Author: Nicolette Griffioen
My first SkyRun in 2016 was everything it should have been, and more. There was the excitement of running a new trail, heightened after the previous year’s disappointment of having to spectate rather than compete due to an ITB issue. Then there was the anxiety of running 100km – only my second race of that distance at the time. But then on race day, there seemed to be a certain peace of mind and body that I have struggled to replicate since. I had my low points of course, as everyone who embarks on an ultra, inevitably does, but I was content. I ran my own race and felt no pressure to achieve any particular time or position. I walked when I felt it was better than running, sat down a few times to recover, and even waited for a fellow competitor to catch up after a particularly long stretch of solitude. In the end, I set a new female record for the SkyRun 100km, and to this day I still ask myself, how?
There are, however, no simple explanations in the world of ultra running. The complexities that play out over the course of hours and hours alone on the trail are so individualistic and multi-factorial in origin that even science generally parks the bus at the marathon distance... So it could have been my last training block, my taper, or my race day nutrition that resulted in my unexpected performance. But my thinking is that it was simply the freedom of body and mind that I allowed myself that day – freedom from my own limitations, and expectations. I was fully prepared for the worst, ready to embrace the pain, suffering and loneliness of the ultra trail. But at the same time, I was perhaps naive enough not to be pre-empting it. And in that open space of mind I was able to stay completely present for 15 hours and 15 minutes. Never a step ahead nor a step behind. Always right on the trail below my feet, completely grounded yet moving relentlessly forward for a reason I cannot often recall. A state of greater being that can probably only be achieved on a specific route, in particular conditions and on a certain day. And for me it was SkyRun, that year, that day, engulfed by those majestic mountain ridge lines and valleys with their purpose and beauty far exceeding any I had known before.