UTA100 Tim Boylen, UTA100 Race Report - Winner

13 Jul 2018

UTA100 Tim Boylen, UTA100 Race Report - Winner

This is how it ends … a lone runner in ice-edged, windswept darkness, eking out the human spirit to ascend the final Furber Steps before emerging into a Hollywood Boulevard of bright lights and cheers.It’s the ultimate finish line experience. And it’s ribbon-wrapped with such a smile, transcending the root and marrow at every runner’s core.There are planet-sized gaps in my UTA100 race memories - but no matter. The finishing line is not the finish of it; weeks later the run replays itself, unbidden, in daylight and in dreams, in countless conversations with people who wonder what it’s like.
So, what is it like?

This is an unreliable recollection by necessity. Mostly it’s fun. After all, you’ve trained for it. However, the day is also punctuated with physical demands that flail the mind and sap the soul. You’ve trained for that too, but not at these distances. That’s why you forget you have poles to tackle a never-ending hill. It’s why you say no to water at an aid station.

Those are silly – but nothing compared to what you become in the mental wastelands that haunt various stages of an otherwise beautiful run. In my case, not offering my stash of ginger to a bent-double, retching wreck of a runner. It was born of a petty desire not to sacrifice time. Seriously? In biblical terms it’s a cock-crowed-thrice moment which haunts me into the night. Finally I meet another distressed runner and a chance to atone. Then another, who will leapfrog me late in the game, showing how the 100km is a chess board of stages and strategies, many of which you can’t control.
And if the race keeps running long after the finish line, it certainly consumes you long before the start. From the thrill of securing a place from a standby list, to the joys of planning and running, planning and running, repeat ad infinitum. It’s selfish. It’s obsessive. It’s certainly no place for a faltering relationship.
Just how obsessive do we get as runners? How about being happy when diagnosed with arthritis in my right knee four days before the start. The thinking: “Thankfully it’s not something that might go ‘ping’ and force me to stop during the event. I can suck up arthritis. What a relief!”

It took six weeks to get to that diagnosis. Six weeks that should have been spent on steps, after training for another event dominated by slopes. So on race day, the epic stair climbs devour my underdone legs. I roll over the hills with relative ease. However, the steps and especially Nellie’s Glen and Furber – the latter being 951 steps in 800 metres that takes me 34 minutes – are like a scene from Macbeth. There is blood on those steps that only those with ‘ultra madness’ can see and it cannot be washed from the psyche. Replaying my wretched climb up Furber is the Red Wedding in Game Of Thrones … and I’m playing a starring role.
So, is it worth it?

Of course it is and you don’t need to ask because you already know the answer. That’s because you’re a runner. For mid- and back-packers, you’re fitter than you’ve ever been. The camaraderie of the trails is a cup overflowing (although less abundant when the sun sets and clever quips are in short supply). You’ll feel like proposing to the Florence Nightingales at aid stations, if only you could bend your knee.
Then there are the gilt-edged spectators cheering you on. Where else will you get that high, in such large doses, with such authenticity? It’s as close to a podium experience as you’ll ever get.

So it doesn’t matter if you can’t recollect the race, blow by blow. No matter how fogged, no matter how unreliable, these memories will go with you to the far-flung horizons of your life. So go on, do it.