Ultras are forgiving

“In a sprint, if you don’t have the perfect form, you’re doomed. The ultra distance forgives injury, fatigue, bad form, and illness.” Ultrarunning legend Scott Jurik says this in his recent book Eat & Run. One example? He tells the story, where he tore ligaments in the middle of the Western States 100-Mile race. He decided to continue the run and noticed that the swelling stabilised his foot. He not only completed the grim course, but also became first and did a course time record. This is beyond crazy. However, today I had my miniature Scott Jurik moment. The whole week I were having these annoying knee niggles. Being absolutely cautious about this sort of thing I wasn’t sure if a long run would be a good idea. But with Scott’s story in mind I gave it a go, ready to stop the run as soon as the knee gets worse. The first 90 minutes were a bit of a struggle. I did not find the right flow, I got lost somewhere to my way to Hampstead Heath and finally inconvenient urges to have a bowl movement tormented me. By k 15 I ended up sitting on a freezing cold toilet seat. (Hampstead Heath does have free public toilets, which can be a real dignity saver for runners in need.) I got up and my knee was still tender, but at least it did not get worse. So I decided to continue. I don’t know what exactly changed, but something did. Suddenly everything felt right, I forgot my knee and seem to grow stronger rather than weaker with covering more and more distance. I completed over 35ks in the end, with the fastest pace over the last distance. My knee seems to be cured (at least I still don’t feel any pain right now) and the post-toilet part of the run was pure fun. Sure, this is a very brief version of what happened and running despite early signs of discomfort and pain should always ring alarm bells. But simply resting until it does not hurt any more doesn’t seem to be the only answer. The dodgy knee reminded me constantly of important running principles that I had neglected a bit over the last weeks. A focussed mind, trying to keep up a running form with a strong core that involves of the whole body (Pilates helps here), and maintaining a feeling of easiness and lightness, to name a few. I would like to think that these things do make a difference, but well, maybe I was just lucky. 🙂

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