Lizzy Hawker pre-2012 Spartathlon interview to Advendure.com Κύριο

Από 24 Σεπ 2012

Advendure.com had an exclusive interview with Lizzy Hawker, just a few days before Spartathlon, focusing on her way of thinking during ultra-races, her physical and mental approach regarding ultra running, the future of endurance scene and her goals for Spartathlon and future races. Spartathlon is a historic ultra-distance foot race that takes place in the last Friday of every September in Greece. This year’s edition is the 30th anniversary of the race. The 250 km race is one of the most difficult but also satisfying ultra distance races in the world because of its unique history and background. Many great endurance athletes from all over the world will line-up at the start line - under the holy rock of Acropolis and Parthenon Temple - in Athens at 07.00 AM on Friday 28th of September 2012. Their goal is to reach as fast as they can the statue of King Leonidas which stands in the historical capital of Laconia – Sparta.

Lizzy Hawker - an elite runner, with great endurance and adventure skills both in the mountains and road races - will be running in Spartathlon just two weeks after her victorious performance at the Run Rabbit Run 100 miler in the US. In fact, 2012 was a very successful year for Lizzy. Back in August she made an outstanding performance taking her 5th victory at the famous The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) ultra-race in the Alps and she also ran in Western States 100 miler in June taking the 6th place.

Her love with the mountains started when she was 6 years old after a visit to Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. Her running career started much later, at the age of 24 when she ran London Marathon. But it wasn’t really until 2005 (when she was 29) that she started to run ultra races, competing at the UK 100km Championship and the North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Some highlights from her amazing career are the women’s world 24-hour record on the roads with 247.076 km (2011 Commonwealth Championship), the 5 out of 6 victories at UTMB, the Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu run in 72.25 hours (a great FNT – Fastest Known Time – performance) and the 2006 win at the IAU 100 km World Championships in Korea with 7:28:46. Her personal web-page presents in detail all her running career accomplishments .

Her professional career started after studying natural sciences at Cambridge and earned a doctorate in polar oceanography. Then she joined the British Antarctic Survey to work on climate change research. After she fell into the world of ultra and endurance running back in 2005, she decided not to follow an academic career in order to have the flexibility to race and train, and to try to forge a life in the mountains. It seems that her decision was wise, taking into consideration her career achievements and her commitment to the responsibility of working towards both social and environmental sustainability. Let's take a look at her thoughts through this exclusive interview to Advendure.com:

 

[Advendure]:  Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc race, the 24-hours Commonwealth Ultra Championship, the run from the Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu in 2007 … three completely different types of running events, three great performances. Tell us about your physical and mental approach to these running events, taking into consideration their completely different “nature”, philosophy and running requirements.

[Hawker]: Each has its own unique physical and mental challenge.  But they shared a common philosophy; in the end you need to maintain your focus and deal with whatever challenge the mountains (or road), your own body and mind give you.  Doing so requires you to always try to be 'in the moment'.  When you can hold that intensity of focus then you realise that your limits are not where you thought they were.

 

[Advendure]: Your first attempt to cross the 1.000 miles of the Great Himalaya Trail through Nepal was not successful – as we read - because you lost crucial gear, communication equipment, permits etc…Tell us a few things about this project. Are you considering coming back for it in the future? What is the key element for taking the decision to try something so hard? Being in the wilderness of Nepal, breaking the crossing record of Richard and Adrian Crane back at 1983 or a combination of several factors?

[Hawker]: Quite simply, the Great Himalaya Trail is a dream journey for me …. I love to be moving under my own efforts in the high mountains - so the opportunity to be on high himalayan trails is something very precious. I love being in wild and lonely places. In any such environment where the comforts that we have become accustomed to in our modern day life are limited, where you are so much 'closer' to nature, can make you more open to your own personal inner exploration.  When you are stripped of the trappings of modern life, when you are exposed to the elements and you feel the freedom of a journey - then you feel your 'rawness' and vunerability and you learn the strength that you have in body, mind and spirit.  It leads you to be 'mindful'.

N.B. With a journey like this it is almost impossible to talk abour records, since attempts to cross the Himlaya have been made in very different ways (eg. keeping to lower altitudes or taking the hightest possible route, the level of support, solo, accompanied etc.)

 

[Advendure]: I’m deeply convinced that in the future the biggest racing challenge will be the FNT (fastest known times) performances, for the reason that humans seek for primitive values. Men and women in solo or couple attempts will try to cover as fast as they can routes such as the Great Himalaya Trail, for distances of 1000K and more. What do you think about this prospect?

[Hawker]: I think that some of us have a deep seated need for exploration, and as more and more of our world becomes 'known' then these types of challenges are ways in which we are able to explore both the environment and ourselves in a new way.

 

[Advendure]: As an athlete and an adventurist as well, tell us some thoughts about Shackleton's epic march to survive back in 1914. This story is one of the bravest survive stories ever, a milestone for contemporary history of adventure. To you, which is the relation between survival and adventure and consequently with endurance, mental and physical?

[Hawker]: It is one of the most iconic stories of survival and endurance. To me it all comes down to exploration; of our environment, and of our own personal mental and physical limits.

 

[Advendure]: There are elite ultra runners that incorporate in their training programs conventional methods like track intervals, asphalt tempo runs etc. and others that just go out and run in the mountains on a daily basis. What about your philosophy on training? What do you prefer the most?

[Hawker]: My heart is definitely in the mountains, however I do enjoy the challenge of different types of running on a variety of terrain!  My philosophy is definitely to learn to know myself, and to train by 'feel' to a certain extent. There is no real 'typical' week - my training tends to vary during the year depending on the race or challenge I am focusing towards next - i.e. whether marathon distance or shorter, city (ie flat roads) or mountain, or ultra distance (roads, trails or mountains).  Each type of running requires quite different training.  Over the years I have built up a high level of 'base endurance' - so for my next focus race I just adjust training to meet those specific needs.

 

[Advendure]: You run several demanding ultra-races each year in a top-level performance. How do you manage to recover so quickly between the races both mentally and physically? I mean, the body needs time to recover and also most athletes feel mentally “empty” or “exhausted” after an ultra race. This is a major problem if you need to get 100% in the training for the next ultra race or mountain-crossing (in your case).

[Hawker]: I am lucky that I seem to recover quickly.  I think this is possibly because most of the time I am racing 'within myself', with something still left to give on the finish line.  I haven't quite learned to empty myself out during a race, perhaps to do with the mountaineer's instinct of leaving enough to be able to descend the mountain.  My good recovery often means that I can race more often than might be thought possible.  However, you still have to take 'care'.  As you say, it isn't only the physical recovery, but also the 'mental' freshness that is so important.  Sometimes even when the body is ready to race again, unless the 'head and heart' are also ready, then it isn't possible. I think that we all have to learn to 'listen' to ourselves, to our bodies, our minds and emotions, and to know when it is ok still to push forward, and when to draw back.  Of course, we try, but sometimes we make the wrong choices, perhaps starting a race when we shouldn't, or having a very intense period, that then requires some quieter time to regain balance.

 

[Advendure]: During Ultra races - or multi-hours/days mountain crossing runs - mental management is a key element of success. How do you manage to keep your mental focus after so much running hours? Is it something that someone could “train” additionally to the physical preparation required for such demanding races?

[Hawker]: In all ultradistance and endurance events then the mental part is at least as important as the physical, if not more so.  I think the mental preparation really becomes part of your 'everyday'  - it comes from how you live your life, your philosophy.  In a way maintaining your mental focus during an ultra is helped by knowing your intention, knowing your motivation.   The motivation does not come only from the victory or the competition.  In the end it isn't just about the race.  For me the motivation is very much within myself - to try to do the best I can in each moment.  It is about the journey - physical, mental and spiritual - the preparation - the in between - the looking for the 'edge'. 

 

[Advendure]: Why ultras seem to influence deeper the people involved with? Is more the emotional part of this issue or the size of the challenge that someone has to deal with?

[Hawker]: Intensity and challenge comes down to what we perceive as 'normal' for us!  Mental strength and the courage to explore your own limits can allow you to achieve things you didn't imagine possible.  That might be running 5km, 50km or 500 km; it doesn't matter.  What is important is looking to challenge yourself in a way that allows you to know yourself more deeply.  I think ultras are a wonderful vehicle for this.  The shared passion and dedication make ultras so much more than just the challenge of the race itself; it becomes more a shared journey of exploration and endurance within the greater journey of our own life.

 

[Advendure]: Your next big race is the 30th anniversary of Spartathlon, at the end of September. First of all it is a great pleasure for our running community to welcome you in Greece. As you know, Spartathlon is a historic ultra-distance foot race and one of the most difficult ultra races worldwide. Tell us about your thoughts and feelings as you preparing for running in a race that revives the footsteps of Pheidippides from Athens to Sparta.

[Hawker]: It will be for me a great pleasure to make my first visit to Greece, and to be able to participate in such an iconic ultradistance race.  I approach the start line with that beautiful mixture of emotions: apprehension, excitement, hope, doubt, fear, joy!  For me the Spartathlon comes after a summer of mountain running, and following quickly after a 100km rerouted UTMB, and the 100 mile Run Rabbit Run. I am apprehensive at running so many hours on the road after a summer on the trails.  At the same time I am very excited just to have this opportunity to try something new - having no expectations - just letting myself  'be' in the moment.  As with each and every race I hope just to run the best that I can at each moment of the race, to give 'all' that I can, to feel joy in my run, and to share the experience. 

 

[Advendure]: How do you choose your running “projects”?  Are there any special plans – after Spartathlon - for the rest of 2012 and 2013?

[Hawker]: I have so many dreams - but all we have is the 'here and the now' - so the most important 'dream' is to be truly present in this moment of the journey of life!

 

[Advendure]: You have a PhD in polar oceanography, you worked on the British Antarctic Survey and as a consultant author of the Oxford University course-book which accompanied the BBC's Frozen Planet series. As you are both an environmental scientist and a mountain runner, do you believe that the worldwide explosion in the number of mountain races and of the people that participates plays an important role in the increase of our environmental awareness?

[Hawker]: It is fantastic that ultra trail running is developing globally and becoming ever more popular as a sport.  I think it is perhaps a sign of the times that endurance is increasingly capturing people's imaginations and passions. And I earnestly hope that as more people are drawn towards endurance, and challenging themselves in the environment that they love, it will bring with it a recognition of the responsibility we have to care for that environment. 

 

Dimitris Troupis

 

Δημήτρης Τρουπής

Κατάγεται από το Ξυλόκαστρο Κορινθίας και ζει μόνιμα στην Πάτρα. Συμμετείχε στην συντακτική ομάδα του Adventure Zone από το 2009, ενώ μαζί με τον Τάκη Τσογκαράκη ίδρυσαν και "τρέχουν" το Advendure.  Το τρέξιμο στα μονοπάτια των βουνών και η μεταφορά εικόνων και συναισθημάτων μέσα από τα άρθρα του αποτελεί αναπόσπαστο κομμάτι της ζωής του. Παθιάζεται με τους αγώνες ορεινού τρεξίματος, υπεραντοχής και  περιπέτειας. Έχει πολλές συμμετοχές και διακρίσεις σε αγώνες ορεινού τρεξίματος όλων των αποστάσεων, με έμφαση στους αγώνες ultra trail.  Θεωρεί ότι το τρέξιμο και η πεζοπορία στη φύση είναι μια εσωτερική ανάγκη του ανθρώπου, μας φέρνει πιο κοντά σε αυτήν και μας κάνει να αγαπήσουμε περισσότερο το περιβάλλον.

www.advendure.com

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