As an Ultramarathon runner you get a lot of people who don't understand why you do it, and ask what's the point? I have even had people ask me "what are you running away from?".
Running on trails is such a raw natural place to be, you find that your mind let's go of all the stresses of life, you're in a pure and free space. You will have conversations with strangers that you're running with, about your deepest and darkest secrets - it feels like a place of no judgment.
Put yourself in this environment stripped raw - mentally, physically and emotionally, you will now find yourself in a place you will not only loose yourself, but also find who you TRULY ARE, a place you will come back from as a better person.
February 2018 I was at Tarawera Ultramarathon pacing for a runner in the 100k to run them home for the last 25km.
Unfortunately my runner had to pull out, as sometimes happens in these events. I decided to just start running back to the finish line and see if anyone needed some company.
I caught up, and chatted to people, I passed a few people until I got next to Travis Stull. It became apparent quite quickly that this was the guy I would help get home. He was sitting at a nice pace but showing signs of fatigue and welcomed the company.
This was my fist experience at pacing someone. I throughly enjoyed applying the final stages of the race strategy, on fresh legs and a clear head, something I have never experienced before.
The last 5k was a flat good running track, so I made sure Travis conserved his legs a bit over the last hill through the Redwoods, not over doing it on any steep ups or downs. We kept an eye on his nutrition and hydration and got to the last aid station having made a few place gains, and about to lay down an all out effort.
I had been preparing him for a hard last 5km, so his mind was up for it as I knew it would hurt him like hell - he didn't disappoint me!
He was winding runners in so well, passing one after another. I kept the talk positive, breaking each kilometre down into small achievable targets and when we hit that target I gave him another one, a little smaller, always trying to keep it achievable in his eyes.
He was smashing it with a about 2km to go I pulled out my trump card... "Your wife and daughter are there waiting let's........", (Shit, keep it together Rhys) I'm not sure if he noticed but I was getting all choked up.
I had only known this guy for less than two hours, and in this moment it felt like he was a long lost brother. This was such an awesome moment. This guy had just been running for 98km and was striped raw, he must have been hurting like hell but was smashing it, he was in the place you loose yourself and find yourself and about to celebrate by running down the finish line shoot with his little girl.
This was such a great moment to be apart of and this is why I do it!
It's not about the shiny stuff and the glory, it's about those moments you truly find yourself and come out the other side a better person.
Rhys Johnston - HOKA Athlete, trail runner.