The Golden Ultra is an imposing race for even the most seasoned distance runners. At 80 kilometres and nearly 4000m of elevation gain and loss over the three days, that’s fairly obvious.
It’s even a bit intimidating for Jen Stronge, who has completed a range of marathons and ultra marathons, including the Boston Marathon, the appropriately named 125km Death Race out of Grand Cache and the infamous Sinister Seven out of Crowsnest Pass.
Most competitors in the Sinister race compete as a team, with each individual running one of the seven stages in the 100 mile course. Stronge, however, competed alone.
So yes, it’s fair to say that she enjoys pushing the limits, but one of her favourite aspects of ultra marathons is the camaraderie that is felt between competitors. That friendliness results in a kind, supportive environment that helps make these races such a positive experience for her.
“The people that do these runs are really incredible…You can run for an hour without seeing anybody and then all of a sudden you’ll come across somebody and it’s such a great thing,” Stronge said.
While 80 clicks over the span of three days might seem like a casual Sunday stroll around the Rotary Trails for a woman who has completed races twice that distance in the past, Stronge says she isn’t taking anything for granted. The three-day format is particularly significant, and Stronge believes it will be her recovery between stages of the race that will be the key to her performance.
One hindrance for Stronge as she trains for the Sept. 18-20 race is that she’s currently on a work program in Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Stronge, a nurse, will be spending eight weeks in the remote northern community and won’t return until a few days before the Ultra. While she continues to run on a daily basis, typically totalling well over 70km per week, the terrain in the arctic isn’t what she’ll have to face when she competes in Golden. Usually Stronge likes to mix in a fair bit of mountain biking into her training, but that isn’t possible in Inuvik either.
“(Cross-training) has been a huge part of how I’ve trained…this year’s kind of different being up here because I don’t have my bike here and it’s all flat,” Stronge said.
“There’s not much in the way of trails here either, so far I’ve been running on the airport road and on the treadmill…it’s going to be a huge challenge.”
Stronge will have a week back in Golden before the race and says she plans to run similar routes to the ones that will be used in the race in order to prepare herself, although she will have to avoid pushing herself too hard in the days leading up to the Ultra.
In the end, it’s her fellow runners that keep her inspired and always pushing for more.
“I don’t know that I would call it a runners high but it is a lot of fun…there’s so many great races out there and places to go and I get so inspired by some of these amazing (runners).”
Regardless of the outcome, Stronge is pleased to see an event like this happening in Golden and commends organizer Magi Scallion for getting the race off the ground.
“I think it’s such a great thing for our town…it’s a growing sport and in Golden we’re in such a great spot to be doing these things.”