Written By Alex Spencer
Alex is a Mr Enthusiastic! He took on Ultra X Jordan in 2016 and loves everything adventure. Occasionally he writes pieces for Ultra X.
Now, more than ever perhaps, is a good time to take stock of life. Your direction, what you’ve done well and where you could have done better. A time to evaluate.
There have been a number of defining moments in my life so far but few have caused such a positive monumental shift in my lifestyle than when I took on Ultra X Jordan (back then known as the Wadi Rum Ultra) in 2016.
When you get a text from your mates asking you to run 250km for 5 days in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert, you don’t quite know what to think. Lucky for me it came at a time when I needed a challenge.
I was about a year and a half into my first job at a startup, semi fit, insecure and searching for a little purpose. Working hard trying to grow a business and living for Thursday to Sunday wasn’t quite doing it for me.
Deep down I knew this text message was just the thing I was looking for and it changed my life for the better.
As I got into the swing of training I soon realised a positive shift. I had started waking up at 5:30am to go to hot yoga and was running up to 100 miles a week.
All this time on my feet alone allowed me space to think. During these runs, I was problem solving the present and planning the future.
I remember one exchange with my boss where I got an email before I left work. I read it and started running. During the first 2 miles I was able to think about the email and form a response. At some traffic lights I wrote and sent it. 20 minutes later he responded. I read it and kept running. A bit of time went by and I was able to form another response — and so on.
Within this 13 mile training run I had one of the most productive conversations with him. I am certain the conversation would have been less productive had it happened when I was sedentary. It was as though my continuous movement was making my whole body think with complete clarity.
Since then, running has become the mental therapy I never knew I needed.
My sense of normal has completely changed. Since my time in the desert I have started to find adventure in the everyday. I once ran from Barcelona airport at 6am to my Airbnb. Seeing the sunrise over the port and having an espresso in one of the Plaza’s was quite special.
I now use running to commute — through three different routes I get to see places like Piccadilly when it’s deathly quiet and how, in March at 5:40pm, east of Battersea Bridge is dark and west of it is still lit up with the dying rays of the sun.
Most importantly though, Wadi Rum altered my relationships with the people closest to me. The two friends I ran it with (James and Zander Whitehurst) will be mates for life and I made another too whilst in the desert. Now we go on regular runs together, holidays and a couple of cycles a year.
Similarly, whenever my brother or sister and I meet up we go running. This allows us at least an hour of real quality time together to talk and catch up. These moments are invaluable.
My girlfriend has also picked up the bug and is a perfect companion. Together we have run routes around Central Park, 10 miles of the Appalachian trail, completed a SwimRun around Jersey, and climbed Ben Nevis together. This year we’re planning a cycle to Paris.
Getting through these experiences and challenges together, as well as training together allows you to see each other at your best and worst. This makes you know how to respond in the right manner. In turn, I am certain I have become a better friend, brother and boyfriend.
If you’re looking for something more, then I cannot recommend doing a multi-stage ultra enough. You will find out so much about yourself and see some really positive changes.
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Read the Race Director’s report from the inaugural Ultra X 125 England 2020 in the Peak District and view the images from each day of the race.