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An Ultra after an Ultra - Lizzy Hawker

The most tranquil and tough runner you have ever heard of.
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Source: The New York Times

Lizzy Hawker had just finished running a nine-stage race through some of Nepal’s wildest trails when she learned that her flight back to Katmandu, about 200 miles away, was canceled because of bad weather.

In August, Hawker won the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a 104-kilometer race that included 6,000 meters of climbing.

So, rather than wait for the next flight, she ran there.

There were no cheering fans, other competitors or prizes. Instead, Hawker, a 36-year-old British ultrarunner, was intent on beating her time over the same route from 2007, which was 74 hours 36 minutes nonstop. Few cared if she broke her record or abandoned her effort. The competition was with herself.

“I try to focus on running the very best that I can, literally moment by moment,” Hawker said. “If I’m in pain or tired, I don’t have to fight it. I can be in myself, in the environment. It’s amazing what you can do running moment to moment.”

About halfway through the run, where her route turned from trail to road, Hawker met her friend Roger Henke from Katmandu and three other Nepalese runners. Their van held food, water and a back seat for napping. Late in the second day, Hawker was nauseated and having problems with coordination, Henke said.

He recalled: “Having retched out the last bit of liquid from the previous stop, she’d say, ‘Would it be O.K. if I lay down just a bit? Hope you don’t mind,’ with this very British teatime politeness.”

The van followed Hawker through the last leg of the run, with Henke and the others taking turns running alongside her. “Throughout the three days, she slept maybe four and a half hours, never more than 50 minutes at a time,” Henke said.

She set a personal record to Katmandu from Everest Base Camp of 71 hours 25 minutes.

Check out the full article here: New York Times - Running

Lizzy Hawker is probably the most tranquil and tough runner I have ever read about. I never thought I'd use those two adjectives in a sentence, but Hawker is the epitome of both.

First of all, running in the Nepalese mountains? Then running an Ultra for fun, with no audience, just her and the wilderness - because her flight got cancelled? There's no other way to describe her except being one of the most gutsy and tough runners out there.

Unlike most ultrarunners, Hawker challenges herself on all surfaces. She won the 100K world championship in 2006 and set a 24-hour world record by running a 1-kilometer loop of asphalt 247 times at the Commonwealth Championships in September 2011. She has reached the summit of the 22,349-foot Ama Dablam in the Himalayas without oxygen and was named a 2013 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.

She has many achievements and accolades, and Hawker at age 36 is still loving it and doing more incredible things in the ultra world.

But why Hawker continues to push herself to extremes is hard for some to understand. Most ultraraces, like the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, offer no prize money. Even the top ultrarunners are little known outside the sport and work other jobs just to get by. Injury is endemic, and suffering is part of the pursuit.

Alone, cold and tired on the trail, she, too, sometimes questions why she does this.

“You have to give yourself a good answer to carry on,” she said. “I think we’re all looking for that edge, challenging ourselves, whether that’s expressed through music, writing, raising a family or endurance running.

“During extreme challenges, you come back to the core of who you are; it helps you know yourself. For me, running is a way of moving I really love, and I love being outside in the mountains.”

Her motivation and intriguing passing for running brought me to her website, which describes a very interesting and tranquil side of her, one that I have quite enjoyed reading about in her blog.

My enduring passion is for the mountains and wilderness. Having trained as an environmental scientist I have somehow fallen into the world of ultra and endurance running. My dream is to encourage people to realise the sanctuary of the mountains, the richness of our environment and our responsibility to protect it, and the value of challenging yourself both physically and mentally.

But, today the mountains had another idea. Snowfalls over the last few days meant after a beautiful dawn it was time to start shooting down the avalanches. So, I was stopped in my tracks. I had to take a new route. Into the unknown. A way I hadn’t skinned before. The way was gentler in places, it took longer to gain height. It gave me a different view and a new perspective. And on that long skin up towards the sky I realised what I was being reminded of. The world is as it is, and we are as we are. It will snow when it snows. The wind will blow when it blows. The sun will shine when it shines. We cannot make things as we want them to be, need them to be, or wish them to be. They are as they are.

But that is the magic of life? We have to learn to flow. To flow with the ups and the downs, around the twists and turns, into the corners, into the wide open, to turn ourselves inside out and stand on our head if need be. I’m not saying never fight for the truth of what you believe. Just that sometimes the truth isn’t what we wish it was. We cannot bend, shape, fold the world into how we wish things were. Instead we have to bend, shape, fold ourselves to follow the course that life throws before us; when things feel harsh or difficult, as well as when they are gentle and easy. Being grateful for what is there, for what we have in that moment, rather than wishing for more, lest what we have in that moment is taken from us. One of the truths in life is that nothing is permanent; life is a constant ebb and flow. Go with it. Fight for what you believe to be true; but don’t let your will, your wish, your want, delude you. Things are as they are, and it is ok.

She has an obvious love for nature and the environment, and a particularly unique philosophy. She is incredibly different from what I have read about other runners. Though of ultrarunners, this seems to be a growing trend - an appreciation for running, pushing oneself physically and mentally, and an adoration for the outdoors. I personally appreciate her love of running and calming perspective on the world.

Hawker is a true inspiration to me that exhibits two aspects of running - the competitive part of it, and the complete passion for it.


Yeah, ultrarunners seem to be a unique breed.  More than half of the ones I know of are Vegan (I only personally know one ultrarunner, and he is not)

Yeah, ultrarunners seem to be a unique breed.  More than half of the ones I know of are Vegan (I only personally know one ultrarunner, and he is not)


It is really interesting the trend of being an ultrarunner and a vegetarian or vegan! You would think that ultrarunners might eat more and more care-free to replenish energy and intake a lot of protein.

Apr 22 2013 01:47 PM
It is really interesting the trend of being an ultrarunner and a vegetarian or vegan! You would think that ultrarunners might eat more and more care-free to replenish energy and intake a lot of protein.

I've noticed this too among the ultra scene. Since we as humans are naturally born distance runners, it makes sense that ultra runners employ the relatively vegetarian diets similar to that of early man; running for hours on end through the Savannah tracking prey. They needed an effective form of energy that was easy to travel with, which is most vegetarian foods.

    • Brianna likes this

Awesome feat and story. I personally ahs not known any ultra runners but will love to meet one sometime.

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