For many of us, running has become more than a pastime, a hobby, or a means of exercising. What is it about running that fuels your fire to the point of incorporating it into every aspect of your life?
Sure, the exhilaration of speeding through the downhills on a single-track, one foot gliding in front of the other in a beautiful dance, is enough to excite the senses. Yet, every runner will tell you how much more to it there is. It's the feeling of hugging friends after a gruelling ultra. The sense of accomplishment you feel after pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. The sheer joy of losing track of time with friends and family.
We recently spoke with Nicolas Danne, Näak athlete and Senior Technical Representative for ON Running, about his favourite ultra and how the running community has impacted his life.
"Running is my lifestyle. It's basically my life. Running gives me the opportunity to connect with the community but also with myself. I get some 'me time.' I disconnect from the world when I train. It's also a way to be more mentally focused when I get back from my run. I get energized and ready to go!"
Taking On Bromont Ultra
In 2019 (the last event before the pandemic hit), Nicolas took on one of the most infamous races in Quebec, the Bromont Ultra 160km. In this brutal challenge, each runner has 35 hours to complete the course, which consists of running an epic 80km route twice. Each athlete pushes their body through sections of Mount Brome, Mount des Pins, Mount Gale and Mount Oak, and some of the most beautiful country roads in the province.
The 160km trail race, which Nicolas took place in, takes runners through a daunting 7000m positive elevation gain, with a mere 6% of flat trails to fall back on. From the start of the barbarous race to the end, it's common for roughly 45% of competitors to drop out, unable to complete the monstrous challenge ahead of them.
The elevation gain, along with the steep, technical trails, hit you right from the start. On the third ascent, 10km into the race, Nicolas would confront the infamous "Lieutenant Dan's climb." In this section, the trail becomes so steep that you must grapple a rope to help propel yourself up the trail. If the trail happens to be wet, say goodbye to any grip, no matter which shoes you're wearing.
Still, through the power of positive attitudes and a natural love for doing what he does best, Nicolas was able to finish the race in an incredible time of 23:28:38. His perseverance led him to 4th place overall at Bromont Ultra, a testament to his years of hard work paying off.
"Even if I did Tor des Geants, I think Bromont was my best race. I was surrounded by my family, did some kilometres with my amazing friend Guillaume and was paced by my other great friend Max. It was a perfect race from start to end. I raced at my own pace. I wasn't paying attention to the ranking or my competition."
"The hardest part was the first 20km. 2 big climbs back to back."
"It feels like you're in another world, where everything is slowed down. You need to stay really focused on each step you take. You need to take it easy and push only when you are on a clear path."
Trust The Process And Find Your Why
To make it through an ultra marathon, it's not only your body that must adapt to the hours of punishment and relentless force on your feet. Your mind must constantly adapt to help push you past the bonk and keep your spirits high in the most trying times.
Mindful running, being in-tune with your body, and letting fatigue and pain take a backseat to your goals is different for every athlete. To make progress in your running, you need to have a set plan and trust the process. Progress can be easy to miss, as it comes in such small, daily increments, but when you find your purpose for running, everything else falls into place.
For Nicolas, his fire is fueled by the countless hours of training, the community he's built up around himself, and his dedication to personal progress in the sport.
"I always remind myself that I'm lucky to be able to run. I'm healthy. I'm loved. I also think about the months of training and sacrifices. This sport takes a lot of time and a lot of space and dedication in my life."
"Trust the process. Don't jump into big distances without experience. The pressure of social media and everything is hard, especially in running. We want to do more, to impress. You need to find your reason why you do it. You need to find your 'why.' Often, the 'why' you have at the start line will be the 'why' you're able to finish. You just need to find it. Period. Do it for a good reason. Otherwise, jumping too fast into a big distance results in no running at all later because of an injury."
The Power Of Community
When you've put as many hours of time and dedication into the sport as Nicolas has, it can sometimes feel as though your entire life revolves around your two feet. For Nicolas, this case is only exacerbated by his current role, working for On Running to spread the love of running to the world.
Many of you probably recognize Nicolas from his in-store training sessions across the country or as the smiling face running beside you on the trails and races. If you happen to spot Nicolas on the trails, make sure to say hello, you won't regret it! The power of the running community is one of inclusiveness, support, and where there is passion, you're sure to find purpose.
"For me, the community means everything. I love to train on my own for specific workouts to train the mental aspect. But I love spending time with running groups, friends and actually talking about running. My work now shows me that the community is what keeps me going. I'm fueled by the people's passion for the sport, how they push themselves. It's inspiring."
"I feel like I just want to enjoy the process, enjoy the races, and the atmosphere with the community. I want to only focus on myself and spreading my love and passion for running instead of just being focused on getting in the top 10."