Two Sundays back I ran a 60 KM ultra run in Ooty. This was the year’s first ultra. Though labeled 60K actual course distance of 62K. Every time I mention 62, instead of 60, I am reminded of a fellow runner who insisted that every additional 100 meters matter when running long distance. However, I am inclined to think that it matters less, these little additions. It gets difficult for sure. But at the same time mind is too tired to fuss over the distance, unless the runner is competitive.
The course is across a large swath of hilly terrain around Ooty. It had an overall gain of 6300 ft and loss of 5700 ft. This appeared quite unusual for the distance. First 10 KM climbs up to Dodabetta Peak, the highest point in Ooty, rolls down for the next 15 KM and begins climbing up again. The last 10 KM is again a difficult road climb up several hairpin loops, up to Ooty. This last 10 KM was a laborious climb, taking away all the energy I had for running the last two easy kilometers to finish line. Over seven and a half hours, I coasted through half a dozen tea factories, tea plantations and several villages of the Nilgiris district. For its beauty and freshness, I would highly recommend this run. It requires a serious thought for those who haven’t done hill ultras, because hill running is a different game from running in plains. I had my initiation a couple of years back in Nepal and that kept me in good spirit for this one.
In this ultra, I let the course run through me. It felt better this way than to think of me running the course. The thought of every passing kilometer floats right on top of mind when I track the distance covered. When I think of only the finish line and to get there, without tracking time or distance, I have had a better experience. Ooty was also a faster and better run compared to all the other times. This seems like an ‘approach’ to running long distance that is shaping up lately. I haven’t been driven by metrics, though I do take a good look at splits and timing after finishing courses. This minimal approach has translated into better run experiences and has brought in a certain lightness within me. I anticipate that this may need a revision when I take on 100 KM runs. Over the years, it sure feels stronger as a runner and especially in this ultra, there was no despair that tends to take over on sighting hard sections of the course. I could take them on calmly.
These years of running have been a process of ‘becoming’. Becoming what, is hard to get a finger on. It certainly feels so. There are changes and subtle transformations, physical and mental. These post-run posts helps track this change. After Ooty Ultra, there is a mental strengthening that has happened. There is a force with which pursuits of uphill sections was done. And that, in retrospect, has been the most delightful part of the run.