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Meet Tribe ambassador and ultra runner Louise Mcwilliams

  • 4 min read

What is ultra running?

Ultra running is the sport of competing in ultramarathons. What’s an ultramarathon? An ultramarathon is any footrace longer than the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Ultramarathons vary wildly in their length with some extending over hundreds of miles; many though are in the 30-50 mile mark. Events can also range from taking place over a number of hours to a number of days. In some cases they can last over a week!

Whilst not being a qualifying characteristic of an ultramarathon, largely constant features are the challenging weather conditions, rugged terrain and changing elevation participants must endure during the race. This is because most ultramarathons take place on trails, dirt roads or mountain paths. For example, the Marathon des Sables is a six-day 154 mile trek through the Sahara, whilst the H.U.R.T 100 is a 100 mile race taking place in the mountains outside of Honolulu. During the H.U.R.T 100 competitors must race along a root-infested single track, traversing multiple rocky streams and at time phases of seemingly impenetrable jungle. If this is scaring you away for the sport of ultrarunning don’t turn away just yet as these are two of the toughest ultramarathons in the world!

Why Louise?

During 2017 Louise will be running a number of ultramarathons. So far the list stands at 8 with 3 already completed. We’re thrilled to have someone like Louise represent us as an ambassador. Ultra marathons encapsulate the spirit of ‘explore and discover’; packing up your kit and heading out on an adventure somewhere on this spectacular planet of ours. 

We sat down with Louise to ask her a few questions about her ultra running activities.


Q:How did you come to be an ultra runner?

A:I was signed up to do an ultra race by someone else! My partner at the time had the crazy idea that it was something we could do for ‘together’ time. It was the first race I’d ever run and I only had 6 months to train for it. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or of the intensity of running long distances. Bizarrely though after the first race I was hooked and I’ve continued to run…

Which has been your toughest event?

A:The toughest, both physically and mentally, was the Ultra Great Britain 200 mile race, which I ran last August. It’s a non-stop race along the Trans Pennine trail from Southport to Hornsea, so right across the north! The race has a 100-hour cut off meaning any sleep time is minimal. The checkpoints were roughly 30 miles apart and it was all self-navigation. Navigating, running and thinking all at the same time is challenging enough but add tiredness, darkness and poor weather into the mix and it’s a real killer! 

Which is your favourite event you’ve ever taken part in?

A:The Ultra Great Britain 200 mile race! I learnt a lot about myself, and about what the human body can endure. Now to go further!

Which events are you taking part in this year?

A:I have many endurance races, all over the world!

  • St Illtyds 100k – Wales,
  • Transvulcania 50 miles – Canary Islands
  • West Country 100 miles – Somerset
  • Mozart 100 – Austria
  • Thames Ring 250 miles – London
  • Snowdonia trail marathon –Wales
  • Go Brutal Ultra – Manchester
  • Fire and Ice Ultra 250km – Iceland
  • LonLas 250 mile Ultra – Wales

Just a taste of my year!!

Your next event is ‘Transvulcania’. Can you tell us a bit about it?

A:Transvulcania is part of the ‘Skyrunning’ series. It’s a 74km race in La Palma, Canary Islands. Sound glamorous? Well, add to the mix the fact that it goes straight up the side of a volcano and starts in the dark and all of a sudden it may not be so appealing! 

The race features a total 4,350m of ascent and contestants alternate between running through the clouds and the beating sun. The trails are for the most part rocky but there are also stretches of volcanic sand later in the course. 

’Transvulcania’ describes itself as without a doubt ‘one of the toughest trail running races in the world’. Nervous or can’t wait to take it on?

A:I’m not going to lie I am the most nervous I’ve ever been! This race is contested by the elite of ultra running royalty. I’m swinging between excitement and feeling totally unworthy. Failure is not an option.

Which pieces of Tribe kit will you be taking with you?

A:Starting off I’ll have my engineered zip jacket on as a 6am start can often be quite chilly. I’ll also be wearing my panelled vest and 3inch shorts. 

How would you convince a runner to give ultramarathons a go?

A: Just do it! Ultramarathons are a wonderful way to see places from a different perspective and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of discovering as you run! My first race was in 2012 and since then I’ve travelled all over the UK and beyond, meeting fantastic people in wonderful places. The Ultra Running community is like no other: inclusive, friendly, helpful and supportive. It’s not so much about competing, it’s more about completing!

Have you got any motivational tips for anyone training for their first long distance race?

A:Train your mind as well as your body. If you go into a race believing you can't do it the chances are you won’t. As we say ‘the voice inside your head telling you that you can’t, is a LIAR!’.

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