Endurance Racing is for Everyone

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The former army captain got his first taste for adventure in the military, and since then has been utterly addicted to the rush of ultramarathons.

“The army taught me that I’m much more capable than I thought,” he says. “It was the first time I really went out of my comfort zone. Within five weeks I’d done a 60-mile march. I’d never done a half-marathon or even a 10km before that. It gave me a curiosity. When I left the army at 31, I needed a new identity and so I decided to become an ultrarunner. After my first ultra, I swore I’d never do another. I was bleeding from places that I thought it was impossible to bleed from. I couldn’t get out of the car, I couldn’t go down the stairs. Then somehow, a day passes and you forget the pain and anguish, and before you know it, you’re signing up for the next one. Once you taste the discomfort and excitement and euphoria of going beyond what you thought you could do, it becomes quite addictive.”

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Fear of failure

“Even now I have dark moments during a race, but afterwards I think it’s fantastic. I know during my next race I’ll think, ‘You idiot, why didn’t you train more, what were you thinking?’ but I will finish it because the fear of failure lives with you forever. It’s easy to quit but quitting lasts forever.”

Ultras are for everyone

“Everyone can do these races – absolutely. It just depends on how quickly you want to do them. As you get older, most people get less quick, so we replace speed with endurance. The older you are, the stronger you are, and the greater your ability to withstand pain. As long as you slowly build up your confidence by running further and further, anyone literally can run the distance. Endurance races are not the preserve of super-elite athletes. I’ve seen people with missing limbs who have done them. It’s all in your head: once you tell yourself you can do it, then you can.”

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Know your enemies

“You don’t go from not being able to walk up the stairs to running an ultra in a week – it takes time. You can start off with a 5km parkrun, then do a 10km, then a half-marathon, then a marathon. Your biggest enemies are injury and telling yourself that you can’t.”

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Social media has fuelled ultra expansion

“It’s all about inflating egos. People like to be able to show off what they’ve done. So they started looking for something harder to raise more money.”

The “one-night stand” of fitness?

“Doing ultramarathons is a bit like serial dating. You can bounce from one date to another every weekend without enough time to get to know them. Sometimes there’s a danger that you do too much and you don’t focus enough on one or two races, because you get addicted.

“I don’t want to call it a one-night stand but it verges on that for some people who treat ultramarathons like notches on a bedpost. You need to not get too obsessed and try to space the marathons out to focus and enjoy them.”

50 Races To Run Before You Die is out now, £16.99, buy on amazon.co.uktobiasmews.com


Deborah has been a journalist since 2014 and contributed to the print edition of Coach. She has written for a range of titles, including Women’s Health, Good to Know, Stylist and many others.