Ultra running is here. It may have been less ‘mainstream’ for a number of years but as it gains more and more popularity (thanks to books such as Born to Run by Chris McDougall), the boundaries of what we once thought was impossible for humans is now being pushed into the ‘possible’ zone – and more people want to have a crack at being ultra.
After witnessing first hand this weekend the effect of an ultra running event on a local running community, I can definitely say it brings out the best in people. The HURT 100 mile ultra race on Oahu is organised by a committed group of locals who have been running the trails for, well, quite a while… Hundreds of volunteers also turn out every year to man the aid-stations: handing out home-made food and tummy-settling drinks; re-filling bladders and bottles with electrolytes or water; and even providing cold, damp towels to mop sweaty brows! There is also a HURT patrol group who run sections of the course to keep an eye on folks, and many local runners also act as pacers for their friends or runners from out of town.
The event is notoriously tough – the course is riddled with roots and rocks, and the route, five circuits of a 20 mile loop comprises of “24,500 feet of cumulative elevation gain (and 24,500 feet of cumulative loss)“, all according the race handbook. Basically if you’re not going up, then you’re going down – unforgiving. But wait, there is one flat section – only it’s on the road and at about 200m long, which equates to about 1% of the course…
The race started on a beautiful Oahu morning, with light breezes and sunny skies, and with little rainfall in the days prior to the race, conditions underfoot were ideal. Ultimately a new and incredible course record was set by Gary Robbins who finished in 19:35!!
Hannah Roberts was the first woman to finish (read her brilliant race report HERE), beating her own personal best time for the course by 3hrs, crossing the line in 25:41. Candice Burt who finished strongly in third, despite spraining her ankle on the first loop, neatly outlines the HURT 100 experience on her website Wild Defined. And out of the seven women who finished, Catra Corbett, aka Dirt Diva writes with joy on her blog about the HURT 100 having taken part in every race since it’s inception in 2001 and completing the full distance a fantastic six times!
Deservedly the race was given some attention by Runner’s World HERE, but really the short description does not do justice to the atmosphere or spirit of the event, which, when it comes to a group of sports people getting together to complete an event, doesn’t get much more happily competitive…
An event such as a 100 mile race demands so much from an individual physically and mentally, in preparation for, and on the day of, that when finally the event is over, the emotional release of all the pre and during-run apprehension can be overwhelming.
Mark Speck, a speedy local Oahu runner for who the HURT 100 was his first ever 100 mile ultra run, described the experience succinctly:
“This episode in my life has been quite humbling and I think any kind of success (which we can define in many ways) I can expect in the ultrasport world, will require my ego staying home.”
Personally I took part as a volunteer at the Pirate-themed Paradise Park aid station and also as a pacer for Johnny Landeza. The race didn’t go Johnny’s way, but 67 miles later he was still smiling from ear to ear – full of praises for everyone who had helped him reach that point! It was memorable to be out on the trails as the sun rose over the ridgelines – and watch the runners tip-toe in and out of the aid station, cow-bells announcing their arrival.
Is ultra running the proof that we are all capable of so much more than we realise? Maybe. It certainly seems to require a certain strength of character, and body! But whether it’s 1 mile or a 100 miles, 10k or 100ks of running – it really doesn’t matter, as long as you give it every ounce of your attention, leave your ego at home, and come away smiling – you are already ultra.
Congrats to everyone who was in some way connected to the HURT 100, it was an epic weekend!