Life as an Ultrarunner

To be an ultrarunner you have to love adventure. Otherwise you would give up after the first week when the muscle cramps set in. You have to be prepared to get hurt, lost and exhausted over and over again. It’s a sport that takes a huge amount from you but gives it all back when you complete your first 100 mile distance, or smash your 60 mile PB, or any one of hundreds of personal achievements that sadly many people will never experience in life.

But it’s not all about the running. I don’t like to run in crowds. I’d hate the idea of competing in the London marathon and the Great North Run surrounded by hundreds of people on a tarmac course. It’s the same thing all the time and it’s not where the challenge is for me.

It’s not about money either; of all the guys who do the sport, maybe 0.1% make enough money to live solely from it. They fly to exotic locations around the globe and compete in ‘ultras.’ For the rest of us, we have to fork out our own cash.

It’s more about where the running takes me, whether it’s to old familiar places or new, unknown ones. It’s about leaving the crowd behind and forging a path up mountains, through rivers, across hills. It’s a sport that demands things like instinct and gut feeling on a constant basis.

The average ultrarunner in the UK is in their early forties and being 25, I’m looked on as a bit of a novelty. There is a big reason for such a large disparity. Ultrarunning is mentally tough; it takes experience, patience and a cool head to run 100 miles or more, qualities which 20-somethings aren’t really known for.

At times, being an ultrarunner is like being the most anti-social person on the planet. I am the reason no-one at work boasts about the half marathon they ran at the weekend. And though some think I’m a little crazy, those who have run in ultra-events can tell of the camaraderie and friendships that are struck after just a few days of pouring over maps and running trails together.

When my legs feel like lead and my lungs burn from the effort, I know I’m pushing my own personal limit. And while it’s considered a dangerous sport, it’s still safer than sitting on a couch watching TV and waiting for a heart attack to come along.

Ultrarunning redefines what people are capable of achieving and what people can overcome. My life isn’t measured in time but in distance. As a human being, I know I have a finite number of miles within me. As an ultrarunner, I know I’ve made every one count.