You'll generally get three types of response when you mention the phrase Ultramarathon, depending on your audience. They generally range from wow, through mental to, "that's not really an ultra". The latter we will leave in the hands of those precious few in the running community who feel the need to argue over its definition.
For clarity, the official definition of an ultra is anything past the marathon, or 26.2 miles. However, the shortest standard distance that is considered an ultra is the 50 kilometer distance (31.07 miles) - sourced from What is Ultra Running?
By any definition, last Saturday's Humanity Direct Amersham Ultra was my first foray into ultramarathon running, the first of five I will be attempting this year for my chosen charities, in addition to twelve marathons. In the days beforehand and on the day itself, I was strangely relaxed. After so many marathons where there has been the desire to run a specific time, it was great to arrive at race day with no such demands on self. The aim of Saturday was enjoyment, to take in a beautiful course of footpath, bridleway, mud tracks and fields in the Chilterns.
Race HQ was thoughtfully (or accidentally chosen!) by the Extreme Energy crew; it really is so much easier to take part in races where the start / finish areas are close to public transport, and the race village for this event was no more than a 5 minute walk from Amersham Station. I did chuckle to myself on the train up to Amersham on Saturday morning; there was more than the odd knowing look to other passengers followed by "I'm assuming we're both headed to the same place." Distance runners are definitely not too difficult to pick out in a suburban crowd.
The day itself was great, a really friendly and well organised event bringing together a fusion of high quality runners, beginners and walkers. Staggered starting times meant that there was plenty of encouragement at all times on the course from others; personally, I take great pleasure in encouraging and congratulating others on their efforts, often remembering how difficult I once found this running malarkey.
The route was beautifully picturesque, as befits the area. While it was not flat, there were only a couple of climbs to take the breath away, I remember specifically a steep climb up a mud track just beyond Chesham Station and a long climb at about the 29 mile mark back into Amersham.
The volunteers were helpful and enthusiastic, and the aid stations well stocked! The support from the race crew and fellow participants alike was also brilliant. I did manage to get lost on one occasion very near the end but the course was otherwise brilliantly signposted.
Overall, a tremendously well organised event from the team at Extreme Energy and based on this experience one I would highly recommend; in fact, I'd recommend to the point that I've signed up for their Tring 50km Ultra in September.
Overall reflections on my first Ultra are very positive. Off-road / Trail running challenges mind and body in a very different way to a road event, but the opportunity for solitude in such picturesque surroundings was like manna from Heaven to the introvert in me. A time of 4:48:44 placed me 15th of the 104 finishers, but what I also learnt is that Ultra running doesn't require ruminations about time and PB but is a perfect opportunity for reflection while challenging your mind and body appropriately. Thanks to everyone at Extreme for a great event for a super charity in Humanity Direct, see you all soon!
Stepping Into The Unknown: Humanity Direct Amersham Ultra
Copyright 2016. Rohan Kallicharan. All Rights Reserved.
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