By default to be part of Ultra168, we all have to love and be ultra runners, but as our individual profiles depict, we all got into this crazy pastime in different ways and we to this day are motivated for different reason. With this thought in mind, it is always so great to hear about other runners making the step up from their normal long run to having a crack at the really long stuff and recalling some of the barriers they had to overcome to get not only to the start line but to actually finish.
When I was a recent guest of the Salomon International Trail Running Team at the Kilian’s Classik in the Pyrenees a few weeks ago, I met a fellow pom who not only had a great running pedigree but also fantastic motivation to get out on the trails and roads to run. His name is Matt Green and he is a member of Team Venom, who run on behalf of ABF The Soldiers Charity which raises money for servicemen and families of the British Armed Forces. Getting to know Matt over the week through training runs and , drinks at the bar and workshop sessions, he let slip that he was running his first ever ultra, the Grimsthorpe Ultra 70 miler around the country estate of Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire.
Matt was like all of us, when trying something new for the first time, a series of questions flowed the first night at the bar with topics ranging around nutrition, foot care, motivation and what to do when the going ultimately got tough. Matt was in luck as sitting at the bar with us that night was none other than Stu Gibson, who knows a thing or two about running ultras pretty darn quickly. As with anything in life, you are always learning and it was great to hear tips and tricks from some of the worlds best runners on what they did to get them through the low patches of these longer runs. It was very clear to me that Matt took everything on board and was going back to the UK with a great list of do’s and dont’s that would obviously play out over the course of 113 km’s.
The good news is that Matt not only finished his first ultra but also snagged 4th place to boot! Below are some words he put together post race to go some way to describing what he went through. So much of what he says is true not only during your first ultra but all ultras, and that is why we at Ultra168 salute runners like Matt on a great debut and welcome to the “Dark Side”
Race Report by Matt Green: “I’ve never stood on a start line and felt like that before. I simply couldn’t comprehend what I was about to start, up until that day the furthest I had run in one day was 28miles on a training run, about three months ago. Despite the curiosity I felt reassured for three reasons. I was fortunate enough to be kitted up in some really great Salomon kit, I was running with team mate Adam, one of the Iron Man Elite and I had got advice from some of the best Ultra runners and Trail runners in the world.
Adam and I had spent the 24hours prior to the race taking about tactics how best we were to tackle the 70miles that lay ahead. Not to mention questioning what on earth we had got ourselves in for!
As advised we started from the back and settled straight into our race rhythm, others quickly disappeared into the wood, I was confident we’d see them again. Our refuelling schedule kicked in at 20mins in, peanut butter sandwiches were munched and electrolytes swirled. When the first 20miles was up we began to see some familiar faces, we were catching people. Both Adam and I were finding it hard to keep a slow steady pace and our bodies were aching to switch to 10mile race pace. One by one over the next 30 miles we passed our fellow competitors by.
Salomon S-Lab 4’s gliding across the long wet grass, mile 35 ticked by, the Garmin beeped and I reached for my food, an oat bar, but it wasn’t staying down. I was hoping that I could stick to solids for longer than this, but i persuaded myself that it was better to go to gels than try forcing stuff in that would make me feel worse.
We were both running without support crew, re-loading ourselves after every 10mile loop. Thinking of everything I wanted as I packed was hard as we were so focused on our race rhythm.
One thing was true, everytime we came into the checkpoint we had smiles on our faces, laughing and joking much of the way round. Reciting Muhammad Ali quotes as we ran was one of the many ways we kept up motivation and our spirits high.
I could feel my body asking my mind ‘ahem, what exactly are we doing here? we’ve been running for hours and hours’… the reply was along the lines of ‘shut up and run’.
I found myself switching between being high as a kite and fighting through some dark patches. As I had expected this it made it much easier to deal with.
At about mile 55 I could see Adam was itching to step up the pace, I knew I had to maintain what I was doing to do keep speed up for the last 15 so we parted ways, I saw him slowly move into the distance and I hoped he would bring home a win. The last 5 miles were bloody hard work, I’d been running on gels for a while and fatigue was most definitely knocking on the door. With screaming legs but a huge grin I ran across the finish line.
Adam had finished 2nd and I had 4th, but more importantly we were Ultra runners.”