FIVE LIFE LESSONS FROM RUNNING AN ULTRA MARATHON
‘I will never run an ultra’ were words that were with me for most of my running journey. I thought it was bonkers, too far and only for super fit people. However at the end of 2018, I became curious.
A friend of mine did an 100km race a week after we did a marathon, this 100km race was along one of my favourite stretches of coast path (to walk) in Dorset! I questioned myself and thought if he can do it, maybe I can too (not as fast but just maybe I could go the distance). At this time, I had also been suffering from stress and anxiety. I wanted to challenge my mind and thought running that far might help quieten my thoughts by having something to focus on… it was a test for myself.
I wasn’t quite ready for 100k, but I did want a considerable jump from marathon distance. I was researching races and this one spoke to me. It was on my 29th birthday weekend and along Jersey’s coastal path… all 48 miles of it (unless as I read in race reports, the tide is out, and you could cut across beaches).
On 3rd August 2019, I ran the Jersey Round the Rock ultra for myself and to raise awareness of Young Minds, a charity supporting young people's mental health & wellbeing. What I experienced throughout training and racing were not only lessons in running but lessons for life:
Mile 28, North West
1. From the Training: If you want to do something, make a plan (and know it will change along the way)
Seek advice from others to help you build it (this can save you money, for example with kit choices, a running vest vs backpack. You want the vest; it has handy front pockets!) Do your research too, from race reports to coach advice
Mile 6, views to the East
2. From the Start Line: Be patient and take things at your own pace
When it seemed like everyone was setting out in front of me at my 5k race pace... I started freaking out that I was out of my depth. I had a strict word with myself, I remembered all the training I had put in and encouraged myself to do me, stick to my plan and at mile 40 I was picking people off who looked burned out one by one.
Start Line, St Helier Marina at sunrise
3. From the Hills: Break it down into small chunks
At one point I found myself on this crazy hill that seemed to have endless twists and turns and so many steps. I had to rest every couple of steps, but I broke this down and took a break after every five steps. The mantra of 'it's just one foot in front of the other' got me to the top.
Approx Mile 14, hills in the North
4. From the toughest point: Be Present
On ‘Five Mile Beach’ what seemed like a never-ending stretch of sand in the blazing sun, feeling slightly emotional, I came back to being present in that moment and knowing I’m lucky to even be able to run and even luckier to do it in a such a beautiful place.
Approx Mile 31, Five Mile Beach
5. From the Finish: Yes, it’s nice to have a shiny medal but it’s not all about the end result. Enjoy the journey!
The things you learn about yourself, those moments you’ll never forget (like your Travel Twin appearing on the blazing beach with an ice bucket from the hotel mini bar filled with ice to cool you down!) and the incredible people you meet along the way. Thank you Run Dem Crew & Track East!
Approx Mile 35, La Corbiere Lighthouse
In training, the taxing schedule of double runs on weekends did help give me focus and gave me thinking time for creativity in approaching plans about the future. I explored some awesome new places along the way… shout out to Mackenzie for taking me up Box Hill and being patient whilst he ran circles round me.
If you’re interested my time was 10hrs 33minutes for just over 45miles (I did manage to cross some beaches, as encouraged by the race organisers!). In the race I loved being by the sea for this experience and I loved the sense of achievement to go my furthest ever, which beyond the 30mile marker that was a celebration in each step!
To anyone curious about running an ultra or trying their furthest distance yet, my advice is to go for it (with a good training plan, strength and conditioning) and an open mind, you never know what you may discover!