ultra runner will also be running the CULTRA 2020 and Penang Eco 100 2020 – 100 miles. If everything is in order, Daved said he hopes to be back stronger at UTMB 2020.