Adventure Races and Ultra Marathons

Adventure Racing is where you race as a team using a variety of different disciplines such as running, cycling, swimming, climbing etc. Not just a marathon but using your brain.

Skills – Strength: 5, Balance: 5, Flexibility: 5, Agility: 5, Coordination: 4
Time needed: several days, Cost to try: £160

Why We Run Adventure Races and Ultra Marathons

by Steve Clark, Sales & Operations Director Across the Divide

The first thing that people ask me with when I talk about running ultra marathons is why I do it? Most just cannot comprehend why anyone would enjoy such a sport. This is not an easy question to answer because let’s face it, running further than a marathon is a very painful experience and hardly what most people would class as a fun day out.

On a very basic level marathons just don’t do it for me. I have only ever run two, the London and Edinburgh marathons, and whilst both are great events, I had no desire to run another. All I was ever going to do was try and beat my own time by training harder and quite frankly I think that there is a whole lot more to life than running.
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I wanted to be tested to my mental and physical limits and really see what I was made of, and fundamentally that is why I love adventure races. Run one and you can learn more about your strengths and weaknesses from one event than you would from a lifetime of listening to motivational speakers, self help gurus and personal development trainers. You also get the time to think how to put it all into practice more than in any other sport I know.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons I learnt along the way is that I am not as tough, both mentally and physically, as I thought I was. I know my limits having tested them to the extreme, but also know I can push much harder than I ever have managed to do to date. On many an ultra I have spent a great deal of time arguing with myself about giving up, about how weak I am, only to find myself hobbling over the finish line with a big grin on my face.
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The Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton really summed this up well at the finish of our Namibia Ultra this year in a piece to camera, where she told the children watching at home that if “people tell you that you can’t achieve something, don’t believe them, because the chances are that you can.” With only three months to train for this event, Helen faced an uphill battle with very few people believing that she could finish the race. Helen showed the most incredible grit, determination and mental strength I have ever seen, to take her over the finish line and in the process become an inspiration and role model for the young children watching.

I also learnt that I love off road ultras. There is such a huge opportunity to get out into wilderness areas away from the beaten track where the scenery (and the hills!) takes your breath away. For me, there is no better example of this than the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon in Iceland. It is the most beautiful run in the hills I have ever done and has such a variety of terrain, smells and weather that keep all the senses overloaded. It is a trail that is normally hiked in four days, but for one day every July, about 200 runners, most of them local Icelandic’s, head out from the thermal springs at Thorsmork, up over the mountains to looks of amazement from the tourists trekking along the trail.
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The best thing about Ultra’s has to be the people that you meet. They seem to be a much friendlier bunch and far more open to helping each other through dark patches on the trails, as they fully understand how hard these events can be and how even a little company and support can lift the spirits and make the difference between success and failure. Most people are not in it to win it, but just to haul their bruised and battered bodies over the finish line. They are quite happy to share this whole experience with fellow racers along the way.

So if you are contemplating making the leap from marathons to ultra marathons sign yourself up for an event today and you will never look back. They are life changing experiences and you will definitely end up a better person for it.

Where can I find out more about Adventure Racing?

If you would like to find out more about adventure races and ultra-marathons, visit Across the Divide. Across the Divide delivers exceptional worldwide adventures, expeditions and charity challenges

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