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Thoughts from the Tribe: Why I Run Ultras

‘Could I run an ultra marathon?’ - it’s a question many of us have asked ourselves (with varying degrees of seriousness) at some point in our running journey. We wanted to ask for the ultra runners from our Tribe their thoughts on what drew them to the longest of distances and why they return time after time.

The one stand out comment from all our Tribe’s thoughts was the strength of the ultra running community and the camaraderie and support it provides. With a focus more on distance than time, the strong competitive streak of the clock gives way to the achievement of completing the course. 

Tribe ultra run

“Ultra running just fits into who I am as a person.”

Montana: @thats_ultra_tana

“If you’re going to do something, you might as well reallllllyyyy do it! I love the feeling of seeing what my body can do and what I could achieve. I like to push my boundaries. My philosophy is always about imperfect action. If there is a run I want to do and it seems daunting, because of elevation or miles, I just go for it. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or if you can’t complete it, just go for it. Most of the time if I just get out and make ‘imperfect action’ I tend to actually do what I wanted to achieve. I love being outdoors, and as long as I love being out and running I will keep doing it - and probably imperfectly!”

"So many people run marathons and I wanted to push myself harder. I got into ultra running when I wanted to do something for charity. I ran a lot anyway, so the only way to get support I thought was to go to the extreme. I love the outdoors and North Wales is my playground. I trail run, hike, rock climb and wild swim. I love challenges and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. The feeling of achievement when you’ve run an ultra is just awesome too! Most people think we are mad (including my own mother!) but I think it makes you feel wild again, free and strong. Running too is such a mental battle, it has taught me so much about resilience, which I can use in all walks of life."

"On May 15th 2021, I will be undertaking a 24hr Ultra Marathon, solo and self supported. I will be aiming to run 80+ miles of trail and hills, without sleep, all within 24hrs. Pushing myself both physically and mentally further than I have ever been, to raise money for two charitable causes, very close to my heart. I am so excited, scared and anxious about the challenge but know I will get through it.The exhaustion and pain of moving for 24hrs is nothing, not compared to the battles these charities face every single day."

Top Tip:Just go for it! If you’re thinking about it, then you’ve got the ultra madness, so embrace it and just do it!

You can donate to Montana's 24 Ultra here.

Ultra run

“A day on the trails is always a great day.” 

Jamie: @jamieultrarunner

“For me, ultra trail running is about pushing my limits to see what I’m capable of. Humans are designed to run long distances, but in modern society we have no need for it. I wonder what we would have been capable of when we had to run to survive. And then with that comes that capacity to cover massive distances at speed, in training and in races. There is nothing more satisfying than arriving somewhere on foot you previously thought was only accessible by other forms of transport.”

“Compared to road running, ultra trail running is more often about the camaraderie and enjoyment you take away from the experience. They are long enough that you can actually enjoy the first half of the race unlike shorter distances when you go gung ho from the start. They also tend to be set in ludicrously picturesque locations! This phrase also helps remind me in the latter stages of a race that I chose to do it and that I owe it to myself and the race to keep pushing.”

“I find it incredibly rewarding to be part of the ultra running community, as I think it is one of those rare groups where you naturally want to give back more than you take; from using your last dregs of energy to shout an encouraging cheer, to picking up litter as you go around a race course. It's all positivity and run chat, what’s not to like!”

Top Tip:If you sign up to one, be prepared to do a lot more. Ultrarunning is seriously addictive. Think of the number of people you have met who have only done one ultramarathon.

Ultra running

“It is an unstoppable force, without running I don't feel like myself.”

Anna-Marie: @rfmcoaching (Photo credit: Ben Psaila)

“Running is a sanity check. It's about getting outside of myself, getting outside of my head, getting connected to my body, and being a part of something bigger. I just feel more alive and free, it just takes me away. It's a form of escapism from the everyday, where you get stuck into your routines. There are three key parts which forms the basis for my ultra-running philosophy: ‘Challenge yourself. Be curious. And most importantly - have fun!”

“Going long is simply an extension of this feeling and there are a whole host of other benefits; gaining confidence and belief in myself from a physical, mental and emotional perspective which then links back into my work, relationships and attitude to life. Gaining a sense of empowerment and achievement as I focus on a specific goal and surpass my aspirations, meeting so many amazing individuals who constantly inspire me with their determination and drive and exploring stunningly beautiful remote parts of the world which would otherwise be impossible to access. Simply watching the first tendrils of light creep across the sky as dawn arrives after running through the darkness for hours makes me feel so lucky to be alive.”

“Ultra-running is hard work; though with everything in life without sounding like a total cliché you reap what you sow. It takes discipline, perseverance and determination, though over time the results speak for themselves. Everyone has training sessions and races that don’t go according to plan; but it’s how you choose to respond which makes the difference. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. I’ve been in tears of frustration, tiredness and joy along the way and you can draw a comparison from ultra-running as a metaphor for life.”

Top Tip: If you’ve got a tiny voice inside softly whispering, “I wonder if I could do an ultra,” listen to it. Dream, research, plan, train and prepare.  

Ultra running

“Ultra running gives me the chance to explore new places and to see how far I can run.”

Daniel: @daniveyrunner

“Having spent years running 10k, half marathon and marathon road races, I was starting to feel the need to explore more of my local area and was starting to find running the same roads a tad repetitive and boring. I'd often run past the entrance to a trail and think to myself 'I wonder where that leads' but my main worry was getting lost and ending up miles from home. As I started to run down some trails I found the complete joy of a trail through some trees, along a river and seeing the sunshine through the trees - I started to feel that I could run further for longer and the joy that it brings.”

“It took a while for me to find my way when I moved from road running to ultra trail running. I had the mindset of speed over distance and would always try to aim for running say a 45 minute 10k, and I used to get annoyed at myself if I found my time slipping. When I started to find some trails and run them - it was almost a relief that I had found time away from the roads - a place where I could run as slow as I wanted and not worry about stopping and if anyone was looking at me and wondering why I had stopped during my run. My ultra running philosophy is one of distance over time - and time on your feet (I regularly stop and take some photos) - what's the point in getting up before the sunrise if you don't stop and take it all in now and again."

“It’s a very unique community because there is less of a competitive edge to trail ultra running and more of a spirit of adventure and supporting one another. I guess it is because the trail ultras are tough - and everyone who runs ultras is experiencing the same highs and lows - walking when you want to and having to learn to eat on the go and fuel correctly. I mean, you do have to be slightly mad to even consider running more than a marathon across mud, grass, puddles and rivers in all weather but that's what makes for a challenge and if it doesn't challenge you and you don't enjoy it - then why do it?”

Top Tip:Remember thatultra running is more about seeing how far you can go and the experience that goes with it - worry less about the time it takes and more about the challenge and the experience.

Do our Tribe’s adventures inspire you to try an ultra? Let us know and tag us into your ultra adventures. Thank you very much to Anna-Marie, Daniel, Jamie and Montana for sharing their thoughts and adventures.

1 Response

David Tregelles

David Tregelles

August 26, 2021

Thought a coastal marathon was hard enough but went and did it twice at the age of 50 now concidering a ultra at 59 coast to coast family think I am mad.

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