“What on earth is an ‘ultramarathon’?”, I thought to myself, as I got to the book review section of Metro - the free morning paper on the London Underground.
I had run the London marathon twice and was set to for a third time the following April, but I had never heard of races that were longer. London was the pinnacle of long distance running, right? Wrong.
Backtracking a tad, my commute meant I rarely got as far as the book review section, but on this July day in 2011 the train was delayed and so it was that I stumbled across a chap called Dean Karnazes who had a new book out. Dean ran distances up to, and sometimes over, 100 miles. ‘That’s just not possible’, I thought to myself. Not only were the distances mind boggling, but they were in mountains and deserts, harsh and beautiful conditions all over the world.
“Wow. I’ve just stumbled across something special here…”.
Not just special; my life changed that day. As soon as lunchtime came around, I went straight to the nearest book shop and bought Dean’s book. I devoured it in a single sitting and I haven’t looked back since.
Now I am not a fast runner, but having finished the London marathon twice I had always felt kind of OK. Running didn’t seem to have the pain effect that others felt and I hadn’t hit that mysterious ‘wall’. After signing up to London for the third time, I hadn’t given much thought to what would be next and in truth I wasn’t that motivated. I found road running kind of boring and I didn’t hold out much hope of getting faster.
And I certainly hadn’t considered going further. After all, a marathon was the longest distance anyone ran…until that fateful day.
I scoured the web, I signed up to forums, I ordered other books, I read blogs and I fell in love with ultra. Less runners, more like soldiers marching away across varied terrain with a goal of simply finishing, not on the finish time or splits.
Since that day I have completed many ultramarathons and failed at many too. It is a challenge unlike any other and is the only thing that brings me to my knees and makes me cry. Tears of elation and tears of despair, this is the best thing I have ever found in my life, bar my children. This community gives me a purpose and a meaning. It has created friendships I could have only dreamed of before and I love it more than I can describe.
It has taken me to the wilds of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, to Chamonix and the Alps, to Texas and the Brecon Beacons, the Scottish Highlands, but most importantly it’s made me enjoy the everyday. It’s made me love running and it’s made me love other people better.
That’s why I got off the sofa, and that’s why I will always love Ultra.
Tim Lambert is a #TeamIffley ambassador.