Transgrancanaria 125km 2017 Race Preview

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From the heat and humidity of Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge to the the Canary island of Gran Canaria and the Transgrancanaria 125km.

This is my fourth year working on the flagship 125km race and once again it appears in the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) calendar. The race starts on Friday evening, 24th February at 2300 hours’ local time. If it was ever in doubt, this race is a tough one! With over 8000m of positive gain, each and everyone of those 125km’s will be felt by the the time the runners reach the finish.

Starting on the north-west coast, the race travels south via the mountainous spine of Gran Canaria and then arrives at the finish, close to the sea in Maspalomas. The route is logical and therefore very appealing from a run aesthetic point of view. 

Over the years, the race has had some stellar performances and 2017 will see the return of the 2016 champions, Caroline Chaverot and Didrik Hermansen.

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Male Contenders

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Didrik Hermansen won the race last year with a high quality and well paced performance. He followed Transgrancanaria up with a stunning Western States and world-class 100km races. Didrik can mix running and climbing and therefore goes into the 2017 race as the hot favourite. Fellow Norwegian, Sondre Amdahl, tells me that Didrik is in great shape!

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-2824©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-0660 The UK’s Andy Symonds ran a stunning race in 2016 and placed 5th – I have a felling he will be on the podium this year! His 2016 season was solid one with UTMB being his only blip. A win at Lavaredo, 2nd at Buff Epic behind Luis Alberto Hernando and 4th at Transvulcania confirms that Andy’s stepping stones to longer racing is working – 2017 will be his year and I also hear he will be racing at Marathon des Sables.

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Diego Pazos finished 3rd last year and what followed was a steady growth in the sport. I predicted he was a ‘one-to-watch’ for 2017 and I stand by that. His victory Mont-Blanc 80km confirmed that he is on the up.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-2663 Antoine Guillon placed on the podium previously and I have no reason to doubt that he can provide a repeat performance. In real terms, the podium may well be decided by those who pace themselves and come strong in the latter stages. Antoine may well be one of these guys – he will be able to bring the ‘long game’ to the race, something he learned when he won Diagonale des Fous (Raid de la Reunion) in 2015. ©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-0072

Yeray Duran is Transgrancanaria regular and is very popular within Spain and the Canary Islands. Arguably, it was Transgrancanaria that elevated his profile. He had a tough race last year but that blip is not indicative of how Yeray runs – I think we will see him up there this year.
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Julien Chorier is always a tip for the podium and victory – he is one seriously classy runner. He was 2nd at Transgrancaria in 2014 and 7th last year. Mixing Hardrock and Western States shows that Julien can mix speed and climbing perfectly – one to watch for the top-5 for sure and maybe the podium!

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Timothy Olson has raced on the island before (2014) and placed 3rd. He arrived in advance of this years race to train and prepare, something he has done on many occasions for multiple races. Normally, I would be pushing Timmy for the win but for the past year or so, the form has been missing. So, it’s difficult to predict the outcome here in the Canaries. Can Timmy win? Absolutely! So, lets cross our fingers and hope that we see a return to 2013 when this guy was on fire! 

Pau Capell won the 85km event previously and last year held hands with Diego Pazoz and crossed the line for an equal 3rd place. He will be up there!

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Fabien Antolinus is a runner I first met at Les Templiers and since then he has continually impressed with his ability to mix speed and climbing to great results. Two years ago he was 5th at UTMB but for me, his performances at Ice Trail Tarentaise were stand out. He’s a top-5 contender for sure.

iancorless-com_etr2016-8828 Casey Morgan will keep UK interest high. He’s been up there at Transgrancanaria in the past and currently he is on a roll with a series of top quality victories. I last saw him race at Everest Trail Race and he was in great shape. He followed that race with another race victory in the Spanish mountains and just recently he raced in Hong Kong with great success.

Fulvio Dapit has come close in the past and is often let down with stomach issues. He won’t make the podium but he will be up in the top-10.

Ones to watch: 

  • Freddy Thevenin
  • Daniel Jung
  • Ben Duffus
  • Gerard Morales
  • Fritjof Fagerlund
  • Nicola Bassi
  • Dimity Mityaev

and many more…

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Female Contenders

©iancorless.com_SWC2016-6618This race has Caroline Chaverot’s name written all over it and no disrespect to the other female competitors but I don’t see anyone coming close to this French lady. Caroline was on fire in 2016 and was for me, THE, female ultra-runner of the year. She was unstoppable with a sting of high-profile victories. In summary, anyone who wins UTMB, becomes UTWT champion, becomes Skyrunning World Champion and IAU World Trail Champion all in one-year deserves the upmost respect. I think she will win the race by at least 1-hour!
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I am going to throw a curve ball in and put my neck on the line with a stunning performance expectation from the UK’s Beth Pascall. She will be somewhat of a dark horse over in Gran Canaria but she has all the potential to produce a shock. She has with the UK’s Spine Race and the shorter distance, Challenge Race. She obliterated the ladies’ record at the Lakeland 100 and won the Hoka Highland Fling. One to watch! *Update 21st Feb, Beth will not race due to an injury to her foot.

Andrea Huser never stops. She is like Michael Wardian and each time she runs I am amazed with her ability to recover and race again. She doesn’t have the speed of Caroline and therefore, providing Caroline has no problems. I don’t see the Swiss lady beating her. However, she has a list of results that makes the podium almost guaranteed – victories at Lavaredo, Diagonale des Fous and Swiss Irontrail and let’s not forget 2nd at UTMB behind Caroline!


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Azara Garcia and Gemma Arenas have set their tables out in Skyrunning races and we know that have speed and can climb with the best. However, 125km and 8000m of vertical is a long way and this may well be the downfall for the Spanish duo. Gemma probably has the edge over Azara as she has excelled at Ultra Pirineu with victory. For Gemma, I see 125km possibly being a real learning curve.

Lisa Borzani likes the long and mountainous races such as Tor des Geants and Ronda dels Cims – that will set her up well for this tough and challenging Transgrancanaria course. She may lack the speed but as others fade, she will continue to push strong. 

Manuela Vilaseca was 5th at Transgrancanaria two-years ago and in this line-up, I believe the podium is a possibility – a win would only really come should Andrea and Caroline have bad races.  

Ildiko Wermescher would be a long shot for the podium but a top-5 and certainly a top-10 is a distinct possibility. 2016 seemed to be a below par year but 2014 saw the German lady place 4th at Transgrancanaria.
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Debbie Martin-Consani is my dark horse for a shake up in the ladies’ rankings. Like Beth Pascall, she is a Lakeland 100 winner and she has excelled at other 100-milers and races like Spartathlon, she ha s also raced in a GB vest. Word on the street (or the hills) is that Debbie has been going up and down those Scottish mountains to prepare for this 125km race. 

Ones to watch:

  • Yulia Baykova
  • Jen Benna
  • Laura Barrera
  • Caroline Rohrl
  • Laia Diez

and many more…

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The Coastal Challenge 2017 #TCC2017 – Stage 6 Results and Images

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The Coastal Challenge 2017 Stage 6

 Words by Niandi Carmont. Images by iancorless.

Stage 6 of the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge 2017 aka “The Victory Loop” and epilogue to this gruelling multi-stage race started at 7am. This allowed runners to “sleep in” a little and get some much-needed recovery before the final sprint, well, half-marathon! The final stage is always relatively short and the same distance for Adventure racers and Expedition racers. Many take this final stage easier as by now the podium is pretty much a given. An additional incentive for outsiders to race this stage is guaranteed free entry to the winners of the stage in both the male and female categories as well as the winners of each category in the overall ranking. Some race volunteers also like to join the runners in the final stage as a gesture of solidarity.

The final stage is a 22.5km representation of the whole race with all the course elements thrown in: fire trail, a magnificent waterfall, forest single track, more fire trail, beach sections and a lovely final 10km along the coast on shaded single track. With a total ascent of 613m and a descent of 613m it is a relatively flat route. There was only one CP at 22.5km.

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In the men’s race Tom Owens seemed relaxed chatting at the start and not too worried about racing. However, Chema Martinez had his race hat on and chased Tom right from the start egging him on. Chema had a lot of competition from the Costa Rican field especially Jorge Paniagua who joined the two leaders, battling it out with them until the final sprint, where the 3 finished barely a second of each other. Jorge was first, Chema second and to complete the stage podium Tom Owens in third position. The Costa Rican was delighted to gain a free entry to the 2018 edition and has promised to be back to perform even better.

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Tom Owens was crowned 2017 champion and he was full of praise and thanks on the line.

“This has been an incredible journey. It’s a stunning and magnificent part of the world and the course, terrain, views and the racing has been world-class. I have been blown away by everything – the final stage was just stunning and it managed to compress the whole TCC experience in just 22km. I’d be back to TCC and Costa Rica in a shot…!”

 

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In the Ladies field, Ester Alves led the race. She needed to defend her third overall position. Anna Comet followed in hot pursuit to secure her second position and not allow Ester to close the gap significantly in the overall ranking. Anna Frost then also gave chase. Elisabet Barnes who had intended to race this final stage very hard in a final attempt to secure third felt weak and tired.

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“It is only once I started running hat I realized my body wasn’t responding and that my legs were tired, that I wasn’t going to be able to race this stage. I decided to consider it a recovery run as my focus is on MDS 2017 which is just round the corner. I didn’t want to compromise that.” – Elisabet Barnes

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Ester Alves did not even stop at CP1 to replenish her water supply or drink.

“I decided not to waste any time and ran the last 10km full out skipping the water point. I had run out of water before the checkpoint but I wanted to gain as much time as possible. I squeezed my soft flasks but not a drop came out. It’s amazing what the body can do in this heat, running 10km on no water, when the mind takes control and the drive is there. I must admit it was very stressful and it is a stage I enjoyed last year.” – Ester Alves

 

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Ester led the race until the finish completing this stage 9min ahead of second lady Melanie Langer (9th lady overall) who had run hard all day.

iancorless-com_tcc2017-6894In the closing stages, Melanie took advantage of Anna Comet and Anna Frost relaxing into the finish with Sondre Amdahl – the trio had run together from half-way enjoying the closing of the 2017 TCC. Elisabet Barnes completed the stage 30min behind Ester in 6th place and 4th overall.

Anna Frost cried on the shoulder of race director, Rodrigo Carazo on the finish line.

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“This has been a tough and emotional journey, three editions in the making. I have finally won the race I love! I think I am done, not with Costa Rica or the TCC – next time I will be watching and spectating though!” – Anna Frost

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Nothing can describe the emotion of those finishing this tough 6-day multi-stage in some of the hardest conditions or the joy and relief on their faces on being handed the well-deserved finisher medal. Many have vowed to return to better their performances or tick this box.

Tonight (or this afternoon), will be a long night of post-race celebration where the ‘Imperial’ will flow and spirits will be high.

PURA VIDA!

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Stage Results

  1. Jorge Paniagua 2:04:33
  2. Chema Martinez 2:04:38
  3. Tom Owens 2:04:39
  4. Neruda Cespedes 2:06:54
  5. Erick Aguero 2:14:39
  1. Ester Alves 2:23:41
  2. Melanie Langer 2:32:17
  3. Anna Comet 2:32:33
  4. Anna Frost 2:32:36
  5. Katelyn Tocci 2:43:03

Overall Results for the 2017 The Coastal Challenge #TCC2017

1. Anna Frost (New Zealand): 27:08:41.9
2. Ana Comet (Spain): 27:58:45.4
3. Ester Alves (Portugal): 28:23:27.5
4. Elisabet Barnes (Sweden): 29:00:11.2
5. Katelyn Tocci (Costa Rica): 29:58:09.1

1. Tom Owens (Scotland): 22:29:45.2
2. Chema Martínez (Spain): 23:43:36.2
3. Jason Shlarb (USA): 24:34:57.0
4. Eric Agüero (Costa Rica): 24:57:43.3
5. Pancho Pinto (Ecuador): 25:43:37

All results HERE

You can also follow on Facebook HERE, on Twitter HERE and on Instagram HERE

#TCC2017 concludes, get ready for #TCC2018

Want to run The Coastal Challenge 2018 #TCC2018 entries will open soon through the official channels. Only go to http://thecoastalchallengecostarica.com

Stage Results

  1. Jorge Paniagua 2:04:33
  2. Chema Martinez 2:04:38
  3. Tom Owens 2:04:39
  4. Neruda Cespedes 2:06:54
  5. Erick Aguero 2:14:39
  1. Ester Alves 2:23:41
  2. Anna Comet 2:32:33
  3. Anna Frost 2:32:36
  4. Katelyn Tocci 2:43:03
  5. Ana Gonzales 2:43:31

Overall Results for the 2017 The Coastal Challenge #TCC2017

1. Anna Frost (New Zealand): 27:08:41.9
2. Ana Comet (Spain): 27:58:45.4
3. Ester Alves (Portugal): 28:23:27.5
4. Elisabet Barnes (Sweden): 29:00:11.2
5. Katelyn Tocci (Costa Rica): 29:58:09.1

1. Tom Owens (Scotland): 22:29:45.2
2. Chema Martínez (Spain): 23:43:36.2
3. Jason Shlarb (USA): 24:34:57.0
4. Eric Agüero (Costa Rica): 24:57:43.3
5. Pancho Pinto (Ecuador): 25:43:37.

 

Anna Frost to run The Coastal Challenge #TCC2017 – BREAKING NEWS!

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Anna Frost to join the line-up of the 2017 The Coastal Challenge

The 2017 was all set to be the most competitive edition of the race with a stunning line-up of both male and female competitors. The male race has Hardrock 100 winner Jason Schlarb, Sondre Amdahl, Chema Martinez, Vicente Beneito and so many more.

The ladies race has two previous champions with Ester Alves and Veronica Bravo joined by Elisabet Barnes and Anna Cometi.

Well, the ladies race has just been blown off the scale with the 11th hour confirmation that New Zealand’s Anna Frost will toe the line in Quepos.

This is not Frosty’s first time in Costa Rica. Her love affair with the country and the race started several years ago. In 2014 she arrived to race but due to health issues was forced not to make the start.

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 “I learnt a lot about the course and was able to see the challenges without putting myself through them. Although nothing really prepares you like the experience itself. I hadn’t expected such long beach sections so I will be prepared.”

In 2015 while leading the race she was forced to withdraw with foot issues leaving the doorway open for eventual race winner, Veronica Bravo. I refreshed myself of a moment from the 2015 edition:

Day 3

“In the ladies race, Anna Frost ran a smart day matching Veronica Bravo step-by-step. From the moment they started, till the moment they crossed the finish line, the duo never left each other’s side. In many respects, Frosty can run this way all the way to the end now and play safe. The question mark will come if Veronica feels strong one day and takes a risk to pull back the time between the two of them? This is always a risky tactic, push too hard and you may blow up opening a doorway for third place to gain time.”

Day 5

In the ladies race, Anna Frost’s injury woes came to a head when she sprained an ankle causing a muscle sprain in her soleus muscle. Frosty tried to push on but it was no good. The plantar issues, ankle and muscle sprain brought an end to the 2015 TCC at Cp3.

”I could run in pain no longer and sometimes you just have to stop and look at the bigger picture.”

Cut to 2017 and it may well be third time lucky for the lady who has pioneered the way for female runners in the trail and mountain world.

Like Schlarb, Frosty won Hardrock 100 in 2016, she also won in 2014. She has won races all over the world and many remember her iconic victories on the island of La Palma at the Transvulcania race.

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Currently in Colorado amongst the snow, Frosty admits that it may well not be the best preparation for the heat and humidity of Costa Rica, however, the opportunity to run raised its head and she could not refuse!

Speaking from Colorado, Frosty told me,

“I am so excited to come back, 3rd time luck?”

Race director Rodrigo Carazo in conversation with myself whilst trying to put logistics in place confirmed for me,

“We need to make this happen, this will be, without doubt, the best ladies field ever at the race.” I confirmed, my thoughts exactly! Rodrigo went on to say, “We have surprises in store for 2017 – new sections, more hills and more jungle!”

The stage is set, the 2017 edition of The Coastal Challenge is going to be epic. Runners will start to arrive in San Jose from Thursday 9th this week and they will then transfer to the coast for the start of the race in Quepos.

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“I had a serious case of fear of missing out when I saw the ladies line-up,” Frosty went on to say. “Costa Rica and the TCC is just full of great people, stunning trails, water, heat, more water, wildlife and running, it all equal Coastal Challenge love!”

The Coastal Challenge is a multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience.

Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.

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Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.

The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

View and purchase images  HERE

Follow #TCC2017

Read a preview of the 2017 race HERE

Support the podcast and website by becoming a Patron HERE

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Episode 126 – Stevie Kremer, Trails Are Free Movie, Sondre Amdahl

A_GRAVATAR

Episode 126 of Talk Ultra is here, Happy New Year! – We have an interview with Stevie Kremer, we chat with Lindsey Topham about her movie, ‘The Trails Are Free’ and Sondre Amdahl tells us about racing in Hong Kong and how is preparation for The Coastal Challenge is going… Speedgoat is back too!

New Year and Talk Ultra needs your help!

We are five year’s old this January and as a show we are proud that we have produced a wealth of content for free. The show will always be free! However, demands on time, production costs, editing really impact on Talk Ultra, therefore, if you love the show please help us out. You can make a one-off donation, a yearly donation or maybe donate monthly… just £1 or $1 would make a huge difference. We are currently in the process of setting up a Patreon page that will allow you to gain access to the Patreon Activity Feed that will be for Patreon supporters ONLY! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create!

More info to follow. Thanks!

Donate HERE

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Support on PATREON HERE

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RUNNING BEYOND BOOK is travelling the world and of course I recommend it as a great Christmas present… we mentioned in the last show about Running Beyond Event which will take place 3, 4 and 5th March in London, plans are progressing for that… in addition, Niandi and myself will now be in Amsterdam on Feb 3rd, 4th and 5th for a Trails in Motion event and Running Beyond book signing with Mud Sweat and Trails and I will be also going to Sofia in Bulgaria on the 17th, 18th and 19th March for a trail, mountain and Skyrunning expo.

00:26:32 NEWS

Across The Years – 24, 48, 72-hours and 6-Days

24: Kelly Agnew and Chavet Breslin ran 124 and 119-miles

48: Karen Bonnett Natraj and Alex Ramset ran 140 and 177-miles

72: Iso Yucra and Anne Lang ran 248 and 200-miles

6-Day: Ed Ettinghausen and Liz Bauer ran 451.4 and 418.9-miles

Ultra-Trail Tai Mo Shan

Gediminas Grinius and Andrea Huser won the 100-mile in 20:04 and 26:01.

Sondre Amdahl and Marie McNaughton won the 115km in 16:15 and 16:20

“TCC will be my main target for the winter/spring of 2017. I have had a couple of easy months after a DNS at the Tor des Géants (due to injury). I have had a good block of training in November, December, I raced at Ultra-Trail Tai Mo Shan in Hong Kong (115km) on New Year’s Eve which I won and then in January I will go to Gran Canaria to prepare for TCC.”

00:53:34 INTERVIEW with Sondre Amdahl

Read a preview of the 2017 The Coastal Challenge HERE

01:20:36 INTERVIEW with Stevie Kremer

02:12:14 INTERVIEW with Lindsey Topham about the film ‘The Trails Are Free’

The Trails are Free tells the story of how Boston based trail running club, the Trail Animals Running Club (TARC), promotes and preserves the culture of ultra running through a series of grassroots, community based races in the greater Boston area. The film captures the history of the club and how it has grown from a few members to over 4000 since its founding in the early 1990’s. From its start TARC has been more focused on camaraderie and community among runners than on competition and winning. The club’s motto “Leave No Animal Behind” exemplifies their welcoming spirit, as well as their humility, level playing field, and love for the outdoors. Trail Animals come from all walks of life and all abilities and there is no pecking order.

The club’s rapid growth has mirrored a nationwide trend in the sport in recent years. Where ultra running used to be considered an oddball sport, it is now the subject of many books and is gaining more mainstream coverage in film and on television. The threat of this community spirit becoming consumed by competition and commercialisation is becoming a realistic, legitimate concern.

In 2011 the club introduced the TARC Trail Series, a group of 10 trail races of varying distances, from 10K to 100 Miles. This film documents the ways these races have become a vehicle for preserving, promoting, and sharing the culture of the sport with new members. Race organisers keep race costs down by organising volunteers to mark courses, maintain trails, and provide support, provisions, and food for potluck-style aid stations. First place finishers win handmade trophies. There is no prize money.

“The Trails Are Free” was shot on location at various TARC races over the years. It is quintessentially New England. There is snow, mud, peepers, rocks, roots, and bright foliage.

Website HERE

vimeo trailer HERE

UP & COMING RACES

Australia

Victoria

Two Bays Trail Run 56km | 56 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

Brazil

Brazil 135 Ultramarathon | 135 miles | January 12, 2017 | website

Brazil 281 Relay | 281 miles | January 12, 2017 | website

Chile

Ultramaratón Licanray – Villarrica | 70 kilometers | January 08, 2017 | website

Ecuador

100 km Relevos | 100 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

150 km Relevos | 150 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Germany

Lower Saxony

  1. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website
  2. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | January 08, 2017 | website
  3. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website
  4. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website
  5. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | January 08, 2017 | website
  6. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

North Rhine-Westphalia

Nord Eifel Ultra | 56 kilometers | January 08, 2017 | website

Hong-Kong

Vibram® Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail® Race | 100 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Italy

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

S1 TRAIL – LA CORSA DELLA BORA | 57 kilometers | January 06, 2017 | website

Spain

Valencian Community

GR10-Xtrem Valencia Ultra Trail | 93 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Sweden

82 km | 82 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

United Kingdom

Buckinghamshire

Country to Capital | 45 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Derbyshire

Montane Spine Challenger | 108 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Montane Spine Race | 268 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

USA

Arizona

50K | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

California

50 miler | 50 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Avalon Benefit 50 Mile Run | 50 miles | January 07, 2017 | website

Pacifica Foothills Trail Run 50K | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Steep Ravine 50 km | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Florida

100K | 100 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

100M | 100 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Croom Zoom 100 Km Run | 100 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Croom Zoom 50 Km Run | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Hawaii

H.U.R.T. 100 Mile Endurance Run | 100 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Idaho

Wilson Creek Frozen 50k | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Illinois

Frozen Gnome 50K | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Iowa

Tripple D Winter Ultramarathon Run | 50 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

Louisiana

Wild Azalea Trail Challenge 50 | 50 miles | January 07, 2017 | website

Maryland

PHUNT 50K | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Michigan

Yankee Winter Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

New Jersey

Watchung Winter Ultras Trail 50k | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

North Carolina

Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50k | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50k Relay | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Salem Lake Shore Frosty Fifty | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Weymouth Woods 100k Trail Run | 100 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Oklahoma

Ouachita Switchbacks 50K | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

South Carolina

Harbison 50K | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Tennessee

Swampstomper 50k | 50 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

Texas

Bandera 100km | 100 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Bandera 50km | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Big Bend 50 | 50 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

West Virginia

Frozen Sasquatch Trail 50k | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Wisconsin

Frozen Otter Ultra Trek – 32 Miles | 32 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Frozen Otter Ultra Trek – 64 Miles | 64 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Tuscobia Winter Ultramarathon 150 Mile Run | 150 miles | January 06, 2017 | website

Tuscobia Winter Ultramarathon 35 Mile Run | 35 miles | January 07, 2017 | website

Tuscobia Winter Ultramarathon 75 Mile Run | 75 miles | January 07, 2017 | website

02:42:05 Close

02:47:07

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REVIEW of 2016 in Trail, Mountain, Ultra and Skyrunning

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As a year comes to end, it’s always nice to be able to look back and appreciate some of the highlights that all come together that allows one to decide if it was a good or bad year. For me personally, 2016 was a cracker and I am truly thankful for all the opportunities that came up.

Looking back and deciding on what a highlight is, is of course a tricky thing. It’s very personal and it also requires a great memory. So, I will declare right from the off that these are ‘my’ highlights and yes, I am going to miss some key performances, runners, experiences and so on that should be in the list. So, please feel free to comment and remind me.

It would make sense to start in January and move through to December in a logical way… I am not going to do that, I am writing this off the cuff.

Jim Walmsley has been on fire in 2016 and ironically, despite an amazing run and course record at JFK50, FKT’s for the Rim-to-Rim and Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon and countless other victories, it will be his Western States performance that well and truly cements Jim as one of the most exciting runners to rise in 2016. He said pre Western States that he was there to win and win with a course record. He flew along the trails and at one point was almost 30-minutes under the record. As he passed 90-miles everyone was re-writing the history books and then boom! Jim went off course. I caught up with a full and in-depth interview with Jim and you can listen to that HERE and read it HERE. Jim for many is the male Ultra-runner of the Year with victories at Stagecoach Line 55km, Franklin Mountains Trail Run, Lake Sonoma, Mesquite Canyon, Moab Red Hot 55k, Bandera 100k and the recent JFK50. 2017 is going to be a very exciting one.

Rob Young set off on a journey Across the USA looking for a new record, fame, glory and an opportunity to raise a load of money for charity. Somewhere along the way he lost a grasp of reality, perspective and ruined what was a remarkable story be cheating and deceiving the whole ultra running community. Ultimately, Rob is a story of an individual who tried to do good and maybe we should ask what went wrong rather than preach about his morals.

That brings me on to Mark Vaz. What is it with FKT’s and delusional behaviour? Mark seemed to think that running from Land’s End to John O’Groats 31-hours quicker than anyone else for the 860-mile journey was a good idea. It’s not even a convincing lie. As many pointed out, the god of ultra -running, Yiannis Kouros, couldn’t have done it as quick as Mr. Vaz claimed… oh dear!

Pete Kostelnick by contrast embraced the FKT concept and showed the world that the claims made by Rob Young are possible by smashing a 30+ year old Guinness record out of the ether by running Across the USA a full 4-days quicker than anyone else. As records go, this is an absolute doozy and when you look deep and hard into this 40+ day journey, you soon start to understand the difficulty and complexity of running 70+ miles a day. You can listen to an in-depth interview with Pete HERE and read the story HERE. In addition, we must also add to this story, Pete’s incredible and record breaking run at Badwater 135. This achievement has been overshadowed by the USA run but as a stand alone run, it’s also a cracker.

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Karl Meltzer did it, he finally completed the Appalachian Trail in a new record breaking time after failing on two previous occasions.  His time was some 10-hours quicker than Scott Jurek’s set in 2015, however, Karl did run in the opposite direction and has said, post run, he feels that they are two records. Notably, Karl helped Scott in 2015 and Scott helped Karl in 2016. It’s a remarkable story and one that truly reflects our sport of ultra-running. Karl’s record of 45-days, 22-hours and 38-minutes now sits in the record books and well and truly establishes Karl as one of ‘the’ greatest ultra-runners in the world. This is also backed up with his 38 100-mile victories and 5 victories at Hardrock 100. Listen to the in-depth interview HERE and read HERE

Talking of Hardrock 100, Kilian Jornet and Jason Schlarb held hands and crossed the line together in 2016. It was a wonderful moment that split the ultra-running audience in two. Some would have preferred a race to the line while others discussed the wonderful gesture and statement this moment made. Whichever camp you sit in, it was back-to-back victories for Kilian and a career defining moment for Jason Schlarb. Something he discussed in my in-depth interview HERE. For equality, we also need to mention Anna Frost nailing a back-to-back ladies victory. As I understand it, these three Musketeers will all return in 2017.

Aaron Denberg got a bee in his bonnet about Hardrock 100 lottery and decided to create a law suit. Many believe Mr. Denberg makes some good points but questioned if his approach was the correct one? Hardrock 100 released statements and have since removed the payment of a fee by each runner to enter the lottery, something which was apparently illegal! This will run and run (pardon the pun) but ultimately, is Hardrock a victim of it’s own success?

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Caroline Chaverot for me, without doubt, female ultra-runner of the year. This French lady has been on fire all the way from victory in Transgrancanaria early in the year to a most recent win in Hong Kong on December 2nd. Along the way, Caroline won UTMB, became Skyrunning World Champion for the ultra distance and won the IAU World Trail Championships in Portugal. Add to these incredible results, victories at Madirea Island Ultra Trail, Mont-Blanc 80km and the UTWT world title for 2016 and I lower my head and bow to Queen Caroline. Plus she has made the lottery for Hardrock in 2017… exciting!

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Adam Campbell survives a horrific fall and not only lives to tell the tale but has a remarkable recovery, listen to the interview HERE and read HERE

Lizzy Hawker sneaked from under the radar and once again picked up the gauntlet testing her personal boundaries and voyage of self-discovery. After years of injury, Lizzy completed the GHT (Great Himalayan Trail). A 1600km, east to west journey across Nepal. It was, as Lizzy promised, a “beautiful, rough, hard and unforgettable journey”. It was about many things, but also about trying to raise money to give opportunities to Nepali runners, particularly girls, for whom one chance can be a catalyst for much wider change.

Damian Hall set a new FKT on the UK’s South West Coast Path 10-hours, 15-minutes and 18-seconds for the 630-mile jaunt.

Jeff Browning, what a year…! Winner Hurt 100, 3rd at Western States, 4th at Hardrock 100 and 4th at Run Rabbit Run – that is some year, the WSER/Hardrock double a stand out and fastest combined time.

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Kilian Jornet won Hardrock 100 and attempted to summit Everest. The Summits Of My Life project continues on into 2017 after Kilian and his team decided to pull the plug on a 2016 attempt as weather detonated.

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Emelie Forsberg was quiet in 2016 after damaging her ACL and having an operation, she did however return to Trofeo Kima and put the record straight with a victory… she hopes the course record will come in 2018 when the race will take place once again. Emelie discussed her injury HERE

Beth Pascall went from strength-to-strength in 2016 and elevated the Lakeland 100 (UK) record to a whole new level by placing 4th overall. Listen to her interview HERE

Zach Miller did what he always does and lead from the front. At UTMB many predicted, me included, that it was going to be a story of glorious victory with a stunning ‘off-the-front’ performance or carnage with a monumental blow-up! In reality it was both, the blow-up came and he somehow managed to hold on for grim death to still get a top-10 place, he will win this race one day! Jump forward to December and Zach did it again at San Francisco 50. This time he had company and many are saying that ‘this’ race was one of the highlights of the year as Zach and Hayden Hawks traded blows at the front. Zach won with a course record and he took home the $10,000 prize. Hayden finished just 2-minutes back. Note that name! If you want to know what it’s like to put it ALL on the line, take a look at Zach’s final 2-minutes of that incredible 5:56:03 run.

Andrew Miller became the youngest winner of the iconic Western States and today, myself and so many others still know very little about this 20-year old. Certainly, Jim Walmsley had an impact on the kudos and plaudits that Andrew should have received. Running 15:39:36 at WSER takes some doing but I can’t help but think that Biology and chemistry are a priority as Andrew starts his sophomore year at Northern Arizona University. He will be back at WSER in 2017!

Kaci Lickteig has been nailing it and nailing it and finally got the Western States victory that she has longed for and then contrasted it with victory at the Bear 100. You can listen to Kaci’s post Western States interview HERE

Andrea Huser runs and races it would appear ‘every’ weekend. She is relentless. As I understand it, Andrea raced on thirteen occasions but I may have missed some/ She had victories at Raid de La Reunion Swiss Irontrail T201 Eiger Ultratrail 101km, Lavaredo, Trail d’Albertville, Trail Des Allobroges and Maxi-Race Annecy. Phew… any other year and the lack of Caroline Chaverot and Andrea would be female ultra-runner of the year.

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Luis Alberto Hernando won Transvulcania, became Skyrunning World Champion for the ultra distance and became IAU World Trail Champion. That is a solid year and Luis has raced less having become a Dad. Had his feet not fallen apart at UTMB, he may well have been in the running with Jim for male ultra-runner of the year.

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Diego Pazos is a name to watch and has surprised many in 2016. He’s my heads-up for the future. He had a notable result at Transgrancanaria early in 2016 but what followed was quite incredible, his victory at Mont-Blanc 80km a highlight!

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Didrik Hermansen won Transgrancanaria and then placed 2nd at Western States. That is solid and shows real diversity. What will 2017 hold for him? Listen HERE and as Sondre corrects me, Didrik ran 6:45 and 6:38 for 100k.

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Running Beyond Book was released in October and November to a worldwide audience and has been translated into Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish and of course is available in English. Containing 240-pages, this large coffee table books documents the sport of trail, ultra, mountain and skyrunning in images and words, HERE

Dan Lawson (UK) won the IAU 24 Hour European Championships in 2016 with a distance of 261.843 kilometres (162.702 mi).

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Jasmin Paris has elevated herself to a whole new level in 2016. This quiet and shy fell runner set new records for the UK’s ‘Rounds’ and in the process placed 6th at UTMB (her first 100) won Tromso SkyRace, won Glencoe Skyline, became the Skyrunner World Series Extreme Champion 2016 and in addition to countless other races, also placed on the podium at the Skyrunning World Championships for the ultra distance behind Caroline Chaverot. Interviews with Jasmin Paris HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE

Joe Grant set a new record on the 14’ers in 31-days by cycling between trailheads and then summiting all the 14’ers (50+ of them) on foot to then return back to his cycle and then continue on his journey. He was self-sufficient for the whole trip. “I did set a speed record, but that wasn’t my goal,” says Grant, 33, an accomplished ultrarunner who finished second at the 2012 Hardrock 100. “The goal was to challenge myself and see the state, although the previous record served as a reference for how long I could take.” taken from trailrunningmag.

Megan Hicks also completed a ’14’ journey, the Nolans 14 in Colorado. She completed the journey in 57:19:19 to the summit of the 14th peak and then completed the journey back to the Fish Hatchery Trailhead in under 60-hours – 59:36. Her time is the fastest ever completed by a woman.

Nicky Spinks continues to inspire and while she may have lost her ‘Round’ records to Jasmin Paris, she went on to set a new benchmark with a record for a double Bob Graham Round – Nick is an inspiration! You can listen to an interview with her HERE

Ludovic Pommeret ran the most controlled and impressive UTMB ever moving from not being in contention to slowly but surely ticking off the runners ahead and taking the crown at the largest ultra in the world. Add to this victory four other victories and Ludovic is one to keep an eye on in ’17.’

Caroline Boller set new American Trail 50-mile record 5:48:01

Gina Slaby set new female 100-mile WR 13:45:49 for ‘any’ surface, Anne Trason had the previous record of  13:47:41 set in the early 90’s.

Skyline Scotland achieved a first with Glencoe Skyline achieving Skyrunner World Status in the Extreme category and as such, the 2016 edition of the race had arguably one of the best fields assembled on UK soil for a mountain race. HERE

Jon Albon transitioned from obstacle racing (something he still does and excels at) to Skyrunning and won the 2016 Skyrunner World Series Extreme category. We are going to see more of him in 2017! HERE

Samantha Gash ran across India in a project called ‘Run India’ as a means to create awareness and raise money. Covering over 3000km you can listen to her story in episode 125 of Talk Ultra out on Friday 16th December.

Ida Nilsson started the year with a win in Transvulcania, she took victory at The Rut and then in early December won San Francisco 50. Without doubt, Ida is a star of the future. Listen to Ida talk about Transvulcania HERE

Stu Leaney breaks Michael Wardian’s 50km treadmill record by just 7-seconds

Mina Guli ran 40-marathons across 7 deserts on 7 continents in 7 weeks to raise awareness for water, listen to the interview HERE

Jason Schlarb started his year by prepping for Hardrock 100 by skiing the course, listen to the interview HERE

Skyrunning and the world series (SWS) elevated to new heights with an increased circuit that traveled the globe and the addition of the new Extreme series.

And finally (maybe), Donnie Campbell just recently set a new Winter Ramsay Round record to finish a very solid year!

******

So what have I missed? 

I am well aware that I will have missed some key performances in 2016 and I welcome you commenting and letting me know. Of course, many performances, races or experiences will resonate on a personal level for you. I can think of many British performances that are worthy of a nod – Jo Meek’s 2nd at the CCC, Paul Giblin 5th at Western States, Joasia Zakrzewski’s medal at the 100k World Champs for example.

Be great to hear from you…

Ian Corless – RUNNNG BEYOND Interview

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The launch of RUNNING BEYOND book has required me to do several interviews recently and some of my words and images have appeared in print. The most current edition of Outdoor Fitness has a large spread and RUNning Magazine in Portugal has a spread.

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In the coming week or so, the UK’s Like The Wind will also have a multi-page feature on RUNNING BEYOND book showing several images over 10-pages.

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Like The Wind, UK

Several week’s ago, my good friends at Marathon Talk Podcast, Tom Williams and Martin Yelling, did me the great honour of having me as a guest on their show. I have to say, these two guys are vey much the reason that Talk Ultra Podcast started and I am ever thankful to both of them and the support.

THE INTERVIEW

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Tom: This week’s guest has been a longtime friend of Martin and myself and a longtime friend of Marathon Talk – for six and a half years now so for probably something like four years, he’s edited the audio for Marathon Talk and probably saves mine or Martin’s blushes on more than one occasion, edited out the odd rude word perhaps in there and during that time he’s also built up the amazing Talk Ultra podcast which, has gone from strength to strength to strength and he is an absolute go to for ultra-running. He is as many would say, living the dream of making his passion his career and doing a really good job of it. He’s just bringing out a book, Running Beyond, which we’ll talk about in detail. Welcome Ian.

Ian Corless: Hey Tom, thanks for having me! Feels a little weird being on this end of the microphone.

[laughter]

Tom: It’s been far too long getting you on the show and it’s nice to have the excuse of you having released your book Running Beyond – Epic Ultra Trail and Skyrunning Races. Foreword, nonetheless, by Kilian Jornet.

Ian Corless: Yes.

Tom: Tell us about the book. Before we go back and talk about this whole crazy journey you’ve been on over the last four, five, six years, tell us about the book.

Ian Corless: The book came about I suppose in a way by accident. It’s quite funny because Martin (co-host of Marathon Talk) said to me years ago, “Mate, you should do a book, you should do a book, you’ve got all these photographs you should do a book” and I did do a self-published book. But the problem with a self-published book is that you just can’t get the price of the book competitive. It just becomes ridiculous once you go to a hardback and color etc. The cost is just prohibitive. So I did a very small print run which was really for me, friends, family and a few people bought it and I used it as a giveaway to clients or potential clients and from that perspective it was a great vehicle. But then about two and a half years ago, I got approached by a publisher and they said, “We love what you do, we follow your website, we follow your photography and we think the time is right for a book”. Of course, it was music to my ears because normally you have to go hunting for a publishing contract and there they were contacting me. That was an amazing foot into the door.

The process then was deciding what that book should be and of course, because the publisher wanted to go in a certain direction, I had to adhere to some of the things that they wanted so it had to be commercially viable. They wanted it to be a coffee-table book, they wanted it to be big and utilize the photography that I had done but also it needed to incorporate my experiences going from race to race. Over the last five years six years, I’ve traveled extensively to races all over the world and basically the book is about that but it’s not an A to Z of races. It doesn’t start at A and it doesn’t finish at Z and it certainly is not a book about ‘the’ best races in the world – it’s the races that I’ve been to and experienced and, in my opinion, of what has grown my photography and my writing within the ultra-running trail and mountain world.

Tom: That’s quite an exciting thing, isn’t it? I listen to that and I think, “That’s really exciting I can’t wait to see it.” I went through a kind of process like that with a coffee table book a couple of years ago for park run, although I had no content in there of my own. I was just helping the guys do stuff but I think the guys did it really well. But for that to be your own book and your own content you must be really excited.

Ian Corless: Yes, I’ve got copies at home and it’s quite funny because the first hardback copy arrived about two months ago and you know what? I’ve not looked at it.

Tom: [laughs] You do know they spelled your name wrong on the cover, don’t you?

Ian: [laughs] I’ll be having a word with the publisher if that’s the case! I say I’ve not looked through it, I have. I’ve flipped through it. But it’s a massive chunk of my life and to actually sit down and flick through it page-by-page almost intimidates me because I won’t look at the positives, I’ll look at the negatives [laughs], and I’ll think, “Maybe I should have put that photo in” or, “Why didn’t I do this?” or, “Why didn’t I do that?” And so in a way it’s frightened me to actually sit down and look at the book now that it’s done. Because there’s nothing that I can do about it, I have to assume that myself and the publisher did a good job and now it’s left to people, yourself and the audience who are going to get it and let them decide whether we did a good job.

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Tom: You have got some rave reviews. We’ll talk about your journey in a second. We talked before we started recording about you having a huge level of respect in the ultra-running community now as a really great journalist. On your website and the promotion for this book, you’ve got Nikki Kimball, US ultra-runner saying, “Ian Corless continues to be one of the planet’s foremost journalist in the sport of ultra-marathon”. Check that out.

Ian: It’s awesome to hear that type of thing. It’s flattering and we’re talking now five six years down the line and I know one of the questions you’re going to ask me is probably how did it happen and in a way I don’t know [laughs].

Tom: Mike Wolf, “If you know Ian, it comes as no surprise… he is the most motivated, talented and insightful photographer, journalists out there.” This is amazing stuff, how did you get… so we tried to get Kilian Jornet on the show a couple of times, we’ve never managed it. He is one of those few athletes that has truly transcended their sport and in a good way just does whatever he wants. I’ve got Summits of My Life t-shirts and I’m a fan of Kilian Jornet. He has moved up to that level of being just himself. But here you are with him writing the foreword for the book?

Ian: Yes.

Tom: He’s written some really kind words, “Ian’s photographs can tell you the passion of the sport, and the beauty of his images immerses you in the aura of each race.” Tell us a little bit about Kilian, how you managed to get that for a start but also what your experiences are with him as a person and what’s he like?

Ian: I first met Kilian in 2012 at Transvulcania. That was probably the key phase of how everything started for me, when things really started to take off and I began to realize that there was an opportunity for me to convert what I was doing into a business. Prior to that, I was a photographer and always have been a photographer but I was a commercial photographer shooting advertising, food, room sets, people, all those types of things. Talk Ultra, a little bit like yourselves with Marathon Talk, came out of passion and an interest in the sport. I was competing in sports as you guys did cycling, ironman, and running. I was doing this thing that was an enhancement of my life and something that took up a massive chunk of my life but when you’re doing something you love it’s never quite work, it’s never quite hard. You always bounce it off with the fun and the bonuses.

So 2012 I was invited to Transvulcania and it was a skyrunning race and Skyrunning held its conference and it was about how the sport was going to change. They invited the world’s best runners to the race, of which Kilian was one of them and he went on to place second I believe in that race behind Dakota Jones. Of course I met him and that was the first time we chatted but it was very much like meeting somebody famous and they hold you at a distance because you’re a journalist and they’re a famous runner and that was the scenario.

Tom: He is to ultra-running what Kelly Slater is to surfing or Michael Jordan is to basketball. He is the greatest of all time. I don’t think many people would disagree with that?

Ian: No. He has elevated the sport to a completely different level. He is within the very minute world of ultra-running and trail running, he is global superstar and I’m not saying that everybody on the street would know him, but certainly people who are interested in sport will know of Kilian Jornet and in recent years because he’s extended what he’s done to more extreme adventures and recently he’s just come back from Everest.

All those things click together in him being a megastar but also that brings a lot of pressures and he does get mobbed. The equivalent is imagining walking down the high street and David Beckham comes walking out in Manchester or Liverpool… He would be mobbed and Kilian is the same, particularly in Spain. He is a little bit defensive at times but over the years, because we’ve seen each other at a great deal of races, we became friends. I have that relationship with him… I don’t phone him up every week though, you know what I mean…

Tom: Ever since he got a restraining order…

Ian: Ha! Exactly, ever since he got a restraining order but if I see him we talk, we chat, we sometimes have dinner, we’ve been out for a drink. If you’re going to write a book you might as well have the best runner in the world write the foreword. I sent him an email and I said, “Look, feel free to say no, because I appreciate you get asked a lot of times for this type of thing” but he replied back and said, “Absolutely, no problem. I’ll do it”. It’s fantastic to have Kilian’s name on the cover of the book.

Tom: It’s a lovely photo that you’ve got, the black and white portrait of him looking down. It’s stunning. Let’s go back to the beginning. You knew Martin for a long time before you knew me.

Ian: Yes.

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Tom: At first I was editing Marathon Talk around the stuff I did and then we joined forces with you to launch Talk Ultra. Then in time, you took over the editing of Marathon Talk and you still do that to this day… I do visualize you editing in something like rusty twin prop plane over some snowy peaks. You haven’t done this your whole life though?

Ian: No.

Tom: …it was a kind of a career transition. You’ve already mentioned still life photography, photographing whatever it is – a bunch of grapes in a bowl? You’ve made that transition, amazing transition. What was the inspiration or motivation for that? When, why did that happen?

Ian: It’s quite simple actually. It’s 2008. This is a difficult thing to talk about because it’s about one of those moments in my life where everything changed. Everything. In summary, without going into too much detail but I’m more than happy to go into detail if you want to, I lost my job, I got divorced, my dad died of cancer and I said, “That’s it. I’m never doing anything again that I don’t want to do”.

Tom: How old were you then in 2008?

Ian: I’m 50 this year [laughs].

Tom: Okay. What’s that, eight years ago. So you were roughly 42?

Ian: Yes. So I made this decision. That’s it, I’m never going to do anything that I don’t want to do again.

Tom: What were those things? What were you doing that you didn’t want to do?

Ian: I think it wasn’t so much things that I didn’t want to do. It was I appreciated life and I’d appreciated that I had made some real gaffs in my life. I’d made financial mistakes; I’d got obsessed in sport – I am very OCD. When I’m doing something, I’m doing it. I guess that’s why I’ve made what I’m doing now successful because I can put blinkers on and I can work 20 hours a day. That is actually what’s needed to be done in the job that I’m doing at the moment. Sleep can be a luxury. But my obsessive-compulsiveness to sport, and that was participating, I’d really ruined my marriage. I had the foresight to be able to look back and think, “You’re bit of an idiot because you were never making a living from sport. You enjoyed it, you loved it and you’ve ruined a marriage because of it!” At the time my son was 12, he was old enough to understand what was going on and old enough to have some independence. But the impact on him and the impact on me was pretty bad. I missed home terribly… Plus, in 2008 also, I decided to run eight marathons in eight days, I don’t know if you remember?

Tom: When you’re under masses of pressure and stress, that sounds like a really good thing to do; not!

Ian: No. The thing was that the eight marathons in eight days was planned the year before and it was to coincide with me doing my last ironman, which I did in Klagenfurt and I think Martin was there for that. I think Martin raced Klagenfurt 2008? I did my last Ironman then I was going to run eight marathons in eight days and the plan was to run the Cotswold path all the way from the Gloucestershire to the Thames barrier. Then on the eighth day I ran on the marathon.

A little bit like Martin’s South West Coast path jaunt, my dad was going to support me and he was going to be in a mobile home. In the months, two to three months before this venture was going to start, my dad said, “I’ve got cancer”. I went through this whole process of “No, I’m going to cancel, I’m going to do this, I’m going to that” and he said, “No. You carry on. You do this for me”.

 

I remember distinctly, it’s quite a nice story in a way, it was the third day of the 8-marathons and I was finishing in Henley-on-Thames. That night was the night that my dad was going to hospital in Liverpool to have this major cancer operation. I finished my marathon, I had a car waiting for me. I drove up to my dad’s. I took him to hospital, waited during the night while he had the cancer operation, found out that the operation had gone well. I got back in the car, drove to Henley and then ran the marathon the next day. I remember running that marathon and not remembering it. I was an emotional wreck to be honest.

I had also a lot of things going through my mind about, “This is ridiculous. Your dad is potentially dying and you’re running in a marathon”. How could I justify that? So, there was all those things and to cut a long story short, you come out of the end of all this and you’re just not the same person. My marriage very quickly fell apart, my dad got a different form of cancer which eventually killed him about four or five months later, and I lost my job in October. I started 2009 basically with no home, no marriage, my dad had gone. I had a blank canvas and so I started with the priming coat and built what I am doing now from scratch.

Tom: It’s amazing. Huge! Wow… from that point to this point, it’s hugely inspirational because you did start from scratch.

Ian: Yes.

Tom: Because there’ll be people listening to this thinking, “I want to make changes. I want to do things. How do you do it?” We all look at people, we can look at your website, iancorless.com and see loads of success and inspirational content, whatever it is, but actually those first few steps are the most important by a million miles and people never really shout about those, share those. People aren’t aware of them so no one really knows where to start. Where did you start? Take me back to beginning of 2009.

Ian: For two years it was rubbish.

[laughter]

Ian: It really was because I had no money. My mom had spent her whole life with my father and then suddenly she was alone and vulnerable. I spent four months living with my mom because she needed the support. Then there came a point where I thought I had to say, “You know what mom, I’ve got to move out because this is not helping you” and also it wasn’t helping me. For four months, five months I was in a bit of a no man’s land. I was trying to get work as a photographer. I had clients, previous clients and I was getting some work but it was peaks and troughs. Sometimes you were busy, sometimes you weren’t. At the same time, sport was an escape. Of course, I got talking with you guys, with Marathon Talk, and I was helping provide you with some interviews in those early stages. I remember setting up an interview with Scott Jurek and what have you.

Tom: Yes, I remember this, I think it was Scott Jurek or it might have been Ryan Hall that you set up first. It was one of our early really good ones where you said to me, “Why don’t you interview such and such?” and I said, “Well we don’t know him?” and you said, “Have you asked?” and I went, “No. Of course not, I’ve not asked them, what a ridiculous suggestion”.

I think you asked them and they said yes! Again, it wasn’t that you were some huge well-known star, which you are now. It was actually just you were brave and bold enough to just ask people. Which a lot of it I was too scared to do. They won’t even reply to my email I thought… You had that ability to just to make things happen?

Ian: Yes, I guess so. I look back or I try and think back why did I think that would happen? I don’t know, maybe I understood the community. I don’t know?

Tom: People put barriers up there don’t they? And you didn’t seem to see those barriers. Even me I consider myself as a relatively barrier-free kind of guy but I even found just asking them to be ridiculous.

Ian: Yes. I asked them and they said yes and then eventually I said to you guys, “You know what? I think the time is now right for an ultra-running podcast, because there’s obviously demand for this!” Then I came up with this crazy concept of doing a show that’s ridiculously long and everybody told me it was a really bad idea, it would never work but actually it has been the ‘USP’ of the show. Thank God I didn’t try and do it every week, because otherwise I’d be at a mental home or an institution [laughs]. It’s bad enough trying to get a show out every two weeks because of the amount of content that I’m trying to put in it.

Tom: I don’t know how you do that?

Ian: My audience run long and so if they’ve got a show that’s three hours, four hours long they take it on their runs, and that was always my idea. I think, if I look back, that was definitely one of the really key things with the podcast, it was making it a long show because the other podcasts that existed were normally 45-minutes to an hour. You can listen to it those shows on the bus, listen to it on the train whereas I produce this show that was long, something to listen to while running long! I think that was one of the key factors of its success.

The podcast was like Marathon Talk. It was something that I was doing outside of everything else and I was still trying to make a living. But once you start contacting these people and interviewing them, you start to realize there is another world out here. As I said, I went to Transvulcania in 2012 at the invite of Skyrunning and I realized then when I was there because of my background as a photographer, because of what I was doing with the podcast – nobody else was doing this. It was that real brainwave moment! If I write, I podcast and I photograph this world, I am completely unique.

That was the moment that I then put everything together and went headfirst into creating what I’ve now created. It was hard and it was slow and it was steady. Once you’ve done one thing good then something else good then people start to ask more and invite more or request more.

I’ve always been very respectful of the runners. It’s really easy to be a fan. A classic example is Kilian. When you see him it would be so easy to go and run over to him and say, “Hi Kilian, how are you?” because he’s Kilian. I don’t do that. If he walks into a room, I’ll wave and I’ll let him come to me. I think that’s the way that I’ve always treated the runners. I just try and treat them as ordinary people.

I also have been very, very careful in what I write and what I say and how I interview them. You’ll know that you often hear things that are not repeatable because you’re having a private conversation. I’ve seen it happen where a private conversation has ended up in print or ended up in a blog or something. That is the moment that your career is over. Once you betray that trust that you’ve built up, then your career is over. So I’ve always respected that, I’ve always respected their private space and that in turn comes back a hundred fold.

I can be at a race and I’ll be having breakfast and for example, let’s say Sage Canaday walks past and he’ll say, “We’re going for a run, do you want to come?”

“Yes, okay.” That’s a really crazy thing to do because you only last about three minutes if you go for a run with Sage. But I think that’s the important thing, that although I’m a photographer and a journalist and I’m writing and communicating about the world that they are in, I’ve broken down a barrier in that yes I’m doing that but I’m also approachable, I’m friendly, and I’m somebody that they don’t mind having around, which isn’t always the case with journalists.

Tom: In that time period, fast forward now to the end of 2016 and you’re making a successful career out of something you love. First of all, that’s not always a good thing. To make your passion your career isn’t always as rosy as it sounds and sometimes people end up… and clearly that’s not the case with you but sometimes people end up no longer liking something they loved because it’s become a job and not fun. I’m interested in your thoughts on that and I’m also interested in your thoughts, without going into too many details and confidential stuff whatever it is, interested in as a business, how that is made up? Because I know having done Marathon Talk for a long time, at best, it’s made a tiny, tiny amount of money at worst it’s cost us a load and most of the time it just about breaks even in terms of costs. It’s not some golden ticket to living in Beverly Hills. You have to do it for passion. What is the business component of your business?

Ian: I learned very early on, once you’ve hit rock bottom you don’t go buy a car, you don’t go buy another house. You keep expenses at minimum and you have fingers in fires.

Tom: Fires or pies?

Ian: Fires or pies, whichever way.

[laughter]

Ian: Is it pies? Fingers in pies, okay?

Tom: Either way [laughs].

Ian: Either way, I’m sure the audience understand. So I’ve never relied on any one particular source of income. I’ve tried to make sure that I’m doing a couple of things to cover the bills if need be. I guess this is one of the reasons why I still edit Marathon Talk. Sometimes I think to myself, “I’ve got so much on and I’ve got to edit Marathon Talk” but then again I remember when I needed Marathon Talk and so I’m reluctant to give things up. Martin said to me recently, “Mate, you need to learn to say no” [laughs], but it’s very, very difficult to say no.

Tom: Slightly rich coming from Yelling!

Ian: Yes, exactly. But you’ll appreciate this and I think most people listening out there appreciate. If you go to the office at nine o’clock and leave at five o’clock and that’s your only obligation and you get your cheque at the end of the month that’s fine, but I don’t. I’m my own boss, bank holidays they don’t exist, weekends they don’t exist. It’s all time that you work and build and like you’ve said, that is one of the negatives. It’s very, very difficult for me to take time away, to take time off because I’m always thinking and when you have a website that is about the sport that happens and changes daily, it’s like having this animal that needs feeding and you have to feed it all the time. You can’t go missing for a week and not post or write something because news has happened.

One the advantages of the world that we live in is thank goodness for the internet, Wi-Fi and mobile phones – you can actually be anywhere in the world and do the job that I do. I don’t know whether I’m answering your question in the correct way but it’s about commitment, it’s about controlling to a certain extent how you start a day and end a day. That start and that end has to be really flexible with no fixed start and no fixed end and you need to fill the time.

Tom: And mixing up podcasting, coaching, speaking, training camps, publications, race coverage…

Ian: Yes, you have to have many different things. Talk Ultra is free for the audience just as Marathon Talk is. I don’t have any sponsors for Talk Ultra and I think it’s fair to say that directly from Talk Ultra, I don’t think I’ve earned anything. But Talk Ultra is a vehicle and we had this conversation years ago about the potential to make a living from a podcast, and I think it is possible but I’d have to devote myself 100% to the podcast and I’ve always had this philosophy with the podcast that I don’t want adverts and jingles. Because I think, from a listening point of view, what would I want to listen to? I wouldn’t want a jingle every 15 minutes, because it would be like turning the TV on and watching the film on ITV and then the commercials come on. I hate it. I don’t want that for the podcast, and although I’ve had conversations with sponsors in the past or potential sponsors, that would’ve been what would have had to have happen, so I didn’t do it. That maybe is a mistake, I don’t know but Talk Ultra has become a vehicle for what I do and it’s an outlet, and it keeps me in the environment that I need to be in not only with the runners, but with the community and the audience, and that’s invaluable. That connects me with everything else I do so when I go to a race, I can get content for the podcast at a race. I can provide a service to a race in the sense that I can give them exposure. That’s all into connecting with the business side of photography and writing.

Tom: It’s amazing. We’ve had various partners on the show on Marathon Talk, and in various things I’ve done we’ve had various shows and sometimes you do think, “I’m not enjoying this component of what I do now because of x, y, or z”. Actually the more you can stay true to your principles the better… I would argue though that you will always struggle to commercialize a five-hour podcast.

Ian: [laughs]

Tom: But commercializing isn’t your primary goal. Your primary goal is to do something you really love, you really enjoy, that people you respect really love and really enjoy what you do, and then turn that into a career as opposed to the former.

Ian: I think about moments in the podcast and you said this to Martin some time ago, but I think it was a significant episode of yours. Maybe the 300th, or the 250th, or something. I remember you saying to Martin, “You know what? I’m really, really proud of what we’ve got because even if the show stopped tomorrow, we have documented an era of sport that is there for lifetime.”

I think about some of the things that I’ve got. I interviewed Kilian when he set the fastest known time to the summit of the Matterhorn – I interviewed him the day after. I think about that interview and I think, “That is gold.” That is a pure piece of gold that can be listened to at any point. I interviewed Scott Jurek and his wife, Jenny for over an hour after they set the record on the Appalachian Trail last year. I think to myself, an hour of getting into the mind of Scott, you can’t put a price on that type of thing and I think that’s why the show works. If an interview takes 90 minutes, it takes 90 minutes. Of course, I might edit it down but the point is you can go so deep and get so much information in that time that you can’t get that anywhere, and I think that’s one of the advantages of Talk Ultra, and I think that’s why the audience like it.

Tom: I’m absolutely sure you’re right. It’s so rare to get good quality, in-depth content about people. So much of what we do now is snippets, and 30 seconds here, and as much as I love BBC and so on, it’s very rare you get in-depth with one person, and maybe on multiple occasions. Some of my proudest moments, the things I can share is the interview with Chris Chataway, or Martin’s show with Sammy Wanjiru, people who aren’t with us anymore. In that form, that’s documented not only just for a lifetime but forever, that’s out there digitally as in-depth stuff. When you look at that whole journey you’ve been on in for the last six, seven years, what are some of the highlights? Tell me about a couple of the moments… When you look back, there must have been some moments where you just had to pinch yourself and say, “I can’t quite believe I’m stood here doing this.”

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Ian: To be honest, and this is going to sound quite corny but it happens almost every month and sometimes it happens every week. I never take what I do for granted and I look at the amount of time that I’ve spent on the road in one year, and the places that I’ve been. This is going to sound like name-dropping and I guess it is name-dropping but this year alone, I’ll have been to Costa Rica rainforest, the Sahara, Nepal, to Everest, South Africa, Australia, and I just think… you said at the beginning of the show that you’re living the dream, and yes. I’m sorry, but I do actually think that sometimes I am living the dream. But it’s not easy and there’s a big price to pay for that. I’m in a relationship and that makes a relationship very, very hard when you spend so much time on the road.

But key moments, I remember 2012, when all this started. There’s a mountain race in Italy called, Trofeo Kima, it’s one of the ultimate races. It takes place at high altitude, 3,000 meters, the course is ice, glaciers, rocks, via Ferrata. It’s just the most extreme race. I turned up at this race and I thought, “How on earth am I going to cover this race?” It’s 50 odd kilometers. Kilian can win the race in six and a half hours. How am I going to get around? They said, “Here’s a helicopter” and basically I just leapfrogged the course in a helicopter. The helicopter couldn’t land so we had to hover above the mountains and I had to climb out of this helicopter while it’s hovering, and then I’d have to run on the course, take photographs, run back, get on the helicopter, move to the next place. That was a real pinch moment. Marathon des Sables with Sir Ranulph Fiennes – daily going in to see him in the morning, seeing him at night, and chatting to the real James Bond. Ranulph Fiennes is the real James Bond. The guy is incredible. Here he is, one of the oldest competitors ever to complete Marathon des Sables, and of course Kilian. Kilian is an easy, a very, very easy name to drop but he is a legend. I’ve been at some of those key moments when he’s created a piece of history. He didn’t invite me to Everest though which was a bit disappointing.

Tom: Rude, I’d call it.

Ian: Rude.

Tom: Downright offensive.

Ian: [laughs] I don’t think I would have lasted very long at six, 7,000 meters with Kilian.

Tom: Yes, keep up with those cameras on your back.

Ian: Yes. It’s very difficult to pick races and people. There’s a race in South Africa called, the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun, and it takes place in one of these remote places on the Namibian border. The race actually crosses the Orange river, goes into Namibia. It’s one of the oldest places on the planet, the landscape is amazing. You spend a night in the middle of nowhere in a tent, looking up at the amazing South African skies and you think, “Wow. I’m actually here working.” It’s just moments like that. Like I said, I never take anything for granted. Tomorrow, I go to Italy and I’ll be on Lake Garda, and I’ll be working in the mountains behind Lake Garda, and that almost becomes just an ordinary weekend. But I still get on the mountain, and I look down, and I look at the lake and I think, “Look at this, this is my office. This is today’s office. This is amazing”.

Tom: A really interesting thought about hobbies. He says picking himself up… but an interesting observation of mine from running is that we separate the rest of running from ultra-running, the ultra-running seems to have done, in my opinion a really, really great job. A bit like cycling, of positioning itself as an aspiration or the aspiration is to see beautiful places, meet wonderful people, build friendships, be outside and it’s seen as enjoyable for its own sake, for the fact of doing it whereas the rest of running has got so fixated on times and have you done a marathon? And what’s your PB? It forgot, in my opinion, the rest of running forgot about the nicer things. Running is almost unique, I would say, in that you ask most runners if they enjoy running, most of them will say, “No” and they’ll come out with, “Well, I can eat cake at the weekend” or something, whatever it is. They don’t really enjoy it, whereas ultra-runners, it seems to me, have got it right and they are actually in the moment. For example, we’re talking about what are your best experiences are and they are amazing, bucket list experiences that actually anybody can do. Most of these races anybody can endure, anybody can take part and anybody can have the same experience.

Ian: You are exactly right. The sport is changing slightly, you know the FKT, fastest known time is becoming more and more popular, but it’s still taking place in the stunning location in an amazing environment. An FKT is about a runner setting something against a clock in a place and it’s the place that actually is really significant. Just this last weekend, a runner called Jim Walmsley set a new record in the Grand Canyon, running the rim-to -rim but also doing the rim-to-rim-to-rim, which is out and back. The Grand Canyon as a location is a stunning place and the speed that he ran is just absolutely phenomenal, but it was him in his environment testing himself and the point is that with an FKT, an FKT is personal. You can have your own FKT, your own fastest known time and that is great! As somebody who was competitive in terms of competitive with myself, not necessarily competitive within the sense of being elite but I always tried to do my best and a few years ago I started to get chronic knee problems and that has seriously impacted on what I can do. So FKT’s and personal journeys are great. I get asked all the time, “Ian, do you miss racing?” and I say, “No.” because I’m in the domain, I’m with the runners, I’m at races, and yes all right I’m not racing myself, but I’m still getting a fix. I can still be on the mountain, within the landscape – I just do things now at my pace, at my distance because the two are connected.

If I get a day free before a race or a day free after the race I can go out on the race course and experience what the runners are going to experience in the race, but in my own time and then I can come back and talk to them and say, “I went up today and I did the vertical kilometer and came back down.” And they don’t ask, “Oh, what time did you do?”, they’ll just go, “Oh, cool, so you managed to find some time to get up there, yes the mountain’s stunning, isn’t it brilliant?” That’s the type of scenario that that we’re in. I think it started to get clouded a little bit with some prize money that’s coming in, and of course UTMB last year, we had the first EPO case which has raised alarm bells and then we’ve got the craziness of people like Rob Young. Underneath it all, Rob is a person and why did he think he was going to get away with it? You actually have to think, what was the reason he made that really bad decision? With the amount of scrutiny he was going to get… he wasn’t even a good liar. Why would you try and run a sub-three marathon when you’re running three thousand miles?

Tom: Unfortunately, I think a lot of these things slide, they start out with the best intentions, they get carried away and then they just bend things a little bit because actually it’s a good outcome… Raising money for charity or whatever it is and actually the mind’s very clever in saying, “Well, that’s all right, you’re doing that for the right reasons” and then once you’re on that slope you just get tangled up and it runs away with you, doesn’t it?

Ian: It’s like Lance.

Tom: Exactly.

Ian: Lance, still to this day didn’t do anything wrong. That’s his viewpoint. He didn’t do anything wrong, because everybody else was doing it. And he still believes that.

Tom: And I understand that, I don’t agree with it, but I understand that and I think I think sometimes we don’t understand how people’s minds work, how things change over time, how motivations can blur things up and it’s crazy…

Tom: A bit of a cheesy question but I think a really interesting question. If you were, let’s take you back 30 years or 20 years and you’re 20 or 30 years old and you’re in the absolute shape of your life, fighting fit, but you know what you know now, so you know all the races you’ve been to, you’ve seen them firsthand, if you could be in the form of your life just once and go to one race and absolutely smash it to pieces, where would you go?

Ian: That’s a really tough one. Can I give you two answers?

Tom: You can give me two answers.

Ian: Okay. From an ultra-running perspective there would be an obvious choice because you would go where you would have the biggest audience so that would be something like UTMB, because that’s the big showcase. If you won UTMB then you’d get all the plaudits and the slap on the back and equally something like Western States. It’s a much smaller race, but it’s completely respected in the community.

Tom: Comrades if we’re going on the road?

Ian: Comrades if you’re on the road equally. Mountain UTMB, trail Western States, road Comrades. If you could have your day and be up there and fighting with a chance for the podium one of those three races would be incredible. But if I could just go to a race and just have an absolutely fantastic time and feel brilliant, I’d probably choose a multi-stage race, like marathon Des Sables or Everest Trail Race because what I love about those races from a working point of view and from a running point of view is that they are journeys. I love to be in this place where they have a start point and a finish point and the way that you move through that landscape is by foot. Most of the time all the modern gizmos are gone because you’re self-sufficient, so your phone won’t work and it’s pointless carrying it, because it’s just weight, you’re eating around campfires, there’s no TV, there’s no music, there’s nothing and it’s primal.

When I work on those races you come out of those races and you think, “That was just a transformative process”. I often interview runners who’ve gone through that for the first time and it’s changed their lives, they are not the same people who went in the race when they come out. They’re different, and it often changes what they do and for a lot of people it can be that point where it was for me in 2008, they come out of the desert or the mountains and they say, “You know what? I’m going to change my job and I’m going to find a way to give myself either more time or more money or whatever it is, but allow myself the freedom to do more of this, more adventures, more exploration”.

Tom: You’re talking about life changing and so on, some of your guests have changed my life. You interviewed Barry Murray in a really fascinating interview and we ended up getting Barry on our show and then Barry ended up working with me for a year, helping me with my nutrition and lifestyle stuff. There’s actually, selfishly, there’s things that come out of the stuff we do that actually helps us. Have there been examples, cases with the people you’ve met and interviewed who they’ve really moved your life into another direction as well?

Ian: Yes, I think there’s people that have inspired me in racing and the top-end runners inspire me all the time, but it’s really the mid-packers and the back of the packers that are the true inspiration because you know, Scott Jurek or Karl Meltzer or Emily Forsberg or whoever it is, they’ve got that natural innate ability that makes them a supreme being and then what they do with that talent is they nurture it and they train it and they become better but the natural ability is there. What I’m always amazed at is when I go to a race and I see the back of the packer and I look at them and I think, “Why are you doing this race?” Because even if it’s a good race for them, they are going to suffer but they actually embrace the journey, they embrace the process and I always tell a story about Marathon des Sables to provide perspective. There’s a British guy called Tobias Mews who I think you know, Tom? He was the highest placed Britain until I think James Cracknell beat him…

Tom: 12th place or almost there I think.

Ian: Yes, I think up until that point Tobias had been around about 18th or 19th. I went to a talk where Tobias was speaking with his best friend. They were both in the army or should I say they were both ex-military and they’d both worked in the same regiment. Tobias stood up and he said, “I just want to tell you a story about the perspective of the Marathon des Sables.” He said, “I finished the whole race in around about 22 hours for the whole race. Whereas my friend here did just the long day in 36 hours.”

Just the long day in 36-hours and his finishing time was something like 60 hours, almost three times longer than Tobias!

It’s that perspective that I see every single time I go to a race. The front people are the front people, they’re fast, they’re gifted, they’re talented, they’ll have the highs and the lows but it’s all the ones at the back who are putting one foot in front of the other. I think if you can take that motto into whatever you do daily… There’s always going to be somebody better than you but you have to keep going forward, you have to keep pushing, you have to keep putting the commitment in and if you don’t put the commitment in then it’s a DNF and you don’t finish. That’s the same whether it’s work, family, relationships, whatever. So I don’t think there’s any one significant person, although there are many interviews that have really changed me but I think as a global thing, it’s the experience of what people go through to achieve their own personal goals – I think that’s the most inspirational thing.

Tom: Finally, of course, I can’t let you go without asking you a question. You’ve edited and listened to this show every week for the last four years or something like that, so you know it intimately. Let’s cut straight to the chase – six months, perfect training on the track, one mile… how fast?

Ian: Can I have somebody else’s knees?

Tom: Somebody else’s knees, yes.

Ian: I knew this question was coming and I didn’t think about the answer.

Tom: Have you done any timed run in the last year?

Ian: No.

Tom: No? Okay. Nothing to go off?

Ian: My last marathon was Paris three years ago and I ran 2:53. So that’s what?

Tom: 6min 30s pace?

Ian: Yes, it’s about that… I’d say I’d probably be lucky to get a 5:30!

Tom: That would put you with Rich Castro, Frank Shorter, Kirk Parsley, Simon Weir etc. I think that sounds about right, you happy with that 5:30?

Ian: Yes, I think so. It does hurt me a little bit because I know that you hit five minutes. I’m tempted to say 4:59 [laughs]. I think I’d be pushing the boat out for a 4:59.

Tom: Well, I haven’t got your knees, my knees work. It’s the difference.

Ian: I should try with Kilian’s knees shouldn’t I?

Tom: Absolutely! Look, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking, thank you for sharing your amazing story or inspirational story. Apologies that it’s taken so long but it was worth the wait and I can’t wait to get my copy of the book, Running Beyond.

Ian: Yes, I’m sure there’s some non-signed copies out there as well if you want one. 😉

******

Many thanks to Tom Williams and Marathon Talk Podcast for allowing me to transcribe the interview for my website. RUNNING BEYOND book is available worldwide HERE

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“Ian has been there to witness the stories. He knows the sport, he practices it and he has been involved in many different aspects, all of which provides him with a great overview. He has the strength and character to work many hours, even practicing his own ultra with cameras in order to capture the emotions and the passion from inside the sport. Ian has immense enthusiasm, and his commitment to following a race knows no bounds.”

 

“Ian’s photographs convey the passion of the sport, and the beauty of his images immerses you in the aura of each race. We are able to feel what the runners have felt, and it is the closest you will get without being there yourself. It is a great journey, and one that you are able to follow yourself in Running Beyond.” – Kilian Jornet

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As a final note, I need to give a huge thanks to my soul mate Niandi Carmont who has been a rock since 2009 and supported me on my journey in the world of trail, mountain and the ultra world – without her support and continued support this journey would not be possible. Thanks!

Niandi running above the clouds in what feels like our second home, La Palma.

Niandi running above the clouds in what feels like our second home, La Palma.

Adam Campbell – A Rock And A Hard Place

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On August 30th 2016, Adam Campbell was attempting a big traverse that had never been completed in a single push before in Rogers Pass, BC. Adam was accompanied by two partners, Nick Elson and Dakota Jones. They were fairly early on in the journey, going up relatively moderate terrain (class 3/4). Adam followed Nick and Dakota up a route matching their steps and actions, Adam pulled on a rock that the previous two climbers had used. This giant rock came loose, broke and away and Adam fell. He tumbled backwards, summersaulting and rag dolling over 200 feet (70-80 meters) down a serious of ledges and sharp rocks.

Adam ended up breaking his back, several vertebrae, breaking his hip, breaking his ankle, damaging his wrists, shoulders and knees and had severe lacerations across my body. His helmet was shattered and has cracks across all of it,  It still has blood and hair caked into it. Without it he would have suffered severe head trauma, instead, he just had stitches and a mild concussion.

Adam is alive, not paralyzed and is here to tell his story.

All images ©adamcampbell
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Ian: Adam I’m pleased to say is on the road to recovery after a horrendous accident several months ago, and he’s here to talk to me about the incident and maybe about some lessons that we can all learn from spending time in the mountains. Adam, first of all, it’s a great pleasure for you to be here, and I put the emphasis on ‘here!’

Adam: Yes, that’s entirely true. And first of all thanks, it’s great to chat to you, it’s been a while. But I’m really, really lucky, I came very close to having a very different outcome which could have meant paralysis or very, very close to death as well, so I am very lucky to be here speaking to you in the literal sense.

Ian: Yes, absolutely. This is the sort of interview that I don’t want to do, but I’m pleased that you’re here for me to do it. There’s a slight irony in that but you know what I mean.

Adam: For sure, but at the same time, I think it’s important to have these conversations because there are lessons learned and I think after an accident, to a certain degree, I’m a bit of a survivor now and I think talking about it now, analysing it, is really important for my recovery and also hopefully help some other people avoid some of the things that I could have done differently perhaps to avoid ending up in the situation I did.

Ian: It was an awkward one for me because I didn’t know whether to reach out to you and ask you for an interview, because we know each other but that doesn’t really mean a lot in a situation like this because it can be a very fragile thing to talk about, and I sort of, was a little bit plus or minus in the way that I worded the email to you. I’m really pleased to say that you came back because you realize that there are lessons to be learnt for everybody. Let me go back a little bit because if I remember rightly I think the last time that we did an interview together was when you got hit by lightning at Hard Rock.

[laughs]

Adam: Yes, the Hard Rock incident was definitely the first major mountain incident that I had, that one luckily there was no lasting repercussions. Aaron who I was with at the time, he was my pacer at Hard Rock, he came out and visited me in hospital a couple of months ago and I saw him at the weekend. We’re still, really, really good friends and that incident was a little bit different than this one because the outcome was fine, so maybe I don’t analyse it as much, because I walked away from it.

Ian: I think there was an element of, although many of us realized the seriousness of the incident, there was a real comedy element to it and I don’t wish to undermine what happened but it almost became folklore, “Oh, Adam Campbell got hit by lightning”, and of course when Hard Rock came around this year everybody was commenting, “I wonder who’ll get hit by lightning?”, or, “I wonder if there’ll be that sort of incident.” It’s good to see humour in things, but also we do need to be aware of the real life dangers, and we’ll come onto real life dangers but I just wonder, before we talk in depth about your incident, before you went to the mountains on this trip, and I know that you’ve always respected the mountains and the environment but do you think in hindsight you respected them enough?

Adam: Yes, I’d say I would because I have a few friends who had some very, very serious accidents in the mountains and they include losing their life in there, so I think I do have a real respect for it, but I think sometimes you understand the power of the mountain, and the unpredictable nature of them, but I think you understand that in an intellectual level but until you actually experience it in a real tangible way, I’m not sure if the lessons strike quite as deeply, if that makes sense.

I’ve done quite a lot of avalanche courses and, you spend a lot of time talking about these things and reading up on internet sites. If you’re just reading about them and analysing them from a distance they don’t strike you in quite the same way, I don’t think. Although, I’d say, I respected them on a theoretical level, there’s times I’ve been scared up there because you do understand the risk. I think it’s when you’ve actually seen the powers and unpredictable nature of mountains, it’s very hard to fully, fully respect them.

Ian: That makes sense, complete sense. Let’s first of all just provide a little bit of perspective but I think it’s good to just give a little summary. You were going climbing with Nick Elson and Dakota Jones, and you were going to… well, you were on a single push before Rogers Pass in British Columbia. Just give us an insight into what type of climbing terrain this is. What was the purpose of the day out?

Adam: We were tackling something call the Horseshoe Traverse, which in essence, you’re covering 14 different peaks in Rogers Pass. Rogers Pass is a really beautiful area in Canada and it’s basically the birthplace of mountaineering in Canada, so it’s got a lot of history to it, although Canadian history is not nearly as old as it is in a lot of other places, it’s still a very wild and rugged place with very few people that actually visit it, despite it being somewhat touristy. The specific terrain that we are moving over though is 4th to 5th class terrain, so nothing extremely wild, so we were looking to solo everything.

We did have a couple of ropes with us if we had to repel off some of the backside of mountains as we were down coming, or if the conditions changes drastically on us, but we were looking to solo everything. There was nothing in there that was really at our limit, it was something that was well within our capability of doing. Nobody had done this traverse in a single push before, previous parties had done it, but only a handful of people had done it, and it had taken three or four days, so maybe our initial arrogance was looking to do it in a day but looking at the terrain and the distance and the vertical gain, we figured it was possible to do it in under 24 hours but it was going to be pretty close to that 24-hour mark.

It does involve glacier crossings and some rather complex terrain which slows you down quite a bit.

Ian: To give perspective to this, bearing in mind my audience are runners not climbers, but admittedly heavily influence by Skyrunning and by the adventures of runners like Kilian Jornet, where running ventures into this new area, this sport, that is called Alpine Running. Where does what you were doing fit into this? Was it a run with some climbing, or was it very much climbing with some running?

Adam: It was very much climbing with some running. It was more of a mountaineering outing than anything else.

Ian: Okay, so from a perspective of our audience, you needed to be a competent climber, rather than a competent runner.

Adam: Yes, absolutely yes. There’s a trail that approaches the first peak, and there’s a trail that get you home at the end, so in the 24 hours, or however long it’s going to take us, we probably would have been on trail for all of half an hour.

Ian: Right, okay, okay.

Adam: Very much climbing yes, and I’m not sure how much the audience know about Nick Elson, for instance, but Nick Elson is an incredibly competent mountaineer. He just broke the long-standing Teton Grand Traverse record, which is owned by Rolando Garibotti which is the best known alpinists in Patagonia, and he’s not very, very well-known outside of North America but I would argue that he’s probably the best person in North America at the moment, he’s light and fast, mountain objectives.

He’s incredibly fast, he beat Mike Foote at the Squamish 50 last year by quite a bit which instantly means you’re a very, very competent runner. He finished second at the mountain marathon in Alaska, basically going the same time as Kilian went last year on that course so to give you an idea of his competence level, and he’s also an assistant rock guide, and is a very, very good rock climber. He’s done a lot of things in the coast mountains, he just doesn’t advertise himself at all. Obviously, Dakota needs to introduction with his resume for the audience here.

Ian: Adam if you can be objective on this is, how much does your experience and Dakota’s experience in the mountains as mountaineers compare to say, somebody like Nick or Kilian? I’m just trying to draw a parallel, so the audience can understand your abilities.

Adam: Yes, I know for sure. Dakota, I believe has climbed for quite a long time since he was a teenager. Where he lives in Colorado, very mountainous type of terrain. I think he’s got quite a good history of mountaineering. I did mountaineering for probably the last five years at a pretty decent level, but not Nick and Dakota’s level – they have been doing it their whole lives. I have been moving more and more towards doing these mountain objectives. I was fortunate this summer to get out quite a bit with some of the top guys in the world really. Will Gadd for example, who is one of the best ice climbers in the world. I’ve had some really, really good mentors. Definitely, I would say of the party of three, I was the weak link for sure.

Ian: In terms of what you were doing here, obviously, it was challenging and that’s part of the reason why you’re doing it, and that’s part of the attraction. But in advance of going into it I’m sure the three of you sat down, talked about it. Talked about the speed that you needed to go. Talked about the ability level. Talked about where the difficult sections would be. Did you feel calm, controlled, and relaxed by what lay ahead?

Adam: Absolutely, yes. There’s no single part of it that was outside of our comfort zone. I’ve done several parts of the route myself in individual blocks. I just never linked them together before. I proposed the route to Nick Elson originally. Nick was super keen on it, because he enjoys doing these sorts of big pushes. It’s a challenge. No single part of it is difficult. It’s just linking it all together and try do it fast is where you can add complexity that way. Dakota just happened to be around that weekend, he was spending some time at the Canadian Rockies. When we found that out, we invited him along and he was super keen to come.

Ian: You mentioned earlier about faster and light. Obviously, what you were doing here was going to be a fast and light exercise, because if you’re going to cover that amount of ground, that amount of climbing, you can’t be pulled down and dragged down by lots of equipment. You need to be moving at a pace that will allow you to cover the distance within the safe time. How do you decide how light to go on something like this? What does light look like to the audience?

Adam: We are fortunate that we have some of the top end gear, and top end gear often can be really light. We looked at the route and what the objective dangers are, and what the terrain is like. It’s fortunate that we have got guide books for these things, so you can read what the guide books say. I know a lot of people who live in that area, so I could get some information from them. I’ve actually had some other friends who’ve attempted this traverse before and so we can get some route data from them. I also had done sections of it earlier this year, so I had some first-hand information as well. It gives you a sense of what you need.

From there, we met up in the camp grounds the night before the race. Sorry, not the race… the effort. We just put our gear out and had a look. What we had was crampons – a really lightweight aluminium crampon which just attach on our running shoes for the glacier crossings. We had two sections of 30-meter rope. Our rope was more like a rappel cord. It’s just six millimetres, really lightweight. I was using the Petzl glacier rope. We split that up between two runners. We had a few pieces of gear with us, so just a couple of knots in hand.

In case we had to build a belay anchor or a rappel anchor from, and then we had a couple of slings as well so that we get through over rocks the same thing if we had to do an emergency escape. I also had a small emergency bivy sack with me, which is basically like this baseline kit, but it’s an inflated baseline kit. We each had lamps because of how long we’d be out, and then a light windbreaker, a down jacket because Canadian Rockies can get cold especially at the summit and the weather can roll through. A set of gloves. I don’t think any of us had pants with us, like long pants. But basically from there is more or less what you’d be required to use like UTMB.

We had a little bit of water, a little bit of food, but really not that much. We had enough to stay comfortable while you’re moving, but it would’ve gone uncomfortable to stop moving for a night.

Ian: Yes, and this is the point that I was going to come on to is the great thing about fast and light, is light is great when you’re moving fast. It’s not so great when you’re not moving fast, and you’re going to be able to tell us about what not moving was like.

Adam: For sure. I think there’s a saying in mountaineering that light and fast means “cold, tired, and hungry.”

Ian: [laughs] Yes. I think there’s a real lesson to learn here, because fast and light has become a buzz word. The skyrunning film that came out was called fast and light. I think it’s important. I always try and do a job of making people aware of actually what fast and light means. For you top guys, when you’re moving fast, it’s not really an issue. The problem is that if you fall, if you twist an ankle, if something happens and the weather turns and then you’re stuck. This is when there is a real problem with this type of manoeuvring, but you’re going to be able to provide a perspective of that later on. Let’s cut to the chase.

Let’s talk about the incident… Basically, Nick and Dakota had moved through a section of rock and you were following. There’d been no issues as they moved through, but as you moved through and grabbed hold of a section that had been perfectly safe for the previous two, it moved and came lose, and basically…

…you take over and tell us what happened.

Adam: Yes. I just want to just take one quick set back. The one other part with the light and fast is you want to make sure that you have got the weather. We’re fortunate now with all the forecasting that we have. We made sure that we had a perfect weather window to do this attempt in. We made sure that we had at least 48-hours of good weather predicted, which sort of, adds in element of safety. That means that you can go light and fast, because the weather can change but at least that was one thing that we did account for.

You do have to plan very carefully, because as you say you have very little room for error if things do go wrong. Light and fast also means having just the right equipment for the terrain and route that you’re looking to do.

Ok, back to the incident now. We were probably three and a half hours into the run, and we’re moving up towards the fourth peek on the route. We’re moving in fourth class terrains with the big court side blocks of rock. The rock in that area is normally quite solid. All the rock in the Rockies is quite good, but the rock in Rogers Pass is normally very, very solid court side blocks.

Nick and Dakota were just ahead of me, and I was rushing a little bit to move quickly. Often, you’ll check the rock to make sure that everything is stable as you’re going, but if you’re moving quickly and you’re seeing other people go through a zone, I basically pulled on this block which is maybe the size of a small refrigerator. I felt the rock start to move, and I heard it crack. At that point I knew in some way what was going to happen. As a note, we were all wearing helmets as well, because when you’re scrambling like that with people above you, you need a helmet.

The rock just pulled out on me, and I tumbled backwards down a series of ledges about 200 feet, so 70 to 80 meters. I just basically bounced and rag doll down a series of ledges. I was conscious the whole time, which was quite scary. I still have pretty vivid flashbacks of that happening. I ended up face down. I actually remember slowing down at one point. I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I’m alive. I can’t believe I’m alive.” and then starting to fall again, and then I’m like, “Oh crap, I’m dead.” It was probably saltier language than that. I ended up face down at the base of the rock edge, and all I could see was this pool of blood underneath me. But I was like, “Oh my God I’m alive.” I rolled myself over onto my back and waited for Nick and Dakota to come down.

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I can’t imagine what they were thinking right now. I’m sure they thought they were coming down to a body. But I was conscious the whole time, and yes, it was quite a horrible feeling. As I was laying there, I did a self-assessment, when I knew something was okay because I was able to push myself up onto my back, which in retrospect may not be the smartest thing to do, but you’re not really thinking that clearly at the time. I knew that I had broken my pelvis. I could feel it, and I knew I had broken my ankle, but I didn’t know what kind of internal damage I had, and I knew that there was a lot of blood around me.

Nick and Dakota came down, ran down probably within minutes of this happening. They just have to make their way down the same terrain, and when they got there, I had a locator beacon on me and reach beacon. I had it in my pack, and I also had a cell phone on me, and so I told them where the beacon was on my back pack, and they simply pressed the SOS button on that. We noticed the previous peak there was cellular service. Nick was able to run up to the previous peak with my cell phone, and was able to call Search and Rescue from there.

Dakota stayed with me and made sure I stayed calm. He took out my jacket and my emergency space blanket, and put that on me because I was starting to go in a bit of shock at this point and sort of going in and out of consciousness, and trying to stay with it, but at the same time knowing that I was in a lot of trouble. I knew that I needed help to come quickly because you never know what kind of internal damage is going on. Luckily, Search and Rescue were actually doing a training mission in the area, so within half an hour, a rescue helicopter flown by and had located us.

But then they had to fly back in to Revelstoke to go get a pilot who can longline people in, because not all pilots can longline rescuers in. They had to fly back to town which is 80 Kilometres away, get the new pilot, fly back, set the staging area. They did another flyby to assess where we were. Luckily the terrain that we were in wasn’t so technical that they could longline a rescuer in.

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I remember lying there, watching this helicopter, at the base of the glacier, as they were prepping, and I just lay there, staring at the rotor of the plane just there at the helicopter hoping to see it move because I remember they were going to come and get me. Because of where the wind blows off the glacier, they had to do two flybys, to drop the rescuers off, and then from there, they package you, or they bundle you, make sure that your spine is stable, so they put you on a spinal board. Then they flew me out, and then they flew Nick and Dakota home afterwards.

I was flown to this, it’s like a visitor centre in Rogers Pass, and from there, there was an ambulance crew waiting for me, and they worked on me for over an hour stabilizing me, and making sure that my vitals were in place before getting me in a helicopter and flying me an hour to the main hospital, to the trauma centre, where I was able to get into surgery that night, which is quite lucky.

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Ian: Wow, you’ve sort of described that with such clarity. I need to clarify here that this is only eight or nine weeks ago. It’s almost giving me goose bumps just listening to you describe it, because I’ve got the images that go with it even though I wasn’t there. It’s quite traumatic to listen to. Do you feel in a way a little bit separated from it, although, you’re fully aware of everything that went on, and your body showing the impact of what went on. But do you feel as almost an out of body experience, because you’re describing it as though you’re looking on?

Adam: Yes, I know, for sure. It definitely was. I think because if you’re going in and out of consciousness at the time, it’s mostly just the shock and blood loss. Yes, perhaps there was a little bit of out of body experience going on for sure. But at the time I was very aware of what was going on, and I was trying to stay calm the whole time, again, you know how important it is to stay calm in those situations. I think Nick and Dakota were incredible. I really couldn’t have had two better people because neither of them panicked, which is the last thing that you want in those situations. Dakota just stayed there, holding my hand, sort of stroking me or just doing whatever I needed to just to get some comfort.

I believe that when I was lying there, if I would move a little bit, I would scream on pain. But I don’t really remember that so vividly, what I do remember is the feeling of falling and this feeling of the rocks breaking against, or just say I get these flashbacks and the sound of the sound of the rocks cracking. I have a really, really vivid image of as I was stumbling, because I was stumbling backwards, like seeing the mountain range turned upside down, and thinking how strange it was to see this range upside down. Just how horrific that was.

I do remember at one-point thinking, “I’m dead, this is it. I’m gone.” But at the same time just accepting that, that was my reality. Which sounds maybe kind of morbid, but that was like I’m dead, this is it.

Ian: I guess at that point when you’re falling, we’ve all been there to really varying extents. Even if it’s just tripping over a curb on the way to the shops. You certainly go in slow motion, don’t you? You see the fall coming, you see the pavement or whatever it is getting closer, and that instantaneous thing just seems to become handfuls of seconds rather than the fraction of second that it actually is, and you do get that opportunity to sort of say “Oh, this is going to hurt.” Or in your case, “Oh my God, I’m going to die.”

The reality of when you got to hospital was, you ended up breaking your back, you had several vertebrae broke, you broke your hip, you broke your ankle, you damaged your wrists, shoulders and knees, you had lacerations all over your body, and you went  on to say that had you not been wearing a helmet, then you probably would’ve been toast, you probably wouldn’t have been here because of head trauma.

It is amazing that it is only eight or nine weeks ago because I think myself, and so many other people when we heard of this, well, the instant thoughts were, will you walk again? I’m sure that must have been going through your mind.

Adam: Hell, absolutely. I completely did. I remember being in hospital waiting to go into surgery and wondering this. It’s quite terrifying going into surgery even though, I knew I was around very confident doctors and surgeons. It’s a scary feeling not knowing what’s going to happen to me when I got out of there. Originally they told me I have punctured a lung as well, which didn’t turn out to be true. But yes, you just don’t know what is going to happen.

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My girlfriend is a doctor and she’s from the town where I was flown to, and so her mother was actually the first person to come see me in hospital. She’s called Laura, so Laura who was working in Calgary at the time, got on a flight straight out there and she actually was able to run up to me right before I went to surgery, which is quite moving to have that. When I came out of surgery my mom had flown out as well.

You’re just lying there, in quite a lot of pain and also in this really heavily drugged state because the ambulance people put me on Ketamine, which is quite a powerful narcotic.

I remember the feeling of being in a helicopter and sort of this strange drugged state and this tremendous amount of pain, and then waking up in the hospital corridors being told I was going into surgery, people asking me all these questions, you don’t really know if you can answer. It’s just, it’s so like so much sensory overload really at that point. Yes, not knowing what was going to happen to me for the rest of my life, and then not knowing… Yes, it’s quite powerful.

Ian: Yes. You had eight hours of surgery, you had pins put in your body and then unfortunately some complications arose after the operation with your digestive system basically shutting down and you had to have ongoing treatment for bowel problems, etc. That lasted 10 days and you said in your email that this was almost one of the worst bits because your body started deteriorating, you started to lose muscle mass.

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Adam: I broke my T8 to T11. That’s fine so they put pins in there, I broke my iliac crest, so the top of my hipbone sheared right off and then as they said that I had open lacerations which are actually the biggest concern to them because of infection. There’s rock fall in there, but it was down to the bone across all my hip. Which is pretty horrible and the other parts of me were sore but they weren’t as critical.

The one thing that I found after the fact, there is actually two anaesthesiologists who were working at the hospital and one of them thought that all they would work on is my hip to start and then they would come back and do my spine at a later date because it wasn’t critical. The second anaesthesiologist was like no, this person is young and healthy so we’re just going to do both now, he can handle eight hours of surgery.

Because otherwise I would have sat there in the hospital with a broken back for several days until they got back to operate on it and I understand that dilemma is a doctor because you know this is an emergency trauma centre and they likely have somebody else come in and so how much time and resources to put into helping one person. I’m really fortunate. I found out that after the fact is as always, angels are around the hospital looking out for you and giving you all this special care, so in a lot of ways I got lucky like that. I ended up having, it’s called a “stomach ileus” which means your stomach shuts down.

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That was just horrific, horrific pain. I had never experienced anything like that. The rest of me was pinned, so it was more or less stable at that point. But all my haemoglobin dropped in my body and so they also swelled up to probably like three times my normal size because your body is not able to process in the fluid. I was just sitting in this hospital room and the person across the hall from me he’d been hit by a semi-truck. The other person right beside me had been in a helicopter crash.

Ian: Oh Jeez.

Adam: – Yep, we were pretty messed up.

Ian: Sounds like a hospital ward for Vietnam or something.

Adam: Yes, it certainly is. I mean, the trauma centres really are something else.

Ian: Yes

Adam: I end up going almost 10 days without eating any food and I lost a ton of muscle mass during that time and just really had to feed in a huge way. But the same time I had swelled up quite bad, this is a bit of a funny state because I was like jello but I was losing my body. I was just cannibalizing through the whole process which is pretty wild. Then I was finally allowed to start eating it made me violently ill after 10-days because I ate too much right off the bat, so I ended up having to reintroduce food very slowly back into my system.

Ian: At what point did they allow you to leave the hospital and go home?

Adam: I left the hospital two weeks later but ended up staying for a few days in this town Kamloops for a couple of days then. It was quite amazing actually. The one thing I need to say is, despite this being a horrific accident, my family is spread out around the world, my father lives in Nigeria, my brother lives in Thailand and they flew out to come see me. My mother and my father are estranged like they haven’t really spoken much in the last 10 to 15 years. Because of that they were brought together, by the end of the trip they were going out for dinners together and talking and were hugging. That was very powerful and my girlfriend and I were able to connect in this like incredibly special way.

It’s quite incredible how trauma and tragedy can actually bring people very close together. I also have a lot of my friends from Vancouver who drove six hours to come see me. Which was also incredibly special to have these people come. Even my boss from work, happened to be in Kamloops, he came and saw me in the hospital. You have this really strong community of people around you which was really, really help get the recovery process.

Ian: It’s so good to be able to see those positives out of something that is potentially so negative. You have mentioned in other places about how that process has been, something that you’ve been able to look on. It’s something that you can be really thankful for, there’s a real positive to come out of something so bad. Also, it’s made you made you face maybe your position within the world and within your life and look at your own vulnerabilities?

Adam: Absolutely. It also just made me question a lot of other my approach to things because as athletes we can also all be very selfish with our time and maybe not spend an extra bit of time calling family here. Just some day to day life, you kind of pretend you get too busy to do it. But it’s not, it’s just a bit of an excuse and you realize how important family is in those circumstances and even friends too. But how you just taking a few extra seconds to call somebody can make a really, really big difference in their life. What really struck home for me is, one of the person who was hit by a truck beside me, the entire time I was there never had a single visitor.

I just couldn’t imagine how lonely that would be and how terrified I would have been if I didn’t have that love and support around me. It really, really adds to the healing process.

Ian: Wow.

Adam: For sure

Ian: Well I mean, we’re speaking now, as I said it’s 8 or 9 weeks after the incident and you know, I’m happily, happily, say I’m amazed at the speed of your recovery and I know when I say recovery it’s an ongoing process but you’ve said or your doctors have said that they believe that your recovery will be a complete one. Is that still the situation Adam? Does it look as though everything is going to be really, really good?

Adam: Yes. It does. It seems to be. I mean, yesterday I went ski trailing for the first time which I can’t believe…  I already been back up the mountain. My girlfriend and I went out and did a few laps up in the Rockies and we had some deep powder smell which is incredible. Obviously, my ankle still gives me a lot of grief, I have a lot of soft tissue damage in there and still have some bone fragments there, my hip is incredibly tight, like I’ve got a lot of limited range of motion and if I do too much in a day my body does let me know but I was water running within a two and a half weeks…

Ian: No way.

Adam: Yes. By water running I was like moving slowly in the water but it was slowly starting to come back and just doing anything to get my range in motion back. Doing yoga, doing some strength training and like, physio multiple times a week. The one thing I’m really lucky at is my work has been really understanding and I haven’t had any real pressure to come back to work. I am going back eventually, I’m doing a little bit of work for them but I’ve had the opportunity to really just put all my energy into recovering and into a physio, which I think in those first few months really is critical to your long-term recovery.

Ian: Yes

Adam: I saw my surgeons on the weekend, they gave the green light to start skiing and climbing and going for hikes. I can’t run yet because my ankle still super wonky and my hip is still a little too sore but once those settle down I hope to be able to start jogging again a little bit. Within the next maybe month or so. Which will be amazing and I never would have expected any of this happened so quickly.

Pic by Kos from the summer. I did my first walk run (all uphill) this week - 4*30sec run many minutes walking between them. I have also done some easy routes in the climbing gym. I am far from light footed, as I appear to be in this image, but it's all progress - beyond stoked!

Pic by Kos from the summer. I did my first walk run (all uphill) this week – 4*30sec run many minutes walking between them. I have also done some easy routes in the climbing gym. I am far from light footed, as I appear to be in this image, but it’s all progress – beyond stoked!

Ian: Talk me through this mind process, because I’m fascinated by this. It’s traumatic incident and yes, you’re super thankful that you’re here and you’re alive and so, therefore, you’re going to embrace life. Of course, you are. But that first time that you maybe go for that longer walk or that first time you strap on the skis or that first time you look at the rock face. There’s going to be all sorts of stuff going through your head.

Are you just going to be stubborn and respect that the mountain as you’ve always done but think to yourself no life goes on or is there a real element of inner fear that you’re shielding from me and maybe everybody else but really, it’s there?

Adam: No, of course, there’s a lot of different fears. One, there’s fear to what my ultimate movements going to be like, I don’t know if I am ever going to feel fluid on a run again. Am I ever going to feel smooth and fast? There is fear that… the one thing that really strikes home is that when you have these accidents it doesn’t just impact you it impacts a lot of other people; will I be stressing them too much if I do decide to go climbing again. I don’t know what my comfort level is going to be at. The first time I get to anything with a little bit of exposure, how am I going to feel? Am I going to panic and not want to be there? I don’t know those things yet.

Back to your first question, yes. I remember the first time I had left the hospital, although I was still admitted, stepping aside and feeling the cold breeze rush across my body, I started crying because it felt so good to finally be back outside just feeling the cold wind on my skin. The first few steps I took, I remember the first time I walked, I walked about 10 meters and then the next time, and this was all in hospital with a walker, and then the next time it was 50 meters and then it was can I walk and do a lap of the ward? Then can I do two laps of the ward? Until you set these small little process goals for yourself and you break it down to little chunks and you’re just happy with any little victory you get.

Obviously, there’s going to be setbacks. When I first came back, I was walking a little bit and then the doctors thought that I might have another injury in my foot which basically means, more or less the metatarsal of your foot might be broken and that this can be very, very serious with long-term repercussions. I was told I had to be non-weight-bearing again. All of a sudden I’d gone from walking two kilometres to being back in a wheelchair and mentally struggling with that quite a bit but you also just have to accept the process of what comes. You can’t set too many expectations.

I’ve not once put expectations on myself as to what my recovery should be or what it should look like because it’s very individual and the doctors don’t know. It’s a best guess on their effort based on past experiences but my body’s different from other people. My mind is different. At the same time, also, I just didn’t want the pressure of saying, “I have to be able to run a 5K by January,” and not do it and be disappointed. There’s no purpose in my recovery process. It’s very day-to-day. Some days I wake up and I feel quite good and loose and other days I wake up and I feel like I’m getting hit by a truck because I did too much the previous day or I slept funny the night before, I had a beer too many the night before.

Ian: Enjoy those beers.

Adam: Yes, for sure.

Ian: Obviously, the last nine weeks have given you a real opportunity to look at so many different things but I guess one of the things that you really look back at and analyse was that day or what was going to be a day in the mountains. I’m sure you’ve gone over everything and analysed what you were doing and maybe tried to reassure yourself that what you were doing was correct. What’s the outcome been of that looking back? Are you happy and content that you three guys did all the right things?

Adam: No, definitely not because something happened. I did something wrong. I don’t really believe that bad luck necessarily happens in the mountains. One, you’re putting yourself in a dangerous environment so you’ve obviously taken luck out of the equation in that sense. Something that I probably did wrong at the time was, when we were rushing, we’re going fast, but there’s a difference between moving fast and efficiently and rushing and because Nick and Dakota were ahead of me, I was probably rushing a little bit. Just because they went through somewhere safely doesn’t mean you get to. In retrospect, I probably should’ve tested the rock first, that I pulled on.

The other thing, too, is when you’re moving through that terrain unroped, you don’t really want to be pulling on blocks. You more want to be pushing down on things because if you’re pushing down on things, they’re not going to move. If you’re pulling up, when you’re rock-climbing, roped up, you’re pulling on holds and things. If you are secured to the wall, it’s less likely to be risky.

That’s probably the biggest thing. Don’t rush. The way that you move in the terrain can be very, very significant so I was probably using incorrect technique in that kind of, blocky terrain, but in terms of what we did with the rescue itself, that can have a slight element of luck in that, we had cell service but we also had just enough equipment to keep me comfortable. Like having the emergency space blanket was incredible, having a light down jacket to put on made a huge difference, having the right partners. That can really come into it. If either one of them had panicked, I probably would’ve panicked a little bit as well but going to the mountain with people that you really, really trust and have the experience, Nick and Dakota have a lot of experience, so I was lucky to have those two guys with me.

Ian: I’m sure you’ve had plenty of conversations with Nick and Dakota. What impact has this accident had on them? I did see Dakota very quickly after this incident because he came over to the ‘Rut’ but it wasn’t appropriate to have a chat with him about this incident because he was racing and I didn’t want to affect his thought process, his mind, but I’m sure that both he and Nick have been really shook up by this. Dakota wrote an article on iRunFar and I quote a section, “I don’t think I was scarred from Adam’s accident. Not like him certainly, and not very badly in an emotional way either. But that accident really drove home the seriousness of what a lot of us do on a regular basis, often without considering the possibilities. In that event I was given a very visceral demonstration of what can happen in the mountains. A single misstep, a tiny poor judgement, or simply bad luck, and all of a sudden you’re in a crumpled, bloody heap with the dust of rockfall settling around you. It’s very real, and it’s scary.” article link here

Adam: Definitely. I think they both understand that it’s dangerous moving in that terrain. I’ve had regular contact with Nick and Dakota. They’ve both gone back into the mountain since then and they’ve both gone climbing since then. I don’t see how this doesn’t have impact you in some way. Dakota just went and did a rope safety course for mountain rescue so clearly he was impacted, realizing either it was the limitations of what his knowledge base was or he just, I’m just saying that, the more skills that you have to help, the more likely you are to be able to help in the situation.

Having that wilderness first aid course or any kind of first aid course, just when you’re going out and doing these big objectives is a valuable thing to have. Nick had a bit more experience because he’s done The Apprentice Rock Guide, you’re trained to be an alpine guide at that point. That comes with quite a lot of mountain rescue training and theoretical knowledge but the difference between that and seeing one of your friends actively falling down the side of a mountain. It’d be very traumatic to watch that happen and to think that you’re coming up on a body. I think it would definitely make you think twice in a lot of situations or just reinforce how dangerous those environments can be.

I was rather thrilled to be able to take my skis for a walk in the mountains and actually get in some decent turns with Laura. I am so thankful to my support network for helping me get back into the hills so quickly. I have to continue to be patient and listen to my body, but this was a rather huge step/stride forward

I was rather thrilled to be able to take my skis for a walk in the mountains and actually get in some decent turns with Laura. I am so thankful to my support network for helping me get back into the hills so quickly. I have to continue to be patient and listen to my body, but this was a rather huge step/stride forward

Ian: I’m not going to ask the question of what the future holds because as you’ve said, there’s no point in setting a target for a 5K run. That will happen in its own due course and we just have to hope that all the stepping stones are in the right place. As you say every now and again, there’s going to be a step backwards but the direction is forwards and obviously, myself and the whole community wish you the very best with this Adam. I mean, it’s an amazing story and I’m just glad that you’re here to be able to tell it.

Adam: Yes, thanks so much for the interview and I hope a few people have picked up one or two little tips from this but I guess the biggest takeaway is mountains are dangerous. Going for any little trail run in the woods can be dangerous. We have the ability to move very, very fast as runners into the wilderness and we’re often alone all It only takes is a broken ankle by stepping on the wrong thing then all of a sudden you have a very, very horrible walk home. Especially when you’re going for trail runs. It’s one thing to be lightning fast but make sure that you have just enough gear to survive and bring you home because those things can make a difference. Look at Dave Mackey, for instance…

Ian: I was going to come on to Dave.

Adam: He was going out for an evening run and his life changed on that evening run and in a very, very profound way. He got unlucky in the way that his injury happened. I’d been lucky in that the bones that I’d broke are ones that are basically non-weight-bearing. If I’d fallen a centimetre in a different direction, my outcome could’ve been very different and I’m aware that, there’s not anything that I did special. Knowing it’s in the way that I fell, I broke my back but I didn’t damage my spine in a serious way. I did to a certain degree because I still had some tingling in my feet and hands and things but that should, in theory, go away over time.

These things can happen when you’re outside in the mountains or even just heading out in the woods. An ounce of prevention, an ounce of caution is always a smart thing for sure, really having as emergency blanket with you, having a little bivy sack, having a cell phone, having a light jacket. Even in the middle of summer, if you could go into shock, having a jacket on can save your life. These things, they’re so light these days that we’re able to carry a lot of stuff with us.

Ian: These days, there is no real reason not to carry some of this stuff because it is so light, and as you say, we’ve got all the technology, it’s never been easier to carry this stuff. We have all these amazing packs that fit our body, we have down jackets that way grams, we have windproof, waterproofs, we’ve got spot trackers, in-reach trackers, mobile phones. The technology is really, really there.

Final thoughts?

Adam: I received thousands and thousands of messages, I actually received so many messages that I had to stop going on social media because I just needed to take a big step back from it all, and just focus on myself, and recover for a bit. It was incredibly empowering, and you I just felt the love from everybody, but at the same time, to open your email and just have thousands of messages every time from people is a little overwhelming at that point what with everything I had going on. But it shows you incredible level of support that we have in our little community of people here, which is so touching.

The other thing, in the last two months I’ve actually had two friends or acquaintances die in mountain accidents, and that also really, really struck home, it shows how vulnerable we are. One of them was skiing and the other person was climbing in the Himalayas. It was just very, very touching, and I actually went to one of the funerals and being there and hearing the stories of everybody around this person was very moving. When you know somebody in one context in their life, for example, I knew this girl in a climbing sense, but then you forget just how much depth people have to their life, and how rich they are.

It was a real reminder that everybody has an incredible story, and it’s worth taking time to get to know people because you never know what you can find out from them. There’s always so much complexity to people.

Adam and Laura

Adam and Laura

And finally….

“Over the past few months this amazing woman has been my rock, she has shown me that true beauty, love and joy can be found in even the most trying of circumstances. That spirit defines her.
She was by my side from the moment I went into surgery and has been there every step from there on forward.
In that time we have laughed, cried, struggled and shared the most incredible journey together, a journey that keeps on getting better and better. 
She is the most incredible partner. She is loving, caring, compassionate, adventurous, athletic, curious, smart, passionate, fun and incredibly beautiful and, soon enough, I am proud to announce that I will get to call her my wife. Last week she said “yes” and agreed to share her life with me.
We are beyond thrilled and I am so incredibly lucky, she makes me better in every way.” – Adam Campbell

Episode 123 – Adam Campbell

A_GRAVATAR

Episode 123 of Talk Ultra and this weeks show is a special, one off edition with Adam Campbell

On August 30th 2016, Adam Campbell was attempting a big traverse that had never been completed in a single push before in Rogers Pass, BC. Adam was accompanied by two partners, Nick Elson and Dakota Jones. They were fairly early on in the journey, going up relatively moderate terrain (class 3/4). Adam followed Nick and Dakota up a route matching their steps and actions, Adam pulled on a rock that the previous two climbers had used. This giant rock came loose, broke and away and Adam fell. He tumbled backwards, summersaulting and rag dolling over 200 feet (70-80 meters) down a serious of ledges and sharp rocks.

Adam ended up breaking his back, several vertebrae, breaking his hip, breaking his ankle, damaging his wrists, shoulders and knees and had severe lacerations across my body. His helmet was shattered and has cracks across all of it,  It still has blood and hair caked into it. Without it he would have suffered severe head trauma, instead, he just had stitches and a mild concussion.

Adam is alive,  not paralyzed and here to tell his story.

INTERVIEW WITH ADAM CAMPBELL

UP & COMING RACES

Antartica

The Last Desert (Antarctica) | 250 kilometers | November 18, 2016 | website

Argentina

Puna Inca Trail | 200 kilometers | November 21, 2016 | website

Australia

Australian Capital Territory

Stromlo Running Festival – 50 km | 50 kilometers | November 20, 2016 | website

New South Wales

BUCKLEY’S CHANCE 50km | 50 kilometers | November 20, 2016 | website

Buckley’s Chance 50km Off-trail Ultra | 50 kilometers | November 20, 2016 | website

SURVIVAL RUN AUSTRALIA | 50 kilometers | November 18, 2016 | website

Survival Run Australia 75km | 75 kilometers | November 18, 2016 | website

Victoria

Alpine Challenge 100 km | 100 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website

Alpine Challenge 100 Mile | 100 miles | November 26, 2016 | website

Alpine Challenge 60 km | 60 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website

Belgium

Wallonia

Olne-Spa-Olne | 67 kilometers | November 27, 2016 | website

Cambodia

The Ancient Khmer Path | 220 kilometers | November 25, 2016 | website

Costa Rica

Costa Rica Trail La Transtica – Course Aventure | 117 kilometers | November 23, 2016 | website

Costa Rica Trail La Transtica – Course Extrême | 200 kilometers | November 23, 2016 | website

Egypt

100 Km Pharonic Race | 100 kilometers | November 18, 2016 | website

France

Dordogne

Trail de l’Asterius | 58 kilometers | November 20, 2016 | website

Haute-Garonne

Trail Toulouse Métropole | 50 kilometers | November 27, 2016 | website

Haute-Loire

Raid nocturne Le Puy-Firminy | 68 kilometers | November 20, 2016 | website

Manche

A la Belle Etoile 50 km | 50 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website

Germany

Lower Saxony

  1. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website
  2. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website
  3. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website
  4. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website

Hong-Kong

Oxfam Trailwalker Hong Kong | 100 kilometers | November 18, 2016 | website

Italy

Emilia-Romagna

60 km | 60 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website

Luxembourg

Trail Uewersauer | 50 kilometers | November 20, 2016 | website

Malaysia

Putrajaya 100 km | 100 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Putrajaya 100 Miles | 100 miles | November 19, 2016 | website

Putrajaya 52 km | 52 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Putrajaya 78 km | 78 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Morocco

Trail Atlas Tafraout | 65 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

New Zealand

Molesworth Run | 84 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Philippines

Tacloban City to Basey Samar 50k Ultramarathon | 50 kilometers | November 20, 2016 | website

Portugal

Trail AM | 60 kilometers | November 20, 2016 | website

Réunion

Mafate Trail Tour | 65 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website

South Africa

Salomon Sky Run 100 km | 100 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Salomon Sky Run 65 km | 65 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Spain

Canary Islands

Haría Extreme Ultra | 80 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Region of Murcia

100k OPEN | 100 kilometers | November 27, 2016 | website

50k OPEN | 50 kilometers | November 27, 2016 | website

Thailand

TU100 | 100 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

United Kingdom

Kent

Gatliff 50 km | 50 kilometers | November 27, 2016 | website

USA

Alabama

Dizzy Fifties 40 Mile Trail Run | 40 miles | November 19, 2016 | website

Dizzy Fifties 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Dizzy Fifties 50 Mile Trail Run | 50 miles | November 19, 2016 | website

Tranquility Lake 50K Trail Race | 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

California

50 Mile | 50 miles | November 26, 2016 | website

Chino Hills Spring Trail Series 50K | 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

San Joaquin River Trail 100K Run | 100 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

San Joaquin River Trail 50K Run | 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Florida

100 Miles | 100 miles | November 25, 2016 | website

50 Miles | 50 miles | November 25, 2016 | website

Louisiana

Big Dog Trail Run 50 K | 50 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website

Maryland

JFK 50 Mile | 50 miles | November 19, 2016 | website

New York

Madhattan Run | 32 miles | November 19, 2016 | website

North Carolina

Derby 50k Ultra Run | 50 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website

Ohio

2 loops | 33 miles | November 25, 2016 | website

3 loop relay | 50 miles | November 25, 2016 | website

3 loops | 50 miles | November 25, 2016 | website

3 loops + an out and back | 56 miles | November 25, 2016 | website

Bill’s Bad Ass | 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Flying Feather 4 Miler | 43 miles | November 23, 2016 | website

South Carolina

50K Relay | 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Texas

50K | 50 kilometers | November 24, 2016 | website

Wild Hare 50K | 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

Wild Hare 50 Mile | 50 miles | November 19, 2016 | website

Washington

Ghost of Seattle 50K | 50 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website

Grand Ridge 50 K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website

CLOSE

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Stitcher You can listen on iOS HEREAndroid HERE or via a web player HERE

Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss

Website – talkultra.com

Tom Owens to race The Coastal Challenge 2017 #TCC2017

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Tom Owens is without doubt one of the most inspiring runners from the UK who performs consistently on the world stage. Fell runner, ultra runner and Skyrunner, Tom has pushed the world best.

Back in the day, Tom forged a reputation for himself with Andy Symonds at the Transalpine run where the duo were a formidable force. In recent years, Tom has mixed fell running and Skyrunning. In 2012, Tom placed 2nd behind Kilian Jornet at the iconic Trofeo Kima, he looked set to dominate the Skyrunning circuit but injury hit. Time away and keeping fit doing cyclocross, it was 2014 when the Glasgow based runner finally re-emerged at Transvulcania.

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Transvulcania was a surprise return… renowned for running shorter races, Tom stepped up to 70+km – an unknown commodity. Class shone through and he placed 6th. A 3rd at Ice Trail Tarentaise and then 4th at Trofeo Kima and we all knew – Tom was back.

2015 started really well with a win overseas at the Buffalo Stampede in Australia, 6th at Matterhorn Ultraks and arguably his best result came with 4th in the IAU Trail World Championships in Annecy.

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Roll on to 2016 and Tom focused on the Skyrunning Extreme Series that combined all the elements that make Tom, the great runner that he is. Technical trails, altitude, distance and an ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape. Victory at Tromso SkyRace and 5th at Trofeo Kima set Tom up for a potential overall title.

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Going into the Glencoe Skyline, a head-to-head being Tom and Jon Albon whet everyones appetites. On the day, Albon excelled and it was 2nd for the Scot.

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As 2016 comes to a close, Tom is looking ahead to 2017. Not known for his ability to handle heat and humidity, I wondered why Costa Rica?

“It looks beautiful, exciting and warm! I always like to escape the Scottish Winter for a week big volume warm weather running in January or February –  it seems to set me up well for the rest of the year.”

And what about the heat and humidity?

“The heat and humidity will be massively challenging. I’ve not worked out how to run well in these conditions. It will be my first big block of running in 2017 and so interesting to see how the body holds up. I also find running in sand really tough…”

Costa Rica may well prove to be much more of a test of running. We all know Tom can handle the rough and technical stuff – the river and bouldering sections will put the fell/ Skyrunner in the terrain that he loves. But Costa Rica will have sand too, albeit not soft sand. It may well be a whole new learning curve.

“It’s going to be  real challenge for sure but that is what makes it interesting! I will be at a disadvantage against pure multi-day runners but I will embrace it. Running day-after day is not really a problem, I love the technical stuff but it’s the heat and humidity that will really test me as I have already mentioned. I have really suffered in such races with cramps (I’m a big sweater) such as at Transvulcania, Buffalo Stampede and the recent World Trail Champs.”

Scotland and the UK is not going to be the ideal place train for a Costa Rican race in February, I wondered if Tom had any specific training plans to be prepared?

“I’m looking forward to trying some different strategies to cope with the heat – I hope the TCC will help me with the some of the other objectives that will take place in remainder of the year. In regard to training, I will aim to get back into regular running mid/late December or early January and build up some endurance. Beyond Coastal Challenge I have no 2017 plans yet. I only ended the 2016 season a couple of days ago – it was a really long (from Feb till end October) and fun season but now i’m enjoying a break and not doing any planning at the moment.” 

Competition in the men’s race will be fierce, the recent announcement of Sondre Amdahl’s participation will no doubt focus the mind of Tom and the other male competitors. But a physical and mental rest is required before thinking about 2017. One thing is for sure, Tom always races to win and he will be prepared come February.

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About the race:

The Coastal Challenge is a multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience.

Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.

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Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.

The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

ENTRIES ARE STILL AVAILABLE FOR THE 2017 EDITION

Email: HERE

Website: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Twitter: @tcccostarica

More information:

Read the full 2016 race story HERE

View and purchase images for the 2016 race HERE

Follow #TCC2017

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