It's that time of year when Ultra-Trail Australia entries are opening and the buzz about which distance to run in 2020 starts. Ultra-Trail Australia now includes the UTA951, UTA11, UTA22, UTA50, and UTA100. The growth of this event since 2008 reflects the growth of trail running as a sport both domestically and abroad, with each year bringing new faces and, like last year, new races into the picture.
Maybe you're someone that suffers regularly from 'fear of missing out', or maybe you couldn't care less what others are doing and just enjoy the process solo. Either way, let's have a look at some of the considerations for choosing an event at Ultra-Trail Australia.
Are you ready?
We all have a different running age, a different running history and a multitude of individual differences that make us unique from one another. This should be the basis of your thought process when considering an event. Ask yourself, does this race respect the notion of progression in terms of my own development as a runner? Progression isn't tied directly to distance either, progression may speak to time and feel of an event. Where does this race fit into your 5-year plan for running?
More isn't better, nor is more, harder. If you're transitioning from the road and looking for a new set of challenges on the trail, or you're a regular at trail races throughout the year this is an important point to consider. The choice to run longer than another person does not make that the harder choice, or the better choice. We all have our own challenges, our own interests, and our own desires. Let's stop saying 'I'm only doing the 11/22/50'.
You're doing the event you've signed up for because you're looking for a challenge. The value of your race doesn't lie in the fact it runs longer than another. The value of your race lies in the experience it provides you as an individual. Let's touch on that point about progression again. Progression for one runner may look like a 4-year path to the UTA100, starting with the UTA11. For another runner, it may be knocking 1 hour off their finishing time in the UTA22 over the same time period. Progression may even be finishing the event in a similar time but handling the training, race day and recovery much better.
You're doing the 951. You're doing the 11km. You're doing the 22km. You're doing the 50km or you're doing the 100km. Put that into practice when someone asks which race you've signed up for.
The mountains will be there tomorrow and the mountains will be there next year.
Don't feel pressured to sign up to a particular event because all of your friends are signing up for the same event. Even if you're capable but unsure of committing due to other factors, it's perfectly acceptable to hold off on selecting your distance. As the months progress people will lose interest, lose the time to train, or become injured.
The UTA22 and the UTA50 sold out very quickly last year, coincidentally the number of entries available on Facebook during March, April, and May this year was enormous. I even saw someone swap an entry for a 6 pack of beer in one Facebook group. If you're unsure, don't be afraid to think long term and push your goals a year back while you spend the time developing and preparing for the challenge. 'I want a challenge that will motivate and scare me.'
Choosing a challenge that motivates you to get out the door is perfect, choosing a challenge that pressures you, instigates anxiety and decreases the value of running in your life is not. If the fear of the event is a healthy fear and something that will keep you positive, focused and sharp for the coming months that's wonderful. If that same fear weighs on your mind every time you head out the door, pressures you every time you miss a run or keeps you up at night reducing your quality of life, that is certainly not wonderful. Pick a challenge that encourages you to learn, adapt and grow as a runner and a person. Remember your 'why'. Why do I do this? Why am I signing up for this race? If you can't answer that question it's probably best to have a think about the best way to change that. Above all...
Remember running is fun. Have a think about the best way to put that at the forefront of your running over the next few months.