Race reports are usually boring affairs where you get to read all about lap times, gels, electrolytes, puking, emergency toilet visits, high points, low points, sprint finishes and aching limbs. I’m going to try something a little different though. I’ll give you the executive summary first though:
I finished an off-road 54km ultra in 5 hours 18 minutes and ran the marathon (42km) in under 4 hours in conditions that could only be described as very bog-like and muddy.
So what possesses a man to line up in the dark on a Saturday night, run his legs off for 4 hours, crash horribly because he didn’t eat enough and then walk/run/suffer through the final 7 miles to the finish?
Answer: Because it’s just awesome! I know I went off far too quickly. Hell I was leading for the first 1/2 mile. Clearly I set off too quickly but it just felt too good not too. I had a mate running with me and we were both seriously enjoying the feeling of moving along just as fast as we could. We knew we were going too quickly but neither of us really wanted to slow down. We both paid the price in our different ways later on but ended up finishing together.
I could consider that last lap to be a failure because I crashed so badly, but I don’t see it that way. I see it as amazing training by running on empty for 7 miles. I fully depleted all my energy stores and still had plenty of distance to cover. That’s going to happen in all really long distance races and you need to be able to cope with it. You learn how you feel, you learn how to deal with it and over time I’ll get better at managing it and hopefully avoiding it.
I’ve come away from the race with a whole list of things I’d do differently and that’s great because I’ll get more out of it than just a run through the dark. I get to invest the experience in the next event to improve the whole experience.
So why run ultras? Because it feels like a re-birth. It cleanses you physically and emotionally. It puts you way out beyond what you’d experience in day to day life. Why live life inside the expected boundaries? Modern society is geared towards avoiding pain, taking the easy route, keeping within the accepted norm. My answer to that is: F_ck that! I want my experiences vivid. I want them real. I want them in my face, up close and personal. I want to know I’m alive and full of energy. Run hard!