Written By Thomas Joly de Lotbiniere
Tom is an ex-Army Officer, IRONMAN triathlete, and experienced ultra marathon runner. He’s previously qualified for the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona and finished third at Ultra X Sri Lanka 2019.
We were planning to release the Director’s Race Report of Ultra X Sri Lanka this week. However, we were delighted to receive the below article from one of our competitors – Thomas Joly de Lotbiniere, who finished in an outstanding third place overall – and instead will be publishing the full race report next week.
No race report can do the justice that this amazing event deserves. Rather than recount some of the amazing stories and stages of the race, I want to explain what it really means to have #theultraXperience.
Stunning. The moments I allowed myself to lose focus on the race at hand, I was in awe of the beautiful vegetation, stunning scenery and amazing wildlife that surrounded us at every turn. Ok, 35-degree heat and 80% humidity are certainly tough conditions, but it made it all the sweeter each day to finish in a beautiful campsite, often with a river or lake nearby to cool off in. There are few places in the world where you feel like you are in hell one minute and heaven the next.
Initially I was apprehensive of meeting a group of strangers who I would be living with and competing against, but ultimately became friends with, and after only one day apart, began to miss. Ultra X’s training days enable you to meet some of your fellow competitors beforehand, and their open arms approach really bring everyone together. You don’t just sign up to an Ultra X event, you join the family, a feeling you won’t find at any other event.
Most people who sign up to these events are not superhuman, extreme athletes or sadists, they are just everyday heroes. What they all have in common is the belief that they can achieve something greater than they thought possible, a desire to prove and challenge themselves and push the boundaries. It’s true that freedom lies at the edge of your comfort zone, and no other event will allow you the opportunity to test that freedom more than #theultraXperience.
The kind of people who are willing to give up a week’s holiday to run, walk, and crawl 250km through some of natures rawest and unspoilt environments are the people you need more of in your life. They may be racing against you, but they are also racing with you, and sharing those highs and lows is what brings people together. The only other time in my career where I have found such a great bonding experience was in the army, yet you can find that same experience with Ultra X in just one week. These are the people that lent me their kit when mine was broken, that shared precious drinks when they needed it more, and helped each other in camp, where other’s success would impede their own. Only in situations like this can such selfless commitment and strong bonds shine through.
On top of all the great people competing, the crew made the 250km that much more enjoyable. The directors demonstrated exceptional command and control in what were extremely trying conditions. Despite having less downtime than the competitors (if any) they managed to set the race and campsite up each day, while providing constant support along the route and at manned checkpoints. They not only delivered an amazing race under pressure, but became as good friends with us as we did with each other.
There was a feeling not just of support from the crew but of actual care, to ensure you got through each stage in as best shape as possible. They didn’t just hand out water, but would run with you on the go, the osteopaths didn’t just give you a rub down but actually fixed the broken bodies each day, while the directors were genuinely interested in making sure everyone had the best time possible. The course was well marked despite the local’s best attempts to borrow flags, and all in all you couldn’t ask for a greater sense of adventure.
If you have tried marathons, long-distance cycling, or triathlons like IRONMAN, and are looking for the next challenge then a multi-stage ultra should certainly be on your list. Ultra running is where it’s at right now, and Ultra X are leading the way. Now is the time to get involved.
In years to come people will look back in the same way that they do to Kona, and say this it where it started for the multi-stage ultra series. You can be sure you will receive the same outstanding race that we received in Sri Lanka at any of their events. Ultimately, it’s so much more than just a race, it’s a holiday, a safari, and a journey. I would even go so far to call it a pilgrimage, the real ultra experience, and you can bet that I’ll be back again for more.
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