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My enduring passion is for the mountains and wilderness. Having trained as an environmental scientist I have somehow fallen into the world of ultra and endurance running. My dream is to encourage people to realise the sanctuary of the mountains, the richness of our environment and our responsibility to protect it, and the value of challenging yourself both physically and mentally.

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Monday, 8 September 2008


"
Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be." KAREN RAVEN

Running high, running far and looking deep within yourself to find the strength. You need to dream and to have the courage of your dreams in order to find within yourself your edge, and to learn to be who you are.

The Ultra Trail Tour du Mont Blanc - a long mountain journey. The words escape me. How do you capture those emotions and those feelings? How can you express them in writing? So forgive me the delay….. Days have passed, but the mind and heart are still full …...

Sitting in the Kirchplatz in Zermatt, surrounded by my beloved mountains and again I am just happy to be here. I cast my mind back a few days - to another church square - the Place du Triangle de l’Amitie in Chamonix -18:30 on Friday 29th August 2008 and the start of the 6th edition of The North Face Ultra-Trail Tour du Mont Blanc. Warm sunshine, clear skies, the square crowded with runners, the streets packed full of supporters and the sound of Vangelis’ ‘Conquest of Paradise’ resounding in my ears, and in my mind and in my heart.

Trepidation and apprehension, anticipation and the joy of freedom. Standing at the start was a bundle of emotions all in one. For me it was just a great privilege to be again participating in the ultra trail - but was I prepared, would I be fit and strong enough for the challenge? Questions that are always in the thoughts beforehand. I missed so much training during the spring with my stress fracture, but now after a long summer of running and racing hard, did I have too much in my legs? I sometimes find myself doubting if even my legs will start to run - a sort of fear I always have at the start of a race. But then the moment to ‘go’ arrives - and then life becomes simple - you have a destination to reach. And the journey to that destination is yours to enjoy, to savour and to cherish every moment of. Perhaps that is one of the special things about a long race like this - it is a journey through good times, through bad patches and you have simply to try to live in the moment with integrity - a mirror to the journey through life itself?

Running far and running high on a beautiful mountain journey. A ‘big’ dream - that needed us to reach deep within ourselves - to be true to what we could do. But perhaps the challenge of reaching beyond what we feel we can do is eased by the tremendous support that characterises UTMB. The organisation, the sponsors, the volunteers, the runners, the supporters and every person who wished us ‘bon courage’ - that is what makes this race so special.

The 2008 edition gave us a tough course - 166km and 9500m of up and down. Having walked it 2 weeks before, it was very fresh in my memory just how long a journey lay ahead. But somehow you forget that when you are running. Feeling good I started fast … just taking one step at a time … from one village to the next, refuge to refuge, valley to col and col to valley. It worked - a beautiful evening gave way to a still night - hard work but the peace of the mountains eased the labour. There were moments of camaraderie - with fellow runners and supporters - interspersed amongst the many many moments of being entirely alone. There were moments of feeling strong, and moments of feeling not so good. For me the hardest part was when the signs of tenosynovitis started before Champex. Slowing drastically and feeling like I could manage no more than a walk I struggled in my head with whether I would be able to make it. But then I sort of ran through the pain - over Bovine and down to the Col de Forclaz and Trient. From there you are running ‘home’, strength and determination returned. I relished just being on the move, on my feet and being free. The heat of the day gave way to the warmth and ‘quiet’ of early evening. The last climb up from the Col de Montets and the majesty of the Mont Blanc was before me. Then alone and surrounded by the nature I wished almost that the journey was longer - that the night could continue - that the race wouldn’t end. But then downwards to Chamonix, the final descent … sort of a strange feeling to know I had the distance on the 2nd woman …. I hit the streets of Chamonix and with light heart and feet I ran those last metres back to the Place du Triangle de l’Amitie - for me the journey complete. I won’t forget the welcome - moments like that are to treasure.

Whatever your challenge, whatever your journey in life - reach high, seek far and look deep - and dream …. Then you can be who you are.

3 comments:

John Kynaston said...

Congratulations on a great race Lizzy. Really enjoyed reading your report.

Well done and I hope you recover quickly!

John Kynaston

Tim said...

Beatutiful write up Lizzy (and a huge congratulations for your time & position). I can only dream of running like you but I can so identify with the "simplicity" of running once the race has started. Suddenly all those months of preparation are behind you and all you have to do is address the task in hand.

Easier said than done though, even for you I'm sure.

Jackson & Tania said...

Lovely report Lizzy. I was priveleged to watch you finish the UTMB this year, standing enviously among the cheering crowds as you put in a great sprint around the final turns and up to the finish line at la Place. Poetry in motion. A real pleasure to watch. Thank you and many congratulations.