The following blog was written by a guest runner who wishes to remain anonymous. It charts her experience of becoming an ultra runner and how she got to that finish line…
So, I’m not sure how I got here, but from a few long runs and completing a small number of races, over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles, I am now classed as an ‘ultra’ runner. I have learnt to serve my body’s cravings for pasties, salt and vinegar squares and foam bananas during a run, I have mastered the art of a wild wee and wear a hugely expensive watch on my arm which can do all sorts of things I still don’t know of, or care about.
Super Human Ultra Marathon Runners
I am just an average Bimbler, (bit chubby, moan at hills and never as fast as I could be) who always thought people who covered the ultra marathon distance were crazy and super human. Although there is debate about what distance a run or race should be to consider it an ultra, I haven’t taken on anything over 50 miles therefore for me these crazy ‘Super Humans’ have moved into the 100 mile category. I never see myself joining them but I am incredibly impressed!
The Journey to Becoming an Ultra Runner
The decision to take on my first ultra race was not calculated nor planned. In 2019 my personal challenge was to be fit enough to complete the UK 3 peaks challenge in under 24 hours, the mileage was slightly less than 26.2 the elevation is a staggering 3000 metres. I trained hard and found I was more than fit enough. In fact, the traveling between Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon was more the mental challenge. I returned home having thoroughly enjoyed my jolly with an amazing fun gang but not the sense of achievement I’d hoped for.
I Began Training for a Dartmoor Ultra
I started asking my trusted friend, who never lies AKA Google if I was ready or capable of a longer distance, the response that stood out between all the ‘runners advice’ was simple – if you are thinking about it you are. I still wasn’t sure but had found a multi distance event across Dartmoor a couple of weeks later, I was looking at the marathon distance, a distance I knew would be a struggle without long mileage training but that I was capable of and a potential stepping stone for my confidence to try something longer…………. That was until I mentioned it to my husband who responded – you may see it as going for a run but all your runs have been training. The next day I signed up for the 31 mile, 1381 metre elevation ultra marathon and went for my longest run in over 6 months – 22 miles, having to return home after a feeling of guilt for the ‘really?’ expression on my 4 legged running friends face.
Returning to ‘runners advice’ – there’s loads of it on the net for before, during and after your ultra, along with a monopoly of buzz words that to me mean little – time on feet, hike hills, kit test, nutrition, recce, gels, sound nights sleep, recovery and so on. All good advice but I chose to just get on with it and see what happened, what is right for one is not for the next, there is no right formula for you to meet your ultra goal.
Never Trust the Stated Distance
The race I had entered was not an elite event, it was a fairly new running festival with more entrants opting for the shorter distance or starting the ultra marathon distance with the comfort of reverting to the 26.2 mile if they felt the need. Neither was it the 31 miler I had signed for. This was a lesson learnt – never trust a trail race distance it’s always approximate, as soon as I hit the 31 mile goal I felt annoyed. It had said 31 miles on the box so that’s what I’m getting right? I don’t need to go any further, I’ve been counting this down for 7 hours? The run had gone well the weather had treated me kindly, I’d chatted away to many fellow runners, no chafing, the wall that is talked about so often had not materialised and pit-stop oranges had tasted better than any oranges known to mankind. In fact, I’d enjoyed myself and loved, mostly, every minute. I ploughed on with the unknown of when it was to finish. It was an extra park run according to my watch stats which clocked up 34.1 miles as I crossed the line in just under 7 hours 20 mins desperate for that glass of chilled Prosecco. Come on… I deserved it!
How Far Can I Go?
It wasn’t until a few days later that the feeling of achievement hit. Not only had I completed the race, I had been the first lady to cross the line (again please be reminded this was a dabblers event, a great beginners launch). The achievement quickly moved to is 34 miles really an ultra? ……… and there it is the mentality of all ultra runners – the addiction to see how far and how fast they can push their mental and physical selves. Maybe one day I’ll be joining the crazy super humans on that 100 mile day out!
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