Why ultra running could be your superpower

Ruth Martin, GRTW social media manager and ultra runner explains how running is her superpower, helping her to develop skills for life and work…

Ruth running the Thames Trot Ultra

“Why do you love running so far?” is a question I often get asked. Yes, it makes me physically fit but it’s about far more.

I’ve met amazing people and it’s encouraged me to be more adventurous and take challenges way beyond my comfort zone, which have developed me as a person. In fact, the more invested I’ve become, the more I think that ultra running is my own super power! Here’s why I think it could be your superpower too!

Creating Friendships

Deep rooted social anxiety, (heightened by two years of pandemic-living) means that I will often avoid events that involve talking to and being with groups of other people, even with people I’ve known for a long time. If I had to choose between a night at home in my pjs or going to a party, even dinner with a big group, I’d always opt for the former. But when you throw some long runs in there, I can be found signing up to events all over the place.

Sharing blood, sweat and tears for a few hours on the trails with another human being is one of the surest ways to form a connection. It is often these friendships, forged through a shared ultra-running experience, that will go on to last and lead to more running adventures together.

Banishing Imposter Syndrome

There is something about ultra-running that tells imposter syndrome where to go. It is harder to argue with the thought ‘I’m not a runner, I shouldn’t be here’ when you’ve got the strava data in cold hard facts showing you (because let’s be honest, it’s only you you are trying to convince) that last weekend you completed a 50k.

Building Leadership Skills

If you are a shy, introvert like me, the thought of standing up in front of a room of people to deliver a presentation is enough to make me run a mile (well, more like 20). But after a run? Show me that room full of people again and I’ll be a veritable Beyonce.

Ultra running arms me with a confidence and feeling of invincibility that I haven’t been able to get from anywhere else, no matter how many training courses I take or motivational podcasts I listen to.

In fact, studies have shown that exercising at work has a positive impact on mood which in turn has a positive impact on productivity.

Plus, think how good you have to be at time management in order to fit training for an ultra in around everything else? Ultra running forces you to think outside the box to find opportunities to train, to multitask and prioritise – all skills worthy of any CV.

Mental Resilience

In the physical sense, ultras push your body but that’s the easy part. It’s the mental part of endurance running that is often the most challenging. The saying goes that ultra running is 90% mental. And that last 10%? It’s all in your head.

After about 20 miles into the Thames Trot Ultra, a 47 miler along the Thames Path, all of the participants were strung out along the course. I had dipped into a stretch along the river by myself when it dawned on me that I still had more than a marathon left to run. That’s really far. Round and round it went in my head, how could my tired legs run a marathon? Maybe I should call it a day at the next checkpoint? Stopping would feel so good. This kind of self-talk will drive you mad in an ultra, the trick is to override it. Yes it’s hard but the struggle is undeniably worth it. Tell yourself, I’ve run a marathon before, I can do it again now. Break the distance down into manageable chunks (a parkrun distance helps with this). Eat something, drink something, switch your focus and remember that you have the privilege of choosing to do this.

Body confidence

Cultural and societal pressure, pregnancy, having kids, perimenopause, menopause and ageing, all things women experience that can affect the feeling of control we have over our own bodies. Ultra running can act as a way of reclaiming some of that control.

When you realise what your body is capable, it can shift the internal, default negative monologue from I hate everything about my body to wow, my body is amazing!

If all this isn‘t enough to convince you that ultra running belongs firmly in a woman’s superpower toolkit, just take a look at some of the amazing women challenging traditional stereotypes of what women can do.

We are witnessing the continued rise in female dominance on the ultra running scene with women showcasing that they are not only able to participate in ultra running events but are able to compete and beat the male field. The likes of Jasmin Paris, Sophie Power, Courtney Dauwalter and Sarah Perry are blazing a trail in ultra running. In 2020, it was reported that just 23% of participants in ultra running events were female, imagine what we could do if the field was a bit bigger…

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