Nishreen Ibrahim: My Sri Lankan Ultra Marathon

Written By Sam Heward

Sam is one of the Ultra X Co-Founders. If he's not actually out running, chances are he's busy writing about it (or plotting Ultra X strategy!)

8 March 2021


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Ultra running used to be a male dominated sport.

We’re excited that this is changing and with over 40% of our community being female we wanted to recognise our ladies. The women who complete our events after all are some of the most accomplished, determined and inspirational competitors that we have.

Today we highlight Nishreen Ibrahim. A mother from Sri Lanka who was due to do Ultra X Sri Lanka in 2020 and then 2021. Sadly it has had to be cancelled twice, however she is refusing to give in. She will be taking on 250km around Colombo at the end of March 2021 instead.

Tell us a little about you and your background.

A mum of two girls, I’ve always been a fitness/outdoor enthusiast. Hiking and exploring are my absolute favourite. I love pushing my mental and physical limits to see what I can do and when it comes to sport I like trying out something new. On the other side of being outdoors and exerting energy I am a writer and operate a small foodie business in Colombo. Running was something I just randomly decided to do simply because I had never tried it out – I never knew it would bring me to where I am today.

What motivated you to sign down for Ultra X Sri Lanka?

Again the excitement of challenging my limits and seeing what was possible. I had just completed my first ever 16km run when a friend called me up and asked if I’d like to try a multi-day ultra-marathon (I didn’t even know that something called ultra-running existed at the time). It took me just an hour to decide. I’ve got massive support from my husband who also said ‘why not?’ and who runs long distance with me now!

So here I am waiting for March 2022.

Have you always been a runner or an active person?

Yes! I’ve always been an active person. I was a netballer in school from the time I was 12, captained my school team and have been active ever since. However, I started running in October 2018 just to try it out. I struggled to run a 100-200 metre distance on day one but I persisted over the next few weeks to try and finish one loop (of a 2.8km sand track) close to home without stopping. The distance grew from there onwards after I found two incredible running groups – ‘Colombo City Runners’ and the ‘Colombo Night Runners’. Their concept was if you run you’re a runner which made it so easy to start running at my pace and build from there.

Tell us a little about your challenge which you are taking on as a replacement for Ultra X Sri Lanka which has now had to be cancelled two years running.

I’d like to say I got bitten by the ultra-marathon bug while training for the Ultra X event in March 2020. I was terribly disappointed when the event got cancelled initially because training for something like this for the first time while managing home, work and the kids involved a lot of sacrifice in addition to the fact that it was physically and mentally very demanding (I’ve questioned my sanity many times, haha).

My ‘why’ in undertaking this though was much stronger and I restarted training during a big part of the lockdown taking part in virtual races just to keep my momentum going. Raising funds for the hospital that helped my Dad live comfortably for 11 years since diagnosis urged me to keep going. When the Ultra X got postponed the second time which I saw coming with all that was happening globally, I decided to put all my training to use and just run the distance. If anything it would be a test of sorts to see what I can do.

This is your first ultra-marathon, how have you found training and preparing for the event?  

Honestly very tough at the start but it got better with time. I never realised that the mental aspect of training is just as important and sometimes more important than the physical. There are days I have felt incredible with so much ‘go’ in me and there are days I have woken up at 4am just unable to run. If anything I have learnt what mental resilience truly means. There are good days and bad days. The process of training has shown me what I’m capable of and what more I could do if I pushed further.

Sri Lankan Ultra Runner
Shaki Sri Lankan Ultra Runner
Charlene Sri Lankan Ultra Runner

What is the furthest you had run before registering, and what is the furthest you have run since?

Before registering, I had just done my first 16km when I got the call to participate in the Ultra X event. I’ve since run a distance of 120km over six days (Trans Atlas Challenge) in June 2020 and my longest individual distance is 45km (soon to be 50km next week)

Tell us about your event goals and the strategy?

My biggest goal in all of this is to run for my donors – people who helped me raise funds for a huge cause very close to me. I’m also hoping that by me doing this it would help bring more awareness to ultra-running while drawing more people, especially women, into endurance running/sport.   Strategy – I strength train thrice a week consistently under the guidance of a strength coach and run 3-4 times a week based on a schedule my run coach guides me with. No matter how difficult, unless I have a valid reason not to I stick to the program consistently, and get all those reps and mileage in.

What are you most worried about?

The heat!!  It’s so hot in March haha!! I want to finish and with endurance events there is always an element of uncertainty as well. I know it’s all about balancing so many aspects – hydration, nutrition, the physical aspects of my body moving smoothly, recovering for the next day and the biggest part of it all – mental will which I know can bring a person down faster than the body can move. While I’ve had my share of terrible lows during training the fact that my event is finally here and this is where I put it all to the test scares me sometimes.

What are you most excited about?

I’m going to see what I can do! I’m going to test my body and my mind and that gives me a thrill!

Are you looking to join Nishreen and many others in Sri Lanka in March 2022? Registrations are now open.


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