Confessions Of An Ultra Runner

Now that I can officially call myself an ultramarathon runner, I think it’s about time that I come clean about what this gloriously graceful sport has done to me over the past few months…

Thus, I will use this space on my wall, my friends, to confess some of my deepest, darkest running secrets (in no particular order):

  • Members of my inner posse take great joy in belittling the fact that I wear dresses, skirts and shorts only in combination with boots. My well-rehearsed response to this is to merrily claim that the cowgirl look is a deliberate attempt to honour the years of my life that I spent living in the Wild West. But deep inside, I know that the world is just not ready to be exposed to the carnage that is my toenails.
  • Whenever I happen to run an 8 minute mile, I consider my weekly sprint workout completed.
  • My speedwork consists almost exclusively of people-leking these days. You know, I go out for a run, but instead of running intervals or even doing a fartlek session, I just run a little faster whenever there’s someone around who can actually see me.
  • After I run, I usually devour volumes of food that would probably leave a beast emerging from hibernation feel somewhat queasy. What I really mean to say is that I pretty much always eat anything that isn’t nailed down somehow. As far as nutritional strategies go, that one’s a winner.
  • In order to run, I bribe myself with chocolate. A lot. Need to get up that hill? Have chocolate at the top! Feeling tired after 25km? No problem! I just tell myself that I can have a Snickers when I reach 30 km… It works every time. However, I have no idea how I’ll ever race a marathon again (that doesn’t involve a chocolate orgy and associated bribery).
  • At the end of a long run, I find nothing more comforting than immediately getting out of my sweaty running clothes and into something warm, dry and comfy. That’s precisely how I came to stand in the buff in full view of a group of hardcore bikers in a parking lot the other day. I’m not even ashamed.
  • While I’m on the topic of cozy clothes: because my pyjamas happen to be the most comfy clothes that I own, it’s only logical that I should change into them after a long run, right? Then I drive home. I pity the fool who thinks that this attire would somehow deter me from walking into a petrol station and buying a Cornetto for the road.
  • Toilet paper is the single most important piece of kit I carry. It’s never on any mandatory kit list and nobody ever dares talk about it (as though it’s against some secret code… hang on, is there a secret code?!?). However, it’s hands down the biggest life saver out there, ever.
  • Hills are to me now what a bell was to Pavlov’s dog… The association between inclines and food has become so robust in my head that my stomach actually grumbled the other day when I was driving up a multi-storey carpark ramp. It defies the laws of my nature to attempt a hill workout in the absence of a Snickers bar. Yes, that includes hill sprints night at my local running club. I don’t care about the funny looks I get, it takes either a lot of chocolate or a violent temper tantrum to get me up those hills.
  • And finally, I’m beginning to think that I may be committing an act of fraud by calling myself a runner. In reality, I do a lot of plodding around. Downhill sections see my technique and form change to something that might best be described as “controlled falling”. And whenever I’m faced with any hill that might actually be a worthy opponent, it automatically triggers a “fuel break” response, which forces me to walk while stuffing something calorific in my face all the way up. At best, I think it’s fair to say that the notion of me being a runner has a tenuous relationship with the truth.


(A rare sight: a fledgling ultramarathon runner caught in the act of running)

“Enjoying your runs will be the make or break of whether you stick with it or not. Quite simply, if we don’t enjoy something, we don’t do it!”

–       Sara Kirkham

34 thoughts on “Confessions Of An Ultra Runner

  1. theblogrunner says:

    Ha ha! You made me laugh so much I almost choked on my chocolate chip cookie! 😀
    Best of luck with the race! 🙂

  2. Hilarious. Great post. 🙂

  3. Rachel B says:
    Your post reminded me of this 🙂 loved everything you wrote – pretty much nailed what I’m coming to love as the essence of ultra running. I don’t paint my toenails anymore because: a) I only really have 7 nice looking ones and b) it draws attention to my nasty feet. AMEN to snickers being great run fuel.. and life fuel for that matter!

  4. Haha that made me laugh! You’re quite right, pyjamas are the comfiest. I’ve actually toyed with putting mine on to come home from the gym but never actually done it. Yet…

  5. piratebobcat says:

    Haha, that’s quite a list of confessions there. Careful, we may have to use some against you later! 😉 And yes, you are a runner, stop all the questioning nonsense!

    • I’ve handed all incriminating evidence over to the state, indeed… Bring it on. 😉 Thank you for still believing that I’m actually a runner, albeit a slightly unhinged one. 😉

  6. Chris P says:

    Loved this post. You do seem a bit different now that you are in the ultra-runner’s club.

    I’m not an ultra-runner, but I see my black toenails as badges of honor. I hope you are mostly recovered by now.

    • Thank you, Chris! I’m feeling great – I looked at some sandals yesterday, but decided that I wasn’t kidding anyone… so I bought a new pair of Fellraisers and went for a run in the mountains, and felt fantastic! 😀 My feet definitely bear the scars of the battles I have run… 😉

  7. Kristin says:

    I loooove this post and I love bribing myself with chocolate!! Hehe!!! XOXO!!!

  8. Haha love this post! I am also a huge fan of my pyjamas and comfy close after a run + a cup of tea on the sofa is my idea of heaven!!

    • I couldn’t agree more! Only, because I often run up north in the mountains, I have a few hours of driving to do before I can curl up on my couch. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a cup of tea and ice-cream in my car on the way home… Why ever would it?

  9. Lily says:

    I’m glad to have gotten a glimpse into the life of an ultra runner! I am now craving chocolate though, which rarely happens.

  10. Angie says:

    Great post. Chocolate and food rewards get me through every work-out. I’m so glad I’m not alone. Although I likely don’t run long enough to warrant eating so much of it.

  11. OMG! THis one by faaaaaar is one of my most favorite posts to date. I enjoyed reading it very much, which involved giggling/laughing… lots of it! I can see how you could be bribed by Snickers. I don’t know how I haven’t come up with this idea on my own. SNICKERS LOVE all the way ❤ xoxo

  12. This post has me laughing so hard! I love your confessions! Bribery in the form of chocolate is brilliant! 😀 No question, you ARE a runner and you’re going to do great in your next race! I can only hope that one day I will be bad ass (and crazy) enough to become an ultra runner! 😉

    • Anyone can be an ultra-plodder like me. It really doesn’t take much. Just a bunch of time… A love of being out and about in natural settings is a bonus, but not a requirement. There’s always chocolate to keep you going… 😉

  13. Trails and Ultras says:

    People-leking! That must be when I think ‘I’ll walk when I get to that rock’ and then some hikers appear from nowhere. Damn you, hikers! Then I have to keep running. Sometimes they’ll say ‘ooh well done you’ and I just snarl back at them. Grr.

  14. vttrailgirl says:

    What a great post! Thanks for humor.

  15. As ever, hilarious, but this also made me feel so much better about my own plodding! I’m “running” my first 50 miler in three weeks and my long hilly runs are down to a pace that I would have called a brisk walk in marathon training. 8 minute miles = speed workout absolutely! 😀 You’re my hero. (I can also recommend peanut M&Ms for their built in anti-melt-everywhere casing!)

    • Oooh, that’s so cool Ela, best of luck with the ultra! I can’t wait to hear all about it. Honestly, I very much enjoyed my first ultra of 55 miles so much. I had braced myself for many struggles, but in reality it was just an amazing experience. I got quite tired of course, but nothing drastic by anyone’s standards. I hope you’ll have as much fun with it as I had! And keep munching those M&Ms. 😉

      • Thanks! Also, to let you know you’re spreading the joy of proper trail running, I was inspired by you and Trails and Ultras to do some actual fell running during my holiday in the Lakes last week! I used to think that kind of trail running was for serious, GPS-savvy mountainy types only, but you guys’ stories of wild running got me out for a gorgeous 19 miler round the fells! 😀 Thanks!

      • Awesome! I love running in the Lakes, it’s so incredibly beautiful there. I’m glad you gave it a shot and had fun! 😀

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