The loneliness of the long-distance runner

The loneliness of the long-distance runner

It’s almost a month since I ran my first non ultra in La Ultra.

If this sounds contradictory, and for those of you who haven’t yet read my earlier blog about this amazing high altitude race, here you go – here’s the link.

Basically, in a race called La Ultra, I’d planned on running my first ultra, but didn’t.

I did, however, run a bruising 33km at high altitude.

Very high altitude.

In the stark Himalayan mountains of Ladakh.

And it was quite some journey.

As our race WhatsApp group slowly diminishes, with people gradually leaving, some of them sad about not getting their photo taken on race day, I find myself thinking even more about what the race meant for me.

La Ultra 2022 can be summed up (for me at least) as the ultimate paradox.

It was indeed a case of the “loneliness of the long distance runner” since we were not THAT many runners, and I was exceedingly slow, so got to run alone through extraordinary scenery for hours at a stretch.

This photo is not an exaggeration:

In the interests of full disclosure there isn’t a race photo of my face at all, just this one of my rear view, but I don’t care 🙂

Honestly I don’t.

This way I can pretend that there wasn’t a look of absolute horror on my face as I realised that I was carrying a STUPIDLY heavy backpack 😛

The heaviest backpack of anyone else, that’s for sure.

(WHAT ON EARTH was I thinking?!)

Anyway, for me this image of me, with my stupid backpack, and my precious prayer flags, slogging away completely alone, reminds me of the fact that yes, the race was tough.

That yes, I was alone for hours.

And that yes, despite all the obstacles, I LOVED every second of those exhausting 33km.

Which brings me to the other part of the paradox.

I trained for this race through lockdown, meaning that I ran solo 80% of the time – I have a wonderful training partner, the ever supportive Ripu Daman, who gamely kept me company on many of my runs, once it was safe to meet.

But by and large this was solo prep.

Except…I was part of a small WhatsApp training group, and these people, none of whom I’d met before the race in Ladakh, were a constant source of encouragement and love and humour and affection over many months. We zoomed, we zoom-trained, and on days when I felt overwhelmed, I knew I could cyber-weep all over them, and that I would be instantly engulfed with love and support.

And all this from complete strangers.

So yes, this race truly was a paradox. Lonely, and yet surrounded by the love and support of strangers.

Next year (touch wood) will be a different experience.

For one thing, I have now met many of my online training group – and for the record every one is as lovely in person, which all goes to show 🙂

So next year, it will be a case of tackling a real ultra at La Ultra, but this time surrounded by old friends.

And with a smaller backpack.

3 Comments

  1. Oh. Totally agree with you here. It was absolute lonely at times. But I believe this loneliness is what prompts you to think otherwise and that’s why LaUltra is suppose to be a life changing experience.

    Prikshit

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