What is an ultra runner? In the simplest sense, it’s someone who finds pleasure in pushing their body and mind through the torture of running any distance upwards of 26.2 miles (the distance of the good old full marathon of course). But ask a lot of people and the image of an ultra runner would be of some super-human, skinny-boned, gnarled-looking survival specialist.
What is an Ultra runner?? A runner who runs ultramarathons – distances greater than a marathon (26.2 miles). Ultramarathon distances are most commonly 50k, 50 mile, 100k, and 100 mile. Runs can be both road and trail, but usually trail. Ultrarunners are extremely dedicated to their sport and have been found to be some of the most laid-back folks around. They tend to eat like horses, too. Most find them a wee bit eccentric. https://www.urbandictionary.com
A little bit eccentric, eh?? Well the truth is the number of Ultra marathon events has increased by a mind-boggling 1000% in the last decade. And that upward trend is speeding up rather than slowing down. So either everyone is going mad- or this running longer than a full marathon is more attainable than you might think….
What better person to ask about this than the man dubbed The Part time Ultra runner. Steve West has over a decade of running ridiculously long distances under his belt. He’s raised money for charity, and all this while maintaining a job, family life, and (as far as I could tell) his sanity!!.
We picked Steve’s brains to find out what is an ultra runner, what makes them tick, and how can I become one??
How and when did you get started running?
I had been bitten by the bug now so I trained hard and loved it
What’s your favourite distance? Why do you like it?
It must take a certain special kind of motivation to drive you to want to try 40, 50, 100 mile…. so what did it for this part time runner??
After Druids Challenge I was hooked on seeing how far I could go. I tried a 50 miler and survived.
“I’ve done some mad races…….. but, the biggest challenge is life. Ultra running does take commitment. Finding time to train as much as I feel I need to to be confident going into events is hard when you have a full time job, a partner who works full time and 2 young kids. I’ve found a way to fit a lot of training into my week. It’s unusual but it works for me. I run to work in the morning (5/6 miles). I run on a treadmill at lunchtime (4/5 miles or intervals). And I run home (5/6 miles). Most weeks, but definitely not every, I do 7-10 miles on a Saturday and once a month 20-25 miles on a Sunday. In big weeks before big races that’s 80-110 miles a week. A 4am Sunday alarm call isn’t nice but without it the day is ruined and the family suffer. If it did then I wouldn’t do it. Running is hugely important to me and my health, physical and mental but it’s always an easy second to family!”
What are your running plans for the future?
everyone needs long term goals as well as short term ones!
For any beginner runners, what advice would you give?
Running is so easy to get into, just chuck on some shoes, and get out the door. But, unfortunately it’s also just as easy to give up on too. So while I had the ear of someone who’s shown the dedication to keep going at longer and longer challenges I wanted to get some golden tips for those of us who lose their mojo and will to run.
“I’ve seen so many people start running and give up too soon. They expect quick and easy results whether it be losing weight or just getting quicker. It takes commitment and patience but it does happen. If you’re not seeing the results you hoped for don’t give up. Focus on the long term it will happen. You have to enjoy it too. If it is always a chore then you’ll be an easy target for the chimp on your shoulder to convince you it’s just not worth the effort.”“Personally I would say hit the trails. Whilst I train on road it’s a means to an end for trail races. Trail running is sociable. You make new friends. You see amazing scenery. You basically have a lovely day out in the countryside. Surely that’s more fun that staring at someone else’s arse in a road race for a few hours and not chatting to any of the tens of thousands of people that maybe with you who are all anxious about the fact they ran that mile 6 seconds slower than their target pace. There is nothing better in my mind than a day (and night/day/night) in the countryside or mountains for making yourself feel truly alive.”
No arguments from me! Special thanks to Steve for sparing his time to answer my questions. You can follow his inspirational story, running life and charity work on his blog at https://www.theparttimeultrarunner.com and on his facebook page at Theparttimeultrarunner
If you have any views of your own on what is an ultra runner or how to become one, as well as any questions, just drop them in the comments below.