I started Ultra Awesome last year because all I’ve ever really wanted to do is help people to run far and experience how doing that can change their lives. I was also looking for a way to be able to spend more time helping people with advice and stuff, so I set up the Patreon page to help with finding that time and writing the book – which is still nowhere near finished. But ultimately I wanted a place where people could come for free, to ask questions and make friends.
A few years ago, I would never have imagined I would be able to run 100-mile races or multi day events, let alone run across countries or take part in world firsts. I didn’t even understand what Ultra meant. I found a lot of the information was a bit scary and dominated by FKT’s, times, kit, contradictory advice, mythic characters and was, if I am honest, pretty macho and judgemental in its approach. I was pretty lucky that I fell in with a good crowd who didn’t take it too seriously and felt the love and support of the community from the start. It was very different to what I saw online. I had a lot of people messaging me telling me that they wanted to give Ultra a go but had no idea how to start, and that they were afraid they weren’t good enough to give it a go. I don’t believe it should be that way and I hated the thought that people could feel like that about themselves before they had even started.
I believe that Ultra is the fastest growing area of the sport and that anyone can give it go – in a way I feel that it’s more accessible than marathon running. You just have to think about it differently. My aim was to build a community of curious, supportive, inspiring and encouraging people, whether they have experience of ultras or have just started running – a place where people can engage with each other, ask questions and plan their own epic adventures in a non-judgemental, honest and helpful space. There’s no room for ego – there are other groups for that. This is about helping each other. It’s about the basics of being human. Working together the achieve amazing things. That sounds well hippy-ish but it’s true.
The facebook group started off small but has been growing steadily – it’s great to have a place to refer people to when they ask me the ‘doubters’ questions. It’s great to see first-hand how people have improved their view of themselves and what they can do in real time. We’ve definitely seen a lift during lockdown. Virtual events like the Centurion Running One Community event in May really helped with this – encouraging individuals and families to come together virtually to work together to achieve amazing things and showing people just what they are capable of with a bit of support, virtual or otherwise. I think there are now hundreds more people who are looking to dip their toe in the Ultra world and that’s just the best feeling.
This month the group has taken on a project I called Ultra Fly July and smashed it. The idea behind UFJ is that you set your own personal challenge – something that is a little out of your comfort zone or something you haven’t done before. Maybe it’s your biggest mileage month, maybe it’s running certain sessions in the week, maybe it’s to include strength and conditioning into your day – it’s up to you. People know what they want to do – I don’t need to tell them. Once your challenge is set, you make it known in the facebook group and then buddy up with someone virtually who wants to do a similar thing – this encourages accountability, community and encouragement.
One size does not and has never fitted all. I have been so impressed by people’s outside of the box thinking. One of our members is injured at the moment but she hasn’t let that get her down – she is doing this month’s challenge on a rowing machine. Her attitude shows so much resilience and triumph in the face of adversity – I think we all need a bit more of that.
I am totally blown away by how well it’s going. You’ve got people there achieving distances they never thought possible because they are being supported by people who are ultimately strangers. You’ve got little messenger groups, whatsapp groups, virtual and real life meet ups – it’s all going on. Our aim at the start of July was to run the diameter of the moon over the month, but according to the strava group, we have done almost 10,000 miles in just two and a half weeks and run over 100,000 ft of elevation. Those are crazy numbers and I am so, so proud of every single person who is taking part.
I want more people to believe in themselves and to believe they can do amazing things. Being and Ultrarunner doesn’t come to you overnight – it takes patience, work, setback and strategy but it is such an amazing community to become a part of, and so easy to become a part of with the right people around you. Ultrarunners look after each other, they are a different breed to shorter distance road runners. Ultra is not about time or speed, it’s about the journey to the start and then the journey through the event. Ultra means you can go further and see more. You can see the world on your feet and that is an extraordinarily special thing.
I’m planning another project for us in August that should be ‘fun’ – it’s based around the Accumulator I did back in May. UFJ has been such a brilliant project for the group in July and I think at times like these having a project that is about competing rather than competing is so good for people’s mental and physical health. We live in a time where it feels like a lot of things are out of our control. One of the things you can control is your running – even if you’re injured there are things you can do to help yourself bounce back.
I’m super proud of our little community. As I said at the start, all I have ever wanted to do is show people what a special thing it is to be an Ultrarunner and how achievable it is. It can and will change your life. It will make you stronger, more patient, more flexible and more able to cope with most other aspects of your life. It will help you see and understand the world with more rational. If this group can help inspire just a few people to get out there and do more, or just try to do more, my job is done.