Aug 2014 16

Inside the mind of an ultra runner

By: Dave Wheeler

Tom Forman runs endurance events: he's an ultra runner and blogger.

Mostly recently Tom took part in the 140 mile Whitehaven to Tynemouth Castle across Cumbria and the Peak District.



My name is Tom and I like to participate in endurance events.

When the topic inevitably arises in polite conversation the first question is usually 'why?'. I've thought about the answer long and hard, usually when it's pitch black and I'm planning on running on through the night.


Running: the reason

I don't know why to be honest. If asked when I'm not running I guess I would retort with something similar to the following:

I enjoy the physical and mental challenges that endurance events provide. That feeling on the start line, knowing that in 24 hours time I will not have slept and in reality I could have another 15 hours of running left.

I suppose some people off-load the stresses of life / work by drinking, talking to a professional or seeking comfort in the company of friends. I on the other hand enjoy a 100 mile foot race and some good old British weather.

However during the race, if asked. I haven't got the foggiest why I would put myself through it. I usually just want to cry a little and sleep.


The impact: physical strain

A lot of people mock me, they're of the opinion that unless you belting out at-least 7mph then you're not really running. But realistically if you're running over 100 miles then at some-points - unless your a pro - you're going to stop for a walk.

Nonetheless, the physical strain on the body is immense! Tight tendons, tighter ligaments and swollen ankles / feet are start of the woes.

I've been with runners when their tendons 'go' and witnessed their determination keeping them moving toward the finish line.


The impact: psychology

I've hallucinated during most of my endurance events that take me over 110 miles, but thankfully I usually know that something isn't quite right.

From volcanic ash falling at night (which was actually mist shining in my head torch) and knives littering the path on which I was running, my Shetland-pony sized unicorn and field of tyrannosaurus size llamas. My sub-consciousness always knows how to keep the running fun and light-hearted.

After these events I sometimes experience nightmares that involve me still participating in the event. After the 145 mile ultra marathon Grand Union Canal Race (GUCR) I regularly had nightmares for the next two weeks, constantly dreaming that I was still running along the Grand Union Canal towards London on a small footpath, occasionally I even awoke screaming.



The recovery

With all that said I still continue to run these events, even if I do swear to never run again during the first day of recovery.

People tend to ask how long I take to recovery and they are surprised when I say a few days. Usually I'm up and ready for run within 2 days of recovery unless the event is longer than 160 miles, in which case I need three. But that's just physical recovery.

Mentally I take around a week before i even consider running again, although I know I could start training for my next event, I just can't motivate myself to run.