Sunday, 7 August 2011

Myth and disillusionment. Alingsås - Gothenburg, take 2.

I've kept pretty quiet about this, not wanting to jinx it: Yesterday we had planned to run from Alingsås to Gothenburg. It was to be a second chance for me to cross the 50 km barrier, a line with mythical proportions which I had drawn in my mind and which I had failed to cross the first time around (coming in at 49,2 km). The reason for this somewhat arbitrary division of distances into under 50 km and over 50 km was the coveted Ultra title. Technically, everything over a marathon is an ultra. But competition distances usually start at 50 km.

Those of you who know me well also know that running long distances is my thing. It's what I love doing. Getting into ultra marathons has been a dream of mine for a while now, seeing it as a natural progression in my running and a challenge. Still, reading about others who run ultras, professional athletes and amateurs alike, has created the illusion in my mind that marathons might be challenge enough for me. Surely these ultra runners are extraordinary? They have what it takes, and I don't. Well, not exactly so, my friends. 

Yesterday was maybe the strangest day of my life. I sat on the train to Alingsås alone, wondering where all the others were, while it poured down with rain outside. Great start, I thought. No one else is coming. I might as well take the train back. And I felt horribly out of form.

Once I arrived in Alingsås, however, I saw two other runners waiting at the station. I breathed a sigh of relief and introduced myself. Soon enough we were joined by a third, and I realised that I was in the company of not one, not two, but three real ultra runners. As in, these guys run marathons as a warm-up.

The rain let up. We set off and ran past familiar places, which last November were dressed in white and which were now gloriously green. Horse pastures, camping sites, sleepy neighbourhoods – I'd seen them all the last time around. Seeing them again was surreal. Comforting, in a way, to know where I am, how far I've run and how much I have left.

Last time around all of this was covered in snow
We chatted away about our lives and, of course, about ultra running. I absorbed every little tidbit of knowledge these experienced runners had to impart and laughed at how short a distance my mythical 50 km seemed to them. We alternated between running and walking, giving our legs a rest every kilometre or so, and kept the speed low. We ate often; we stopped after 20 km to wolf down some French fries and drink some cola. 

After 25 km, one of the runners had to stop and take the train home. My legs felt stiff as soon as we stopped, but woke up immediately when we started moving again. We took a longer break after 35 km to visit the loo and fill up on water. After that we were only two left, making our way to Gothenburg on foot.

Green fields and trees were replaced by industries and chimneys. Picturesque houses gave way to multi-storey apartment buildings. We pressed on. I stopped my Garmin every time we walked or took a break, and when we finally arrived in Gothenburg, it showed that I was one kilometre away from a marathon. Shockingly for me, we had been on the go for almost 8 hours. This was running, ultra style. Relaxed. With no time pressure. Easy. Eating, socialising, and doing some running now and then. I couldn't believe how good I felt considering how far I'd run. 

At Jonsered, maybe the prettiest place of the route
It would have been easy to just take the bus home from here, but the 50 km barrier was within reach. I left my companion (who, by the way, was taking a short break before running back to Alingsås again) and headed home. I picked up speed. I took fewer walking breaks. I put my earphones on and listened to music. 50 km came and went and I didn't even notice until I was almost at 51. I was only a block away from home. I walked the last couple of hundred meters, kind of stiff but confident I could have run another 10 kilometres. Surreal.

10 hours after we left the Alingsås train station I was finally home. I had covered a distance of approximately 60 kilometres on foot, 51 of which running. The myth collapsed. The magical line has been moved further away, although I'm still not sure how far away is far enough to give it mythical proportions.

So, what is normal? What is extraordinary? My extraordinary is someone else's piece of cake. My normal is someone else's dream. No dream is too small; no dream is too crazy.


  1. Haha du är galen. And we love it! :) I´m back! Välkommen att titta in!

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