Amazing Stories to Inspire Your Ultra Running
Words by: Alice Morrison, Editor of RunUltra
The adrenaline and camaraderie felt at the start line for a race generate an extraordinary buzz – one that all ultra runners know and love. But what do you do when that begins to fade? Or you decide that being in the throng is not for you and you want to be out there alone in the vast wilderness?
You plan, train for and set out on a big adventure all on your tod, of course... But running alone takes additional motivation, so here are 3 of our favourite ultra stories to ignite your ultra ambitions...
Ascends Everest twice in one week
Image source: Summits of my Life
Let's start with a big one. Remember this is for inspiration, NOT to make you feel inadequate...honest.
Kilian is possibly the world's greatest ultra runner and is someone who is always pushing the barriers of what is feasible for the human body to accomplish. He won Hardrock 100 in spite of dislocating his shoulder and has made it his quest to run up the highest mountains in the world and set new speed records (Summits of My Life).
In May, he realised his dream of running up Everest, ascending via the North Face in a single climb, without the use of oxygen or fixed ropes. Not satisfied with doing it once, he rested-up and then did it again within the week. It somehow sounds easy when you write it down, but it took four years for him to conquer the world's highest mountain - having failed on previous attempts, and on the day he overcame stomach problems. There is no doubt that Jornet is an insanely talented runner with a mind of steel and it is hard to not be inspired by his values.
"It was an incredible feeling, to be for the first time on the summit of Everest in the middle of the night with nobody around."
Read more about Kilian's climbs up Everest.
The long trail
Image source: www.findingtractionfilm.com
The Long Trail is a 272 mile trail through Vermont, which crosses the state's Green (but not necessarily pleasant!) Mountains. It requires 20,420+ metres of climbing; for those who are counting, that is 2 ½ Everests.
Nikki undertook the run with a mission in mind. Her primary goal was to inspire women and girls of all ages to prove women have an equal place in professional sports. As part of her effort, she raised money for Girls on the Run.
Her plan was to finish in just four days. If she had accomplished it, that would have set a new best for men's and women's attempts. The journey took longer than expected, but her time of 5 days, 7 hours and 42 minutes still ranks in the top speed records of all time.
401 marathons in 401 days
Image source: Fiona Outdoors
As a gay teenager, Ben was bullied terribly at school. The persecution led to depression and failed suicide attempts before he'd even finished college. As life took its course, he discovered running and never looked back. In 2016, he made it his mission to run 401 marathons in 401 days - an incredible 10,506 miles. To finance it, he sold his house.
During the run, he burned over 2.5 million calories, wore out 22 pairs of trainers and gave 101 motivational talks to raise awareness of bullying. When he ran his 53rd marathon on October 23, he broke the Guinness World Record for the most marathons on consecutive days.
Of course, that intensity of running took its toll on his body, and he suffered some excruciating injuries including a stress fracture in his toe, painful tendonitis and many coughs and colds. Most seriously, however, at one stage he was forced to rest up for several days with a back injury. The pain was so bad he could barely stand. Doctors told him that it was related to an umbilical hernia, but he got through it and ran extra miles later on to compensate for the break.
Ben is absolute proof that if you have enough will, you CAN achieve anything. "My story really started when I was 29 and I suffered a TIA [mini stroke]," he said. "I was about 16.5 stone [105kg], overweight, unhealthy, smoked, drank – I couldn't even run for a bus. If somebody had told me four years ago that I'd be doing this, I probably would have sunk my pint, lit my cigarette up and laughed at them. My life has changed dramatically after finding running, both physically and from a confidence point of view as well."
Read more about Ben's 401 marathons.
A final thought...
One of the fantastic things about ultra running is that it doesn’t see age, gender, race or disability. It just sees ability. Women regularly win ultras outright; Marco Olmo won Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, the most iconic mountain race on the planet, for the first time at the age of 58; and Duncan Slater just became the first double amputee to complete the Marathon Des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth.
Not all athletes who take on these incredible journeys are elites or professionals. In fact, the majority are "ordinary" people who are imbued with a spirit of adventure and driven by an iron will.