how ultra x jordan changed my life” by Alex Spen­cer

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.

Guest Art­icles | Race Reports

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19th April 2020

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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