The last few days I have been in an ultra bubble. I've been reading my book (”Running through the wall: Personal encounters with the Ultramarathon”), a collection of short race-day stories by both amateur and elite ultrarunners, and I've been so inspired that I've been dreaming ultra dreams. Last Saturday's run on the snowmobile tracks only added fuel to the fire: it may not have been long, but running trails always makes me daydream about long runs in the mountains.
Lapland ultra is not a trail ultra. Trail poses many challenges that a road ultra doesn't (hills, roots and stones, wildlife – yeah, I've seen those angry lemmings in the Swedish mountains-, lack of easy access to civilisation to name but a few). For my first longer ultra I want to keep it as simple as a 100K race can be, but don't think for a moment that that's where my heart lies. If (and that's a big if) I complete the race, the most important thing that I will have gained will be the confidence to run ultras in tougher terrain. Lapland Ultra is this year's biggest goal, but at the same time it is a stepping stone towards other future goals.
This is where my dad calls me on the phone clutching his heart to ask me if I've gone mad. Madder. So let me explain.
As much as I'm looking forward to the experience of running Lapland Ultra (staying up all night, putting kilometre after kilometre behind me, maybe seeing some reindeer cross the road, fighting the urge to quit the race because of the irritating thick cloud of mosquitoes trying to find its way to my flesh), what I really want to do is to run trails. They don't have to be 100K long (this is where my dad hopefully breathes a sigh of relief). I'll never forget the solo run on Kungsleden I did a couple of years ago.
It was a magnificent, almost religious experience, one of the most powerful ones of my life, and I didn't even run that far! Imagine running further. Seeing more of the untamed beauty of Europe's last wilderness. Hearing nothing but your own footsteps and the distant, eerie cries of the Golden Plover echoing in the mist. Being in a strange limbo, where time ceases to exist and the horizon extends endlessly in each direction, broken only by weather and mountains. Nothing beats that. Nothing.