Amelia with ambassador Sophie Grant and husband George at the start line of UTMB 2018
Standing on the start line of any race is special. As at that precise moment you are the culmination of all of the past hours of hard training, dedication and sacrifice you have made to your sport. Yet, you also have the future just within your reach, the moment where your past is put to the test against yourself, your fellow competitors and the elements. The buzz is electrifying and I defy any competitor not to be drawn into the excitement of the opportunity a start line brings.
And yet certain start lines just mean that little bit more for all sorts of personal reasons, and for me the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc is one of those.
I had the disappointment of having to pull out of the 2017 race due to injury and the uncertainty of not knowing if they would accept my treatment dossier to defer my place to 2018. Then relief when the confirmation email finally came through, followed by panic, as at that time in December 2017 I couldn’t even run for 20 minutes without wanting to vomit with pain. With specialists talking about injections and surgery, the mountain I needed to climb to even get to the UTMB start-line seemed insurmountable, let alone get to the end of the 106mile, 10,000m-ascent course.
The only thing I could do, as so many injured athletes before me, was to dedicate myself to the rehabilitation programme and rely on those clichéd sayings of ‘one day at a time’ and ‘what doesn’t kill me, is going to make me stronger’.
At Easter, in the torrential rain and head on wind, I completed my first 2-hour run for nearly a year. Finally, I had the first glimmer of hope that I may actually get to the start of the UTMB. A corner did indeed seem to have been turned and I was able to up my training load without an increase in pain or re-injury.
I still cannot believe that a year after such disappointment I found myself standing at the start of the UTMB, absorbing every thrilling moment, pinching myself that I was actually going to be part of one of the most amazing races in the world.
As endurance athletes it is always worth remembering that when a race or training gets hard, that hard is what we came for, and hard is what we crave. Anyone can do easy, and we, ultra-runners, are not just anyone! We do not give up, we power on towards our goals, even if it is only one step at a time.
One wise coach once told me “stand at the start and smile, as you have achieved much to get there, but then don’t stop, carrying on smiling with every step, with every breath, until you cross the line at the other end”.
Amelia finished the UTMB 22nd woman and 185th overall in 31 hours 57 minutes.