I had the opportunity to experience my first Ultramarathon this past weekend – although not from a runner’s perspective sadly! My friends UltraMiker and Dave who I ran with last weekend were racing in the D33 – race one of the 2011 Scottish Ultra Marathon series, and the only North East Scotland Ultra that I know of. It starts at 9am in the Duthie Park and consists of 33 relentless miles up the Deeside railway line (As seen in my training runs HERE) all the way to Banchory and back. Mike and Dave were hoping to come in around 4hrs 30m so I headed down for 1pm with my camera, unsure of what to expect but just glad to support my friends.
I met up with Annette, Mike’s fiancee, who was taking pictures of all the runners as they came in. There was maybe about 25 people milling around at the finish; either marshalls, race finishers or people awaiting their runners. The first thing I noticed was the re-fuelling tent – tressel tables covered in home baked cup cakes, flapjacks, quiches, marshmallows, jelly beans, and all to be washed down with crates of Stella and personalised memento bottles of Brew Dog 77 Lager. The organising crew/marshalls were all clearly having a blast and greeted each finishing runner as if they were long lost friends. I’m sure George the organiser knew many of them personally, but the atmosphere was one of acceptance and achievement; these runners were coming in after a long slog and a hug, a handshake, a beer and a fairycake served with a huge round of applause welcomed them home.
I found it interesting to look at the runners and compare them to the people i’ve been sharing my running field with recently. Each one of them seemed to carry some kind of eccentricity, whether it be tartan cycling shorts, a wild beard or running barefoot. They were all so friendly though! So nice to one another, there seemed to be little emphasis on competative spirit yet a huge emphasis on completing the race and coming home with a smile. From what I’ve already heard about the ultra running community this did not come as a surprise.
Standing there waiting for Mike and Dave I heard accents from around the world – I’d be curious to know if people had travelled from outside the UK to do the race. It’s only the second running of the D33 but I know that ultra runners will happily fly around the world to try a new race and meet up with new and old friends. What I found most unusual was the fact that the finishers I saw didn’t look like the severe athletes I see at the start lines of 10ks or the other races I do – no lean, sinewy 0% fat bodies here, no nonchalant side glances from beneath Oakley sunglasses at fellow competitors – just normal looking happy folks who just happen to be extraordinary at endurance running. The men tended to be tall and muscular, the women short and trim. The average age must have been 35 and above – no super-sonic 15 year olds here either. They all looked like experienced runners who’ve been running a life time already and had the tales to prove it.
I can imagine that to an outsider knowing no-one, entering an Ultra would seem quite intimidating as they all seem to know each other already (or do they just chat so much en route that they know each other by the end anyway?!). However I came away from the finish line having cheered Mike and Dave in feeling greatly encourageds – if they can do it, why can’t I? I have two legs and two lungs don’t I? I’d love to be able to run the D33 some day soon. It’s great that the first race in the SUMS calendar is on my doorstep. Now that I know that running doesn’t stop with marathons, it’s good to have something to aim for. All I’ve ever wanted to do is achieve the best that I can – so knowing that distances like this exist will only push me further to do better, run longer, sprint faster.
Oh, and hello?! Any kind of racing that involves…nay, ENCOURAGES the consumption of beer and cake during and at the finish is all right with me. Sign me up.
Here’s Mike coming in:
I wish I could quote him exactly, but when I asked him how his legs were feeling he said something along the lines of “Oh, aye nae bad…not bad for a training run at all”…!
And here’s Dave: