Back to SDW100 for a 100M PB, Hopefully!

It was the height of the day in SDW100 2023, and the mercury had hit 30°C. The tarmac road before me disappeared off into the horizon. This was Truleigh Hill: notoriously devoid of shade, and a prime catalyst for DNFs from heat exhaustion.

I was overheating, but I couldn’t drink. I was saving the few sips of water I had left. Why hadn’t I learnt my lesson from SDW100 2021, and refilled my water back at Botolphs in the valley? I was replaying the exact same situation, in the exact same place.

As I castigated myself for failing to learn from prior mistakes, I remembered what stood proud at the summit of this hill. YHA Truleigh. An oasis in the desert, with a shady yard, and all the water one can drink and dowse oneself with. It had saved me in 2021, and now I knew it would save me again today.

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SDW100: Am I an ultrarunner yet?

Years ago, I read a comment on an ultrarunning forum that stuck with me ever since. It claimed, controversially, that one shouldn’t call oneself an ultrarunner until one has run a 100+ mile race.

That’s tosh, of course: I considered these sorts of elitist inventions pure supercilious drivel, born of a lust for superiority. An ultra is any distance longer than 26.1, and an ultrarunner is one who runs an ultra. Running 100 miles is no precondition to being an ultrarunner.

Nonetheless, that comment niggled at my inner being ever after, because I reasoned there could be an underlying truth to it: 100+ mile races might involve unique challenges that rarely surface over lesser distances. Indeed, when I ran a relatively flat ‘virtual’ 100 miler last year (virtuals don’t count), I had a far more torrid time of it than I’d experienced in any of my 100km races. Should I really think of myself as an ultrarunner, if the real ultrarunning tribulations only emerge over the course of 100 miles?

And so, despite my being crystal clear that there was absolutely no link whatsoever between the 100 mile distance and the term ‘ultrarunner’, I’d never really allowed myself to use the term ultrarunner… not yet anyway, not until I’d finished a real 100 miler, and could comment on the matter with greater authority.

My double-standard could hardly have been more conspicuous. I needed to resolve it, once and for all.

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