Road racer turned wanna-be ultra-marathon runner Alex Hunt shares how he ended up on his path to UTMB

February 20, 2024

We get to meet Alex and find out more about his journey into ultra-running

It was 23rd April 2023 when all of this started. I must admit I have long been a dabbler when it comes to running, my relationship with the sport has always been much like any good rom-com romance. My off-again-on-again participation often controlled by the arrival of yet another injury has always left running sidelined after a few weeks to months of enjoyment.

That was until I made the journey to London on the Sunday of the London marathon where my attitude and ambitions took a powerful turn. A good friend of mine George Mills had decided in the proceeding winter to sign up for the marathon with little running experience. The journey he went on to get to the start line and then subsequently the finish line of one of the most prestigious running events in the world captivated me.

I left the post-race wrap up finding myself on a high comparable to any cycling race that I had ever completed. I didn’t understand how this was possible, possibly a combination of pride for George but also from the running community as a whole. Heading back to my home in the Forest of Dean I could feel a fire had been lit and my view of running had been completely reframed.

A bit of background on myself if you will indulge me, my name is Alex and for most of my memorable life, I have been fanatical about endurance sports and the capabilities of the human body and mind. Cycling was my go-to vice, starting off with mountain biking before heading into the thoroughbred high-octane world of road racing and then coming back full circle to the world of mountain biking. For a while, I managed to live the cyclist's dream and make cycling my job working as the head coach for WyeMTB a mountain biking education company before one too many winters took my career in a distinctly more office-based direction.

Regardless of what it is I set my mind to I love the journey of finding just what I am capable of. Racing was the ultimate thrill with the competition not only with the athletes surrounding me but also with myself. As competitive as I am I find the athlete I am always trying to get the better of is myself. Victories and race results are all secondary to being better than I was a week, a month or a year ago.

This is a very dangerous mindset to have, as I have found out the hard way on countless occasions by saying yes to something that sounds hard as nails before really having time to process what that all means. A classic example of this was during a phase of the race season that saw my racing focus on crit racing which for those that don’t know is a form of circuit race, known for its punchy accelerations and short bursts of power I signed myself up to the Marrmotte cycling event.

The Marrmotte is not an event to be taken lightly, most riders will dedicate the preceding year to build up to it and it takes a specialist form of fitness to complete. Consisting of 180 kilometres and over 5,500 metres of elevation gain over four of the most testing alpine passes it stood for everything that I was not training for at this point in the season. This did nothing to stifle my excitement however, and seven and a half hours after setting off from the small town of Le Bourg-d'Oisans I found myself refuelling my battered and abused body on top of Alpe d’Huez at the finish of the event.

Over the years I have learnt to jump a little slower at these opportunities and spend a little more time costing things up in my mind. Having left the London Marathon on a high I immediately dropped one ride a week in exchange for a run. This started off with the staple 5km before finding my happy place between 10 and 12km. This is where my running stabilised with the volume growing from one run out to two and sometimes three, with each run the passion grew and my ambition steadily increased alongside it.

I have known about UTMB for around a decade now and ever since first hearing about it I have had it earmarked as something my life needs in it. However, mature Alex who has been burned by biting off more than he can chew at every opportunity in the past knew that making this my immediate goal would be a great way to develop a career-ending injury before ever making it to Chamonix. As the British summer began to draw to a close at last my ambition was met by none other than the man who is responsible for starting all of this, George.

After a few messages where he had hinted at looking for the next thing to get stuck into after his marathon, I was swiftly forwarded a link to the Jurrasic Coast Ultra a 100km ultra-marathon along the south coast of England with over 2000 metres of elevation gain across its course. This seemed perfect, the combination of challenge and achievability that had me throating at the mouth. With my longest run at this point a solitary half marathon I found myself equal parts excited and overwhelmed at the magnitude of what I have set out to achieve.

Rather worryingly signing up last year seems only a few weeks ago however I find myself at the midpoint between signing up and taking to the start line. Although I might come from a history of endurance sports and ambitious personal challenges this is by far my biggest undertaking with a very real sense of venturing into the unknown. Throughout my build-up to my first ultra-marathon and beyond I am looking to share with you my highs, lows and lessons that I am hoping you can relate to and with any luck be motivated by to lace up your shoes and head out for an adventure that puts you firmly outside of your comfort zone.

The most important thing to remember is that nothing ahead of me is certain. I am not a pro runner with the backup and support of a whole team around me. Most of my runs are squeezed into whatever time I can find, quite often my lunch break and I am aware that I am also learning by making every mistake in the book. If nothing else I should be able to provide you with some laughs as I make my way towards my decade-long dream of taking to the UTMB start in Chamonix.

If you want to keep up to date with my progress please feel free to give me a follow over on Strava @AlexHunt or on Instagram @therunrider.

Related News