Not all ultrarunners can be Killian, Damo or Nicky. We can’t all aim for a Fastest Known Time or a world record attempt; but we can all find our own rewards in ultrarunning. At Ultra Training Club we want to focus on helping “everyday” runners complete their ultrarunning goals and earn those rewards – so we will aim to share stories from ultrarunners who do it for the joy of it – not to win it or compete. Bill Adsett describes himself as a non athlete but a resolute individual… here are his thoughts on ultra running.
Why run an ultra?
I spend most of my working day indoors, so I want to spend my free time outdoors. Ultra running and trail running gets me outside and have allowed me to explore some beautiful and rugged places. The Coastal Challenge is a stunning six day race that covers about 230km and climbs over 8700m in Costa Rica. It took me through the remote mountains, jungles, rivers and onto the beaches. That was really ‘outside’.
Running a long distance is relatively simple and removes many of the every day distractions. I find it incredibly relaxing from a mental perspective. Getting out for a run remains my mental relaxation method of choice.
Miles Hilton-Barber, the inspirational blind adventurer, talks of increasing the size of your circle. Every time you exceed your expectations or complete a challenge it allows you to call on the experience and provides the confidence to reach that point again and to go past it. When things get tough in your life you have a huge bank of experience to draw on and put things back into place and perspective. Running this year’s Brecon to Cardiff race during a storm and fighting my way through the mud of this year’s Green Man certainly stretched me.
I race against myself, not others and no run is ever perfect. I have made mistakes and have been unlucky. I have completed races with dismal preparation (not checking the printing of a race book was my most recent act of stupidity… try navigating a map that is printed in black and white as opposed to colour…). And I have had both my body and equipment fail me on runs and quite often it is not “will it fail me” but “when.” The challenge then is to identify the cause and find a solution to overcome the problem; kit, body or mind.
I believe that being resolute is a character trait, but it can be built and every time you complete a challenge you can reflect on what happened and build further. Reflection is important. Being resilient can be planned for; I ensure I pay attention to the following points to give myself the best chance on the day:
The more prepared you are the easier things are. Preparing kit is good but being mentally prepared for what will happen and what could happen is equally important. When I did MDS I took plenty of food that had lots of energy, but it was bland. My tent buddy was better prepared. He had crushed up Doritos to sprinkle on his meals to add flavour; magnificent. Also the first time I ran on sand was in the desert on MDS; it made things much harder but I was quick to learn the different types of sand and how best to attack them.
In the Adsett household we have a phrase that we shout out as encouragement during races, “tits and teeth.” As well as making us smile it reminds us to get the running posture right and to smile. Being happy makes you faster and more efficient. Being unhappy just grinds you down and is a waste of time and effort.
Bloody mindedness, positivity, never giving up; it is all the same thing. You cannot start an ultra race with any doubt and need to finish no matter how long or how hard it is.
Doing stuff on your own is hard work and you need support and encouragement from others. You get support from other ultra runners and if things go bad you can rely on a runner stopping and helping you. I have had to phone my wife during a race at least once to get me out of a mental black hole and back on track. When I ran the Coastal Challenge with my daughter we had a simple rule that whenever we looked at each other we would smile and as soon as one of us put their walking poles into one hand it was time to run.
If you like running and are up for a challenge then there should be little not to like. However, running long distances is not “normal” and you need to laugh at your self and not take things, or yourself, too seriously. There will be times when you experience type 2 fun (not fun now but it will be on reflection later) and there will be many times when the distance stated by the organisers is not correct; it will always be longer! Laugh it off, getting cross will not help anyone.
Who is Bill Adsett, in his own words? Bill has been fit and healthy all of his life, but he is not an athlete and he is not going to be winning races; he now survives them. Like most people he has a desk job. But he makes up for this lack of movement in his free time by leading overseas expeditions, and working as an outdoor instructor in the UK. He also coaches triathlon and running, in groups and on a 1:1 basis. Bill also competes in running and triathlon races and seeks out his own adventures. He has a military background and a lifetime of sport and adventure. He enjoys trail running and since leaving the Army has completed many ultra races e.g. the Malvern hills Ultra, Marathon Des Sables, the Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and The Green Man.