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!)
2020 was a year that was filled with challenges and for 2021 we were determined to get back to business and do what we do best – put on life-changing physical events. Thankfully, we did just that. Here were the top 12 moments of 2021, in chronological order.
1) RUNNING AROUND THE WORLD
This time last year we were about to kick off our most ambitious challenge ever: Run Around the World with Kev. The concept was simple, to run 24,901 miles, equaling the circumference of the world, in one day, as a community. This effort was all to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK and our great friend Kevin Webber. In doing so we raised over £10,000 and kicked the new year off quite literally at a run.
It was an brilliant reminder of how phenomenal the Ultra X community is, and we were incredibly proud to work with Kev for the initiative. Despite being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer 7 years ago, Kev continues to tackle some of the world’s most difficult ultra marathons, in order to raise both funds and awareness for the charity that helps men like him, most recently taking part in Ultra X Wales.
2) NEW EVENT PARTNERS
We had planned a collaboration with the mental health support group RunTalkRun for the end of 2020. Due to UK government restrictions, it took three attempts before it happened, however when it finally was allowed it was the first time we had been able to run as a group in the year. We set up five checkpoints across London and had 60 runners join us to complete distances from 10 to 50 kilometres, all whilst raising funds for NHS Charities Together.
Then in June we had The TRIBE Relay Across Scotland by Ultra X, which was not your usual ultra marathon.
In partnership with our friends at TRIBE to raise funds for their Freedom Foundation we challenged teams to come together and relay through the day and night from the West to the East coast of Scotland. With the option to do anything from 20km to 60km per person the event had a huge range of abilities and experiences taking part however one thing was constant – this was a lot of fun. We’re back in 2022 for more.
3) the first race back
Following a long period of cancellations, postponements, and virtual racing it was so good to return to racing in person at the inaugural Ultra X 125 Scotland.
With safety protocols in place, we had 200 competitors circumnavigate the mythical Loch Ness over two 2 days and cross under those famous blue arches where they were greeted with a pizza, a cold beer and (if they wanted it) an even colder dunk in the Loch!
The race was significant as it marked the return to physical racing north of the border, being the first trail event to take place since the restrictions changed in Scotland.
Since Scotland it has been non-stop and 2022 is even bigger! We cannot wait to get going and the full race calendar is available here.
4) a fresh format
Accessibility is one of the Ultra X core values and so when international travel curtailed what we had planned for the year we looked at other possibilities for events on home shores.
The Trail Series was the brainchild of this. Everything we do is about getting more people onto the trails and so launching a single-stage offering with distances starting at Half Marathon, close to where a lot of our community were based, seemed like a good idea at a time where some of our other formats were proving challenging to organise.
When we are not putting on our own events, we still like to keep ourselves busy supporting individuals taking on worthy challenges. We were therefore delighted to be asked to provide logistical support to Joshua Patterson as he ran 4 marathons in the 4 countries in the UK under 24 hours whilst managing to raise over £20,000 for the Samaritans Charity.
6) THE SUMMIT
It wouldn’t be a “Moments of 2021” if it didn’t include our ultimate community event – The Ultra X Summit! Having been canceled in 2020 due to you-know-what, we were more excited than ever to put on this 48-hour trail running extravaganza and it did not disappoint. A record crowd braved the British Summer for inspiring talks from Carla Molinaro, Renee McGregor and Adharanand Finn, a BBQ feast, hot tubs, trail runs and of course… the Beer Mile!
7) ULTRA X JORDAN
The 5th Edition of Ultra X Jordan was finally allowed to happen and what a week it turned out to be!
Our first international event for two years will be remembered for the first time we had a stage winner that was not Salameh al Aqra, PCR testing from our desert camp, the highest finish rate ever despite some brutal temperatures and of course the inspiring class of 2021.
Our original event is the highlight of our calendar and we are already counting down the days until 2022. Fancy it?
8) THE TEAM GROWS
The secret sauce behind our events will always be the people and this year we were delighted to welcome several incredible team members, as well as many new ambassadors and athletes to our team.
A highlight has to be the annual team building trip which was very Ultra X… The UK 3 Peaks Challenge in late October!
A huge thank you to everyone that has supported us this year.
9) dawn2dusk – the black mamba
As much as we are glad to no longer be hosting virtual races and be returning to the real stuff, we did have some fun with them.
Last March we challenged our audience to gather teams and see how far they could run, walk or cycle in 12 hours from dawn to dusk. The results were phenomenal! Over 60% of the teams ran over 250km and were rewarded the “Black Mamba” wristband as a result!
10) RUN CLUB LAUNCH
The Ultra X Run club has been in the pipeline since the company launched at the end of 2018 so it was awesome to finally kick it off in Epping Forest with over 60 of our community. We’ve got some big things planned for this in 2022 so watch this space!
11) A UK 250
Whilst at Ultra X we love all ultras, there is really nothing we love more than a five-day multi-stage race. For the experience, the connections made and the bubble which is created, there is simply nothing else like it.
When it looked like travel might be tricky for a while, we focused on how we could put such an event on home shores. Thus, Ultra X Wales was born!
This unique and challenging event which takes participants from the northern Cambrian mountains to southern Snowdonia, following a number of famous trails offers an epic UK multistage for those looking at a weeklong event without having to jump on a plane.
The first edition took place in August with Phillipa Williams clinching the overall title. The first, but surely not the last, time there has been a female overall winner at an Ultra X.
12) A step towards more inclusivity
Ultra X is a brand for all. We know that ultra running has the power to transform the lives of anyone in the world, regardless of colour, creed, class, gender, or sexuality. In 2021 we continued our journey to reckon with the reality that the sport is not as accessible as it could or should be. Highlights were two introduction to trail running days with Black Trail Runners. You can read a little more about we are doing in this space here.
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