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meditation

Making Meditation Part of Your Training Routine

It’s long been widely recognized that regular meditation practice brings a variety of health benefits. Reduced anxiety and depression, increased pain tolerance, improved attention span, lower blood pressure, and improved sleep are just a few of the medically acknowledged benefits to mindfulness. 

That’s a list that looks like it could double as a description of the benefits of long distance running, which may be what inspired a team of researchers to examine the effects of combining meditation and running1. Their research suggested was a big win for the combined program, which is one of the reasons we now see ultra running pros, like two-time Western States 100-mile winner Timothy Allen Olson and three-time Hardrock 100 winner Darcy Piceu, advocate for what they call “mindful running.” 

Getting Started

If you’ve never meditated before, you won’t accomplish much trying to get your first session in on the road.  Instead, you should start by adding a short, seated meditation session before you start your workout. 

Find a comfortable seat—there’s no need to cross your legs, unless you’d like to—close your eyes, and tune in to a guided meditation program. There are several applications available serving exactly this purpose. Three favorites: 

Calm – an excellent meditation primer. The freely available “Seven Days of Calm” unit is a perfect place to start, and the additional features are well worth the subscription cost. 

Headspace – another solid introduction. The free offering isn’t quite as robust as Calm’s, but the opening session is slightly more approachable. 

Run Mindful – Timothy Allen Olson’s own offering to the selection, an app made specifically for endurance runners. 

Once you’ve got the program running, all you have to do is sit still, listen for about ten minutes, and do the best that you can to follow along. There’s no need to worry about whether you’re doing it right, just trying will be enough to improve. 

Immediate Benefits

Over time, you’ll start to notice better sleep, experience reduced stress, and exhibit lower impulsivity and greater patience in your daily life. The improvements won’t be limited to long-term gains: in the short term, you’ve brought your breath under control, lowered your heart rate, and cleared your mind of the day’s stress. Pay close attention, and you may notice a marked difference in the quality of that first workout. 

Honing the Mind-Body Connection

Depending on the guide program that you choose, you’ll likely encounter body scan meditations. These meditations encourage you to mentally scan your body from end to end (usually head to toe), carefully observing any and all sensations. With practice, these body scans can help you discover knots, tightness, and posture imbalances. Sometimes, simply noticing a pain that you’ve been ignoring is enough to relieve the tension. Even when it isn’t, if you pay attention to the signs, you’ll know when you need a little extra stretch, or a date with the roller. 

Take It to The Road

As you grow in your meditation practice, you are essentially developing the ability to train your focus on one stimulus while tuning out distractions. At first, the stimulus will almost always be the rhythm of your own breath, but once you’ve got the knack, you can substitute anything. That’s when it’s time to take the show on the road. 

Some mindful runners like to silently repeat a positive mantra (a simple, short, repetitive statement, usually reflecting a goal or ideal). Focusing on the finish line can be a strong motivator, or general thoughts about life can help influence positive thinking outside the run. 

You can apply the body scan technique here, too. Any time pain crops up as a distraction, you can try impartially listening to it. Our natural instinct is to push pain aside, which often leads to unconscious changes in form and stride. By making an effort to listen to the pain, welcome it, and understand it, we avoid making these comfortable negative corrections, and give ourselves a much better chance of correctly identifying and treating the problem. As Timothy Allen Olson told REI, “When you observe it and accept it, many times pain simply dissolves.”2

Mindful Running Retreats

If you want to make the advantages of mindfulness a part of your running routine, but you don’t think a phone app will get you there, there is help available. As the practice has grown in popularity, there’s been a movement toward group mindful running retreats. Timothy Olson’s Adventure Mindful is one of the groups on the forefront of this movement. They’ve got retreats planned for 2019 in the Canary Islands, Colorado, and Austria, which include trail running for all experience levels, mindfulness training, food, and transportation. 

  • “MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity.” B L Alderman, R L Olson, C J Brush & T J Shors. Translational Psychiatry volume6, pagee726 (2016). https://www.nature.com/articles/tp2015225 

  • “For Runners: How to Stop Stalling and Start Meditating.” Kelly Bastone. REI. May 15, 2018.  https://www.rei.com/blog/run/meditation-for-runners 

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Training Tips

Training Tips from Three of Ultra Running’s Greatest Coaches

Whether they’re gearing up for your first marathon, making a third attempt at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, or testing their legs on a 24-hour, the most important piece of any long-distance runner’s preparation is a thorough, intentional training plan. The right regimen can spur an athlete to P.R.s and victory laps, and a mistimed routine can leave the same athlete on dead legs before the starting pistol fires.

With so much riding on a runner’s routine, there’s little wonder that a handful of high profile champions have leveraged their racing success into reputations as the sport’s ultimate gurus. Let’s check in with three of the top trainers in ultrarunning for a quick primer on the techniques and philosophies that carry their clients to the finish.

Training Tips

Sundog Running’s Ian Torrence

Ian Torrence has built a sterling reputation in the ultrarunning world, winning 53 of the 200 ultras he’s completed. 27 of his finishes have been 100-mile runs. Formerly a coach under the legendary Greg McMillan, Ian and partner Emily Torrence (nee Harrison) formed Sundog Running in the hopes of reaching more runners. They offer personal coaching services, advisement, and weekly training plan packages, and keep up a blog with free tips for all levels of experience.

The Sundog team stress individualized plans for each athlete. They build long-term plans for the full season based on the runner’s goals, experience, form, injury history, life events, and fitness gains.

Training Zones

Torrence’s training philosophy revolves around four training zones, each of which focuses on improving a small subset of the body functions involved in an endurance run. This allows a runner to emulate the effects of extreme distance in shorter training sessions. As Torrence himself wrote in Trail Runner Magazine, “Training is the art of replicating different exertion levels in short, controlled bouts so that our body and mind may adapt to the new stressors and be better able to handle that workload on race day.”1

In the Spring Zone and Neuromuscular Training phase, we enhance the ability to run quickly when our muscles our inundated with lactic acid. This includes workouts like neuromuscular strides, and interval springs with slow jogging recovery between. In this zone, a focus on proper form is stressed.

During Speed Zone Training we run full speed for extended durations (8 to 15 minute bursts) to improve mechanics, recruit fast-twitch muscle fiber, improve our metabolic pathways to use fuel more efficiently, and improve the rate of oxygen uptake from blood into muscles.

To improve the body’s ability to remove lactic acid building, we use Stamina Zone Training, which consists of race pace work for an hour or more. Steady state runs, tempo runs, tempo intervals, cruise intervals, and progression runs are a few recommended Stamina Zone exercises.

Lastly, Endurance Zone Training, which forms the bulk of the training under Torrence’s plans. These runs improve the ability to run for long durations, maintain aerobic fitness, and maximize the capacity to train and recover in the other three zones. These are long, easier runs where the heart rate should not rise about 70% of the runner’s maximum threshold.

Base Phase

Torrence’s plans interweave the 4 training zones throughout four training phases. The first phase is the base phase. This phase should make up more than half of a runner’s training throughout the year, and consists of lighter work in all four training zones to keep the body fast and efficient without a high degree of exertion.

Pre-Race Specific Phase

This consists of a 4 to 6 week ramp-up phase. Runners in this phase perform roughly the same exercises as in the base phase, but slowly increase distance, duration, and intensity to prepare the body for hard running.

Race Specific

Three to 10 weeks of full intensity in all four zones. During this phase, the runner focuses most strongly on their individual weaknesses and on the specific demands of the race.

Peaking

For the last two to three weeks before the race, Torrence’s team recommends maintaining the race specific routine and intensity, but gradually dropping the volume of each run to rest while maintaining peak form.

Jacob Puzey of Peak Run Performance

Compared to Ian Torrence, Peak Run Performance founder Jacob Puzey has had a slightly rockier road to renown in the running community. While Torrence’s claims to fame largely hinge on his own running career, Puzey became a name in the running community when he returned to Hermiston High School, his Alma Mater, and coached the cross-country team to their first ever state title. Despite the differences, the two do share one key link: both have worked as coached under the legendary Greg McMillan.

Training On A Treadmill

As holder of the 50-mile treadmill world record, Jacob Puzey is a major proponent of training on a treadmill. He sees treadmills as a technological advantage, a way to help balance the demands of long running with the other commitments of a busy life.

Aside from taking advantage of treadmill time to spend time with family while training, catch up on TV, or listen to an audiobook, Puzey also loves it for form improvement: put a mirror in front of the treadmill (or find one near the mirrors at the gym) and watch yourself run.

Finding Your Form

If you’re not sure what to look for in the mirror, Coach Puzey has a lot of great advice available on the Peak Run Performance YouTube channel, including an excellent series on injury prevention that serious runners absolutely must see.

In his “Running Form Cues” primer, he provides these vital tips to help with efficiency, speed, and safety.

Relax your jaw. To get the feel for this, Puzey recommends clenching your teeth and then letting go until your mouth is slightly open. A tight jaw causes tension in the neck, which can travel through the back, shoulders, and even into the glutes and hamstrings.

Relax the shoulders, too. To test this out, raise them as high as possible, then drop them to your sides.

Hold your elbows at a 90-degree angle, and don’t open and close them while you run. Your arm movement should be driven from the shoulders, almost like putting your hands into your pockets.

Don’t let your hands cross your upper body.

Hold your hands slightly closed, but not clenched, with the thumbs on top, nearly touching the index finger. Puzey suggests visualizing a delicate, dry leaf between the thumb and finger.

Hold your body tall while you run, with a slight lean forward at the ankles. Your feet should strike the ground directly beneath your hip.

Sage Canaday’s Sage Running

Sage Canaday has been running, and winning, on some of the sports biggest stages for 16 years. His pro endurance wins include the World Long Distance Mountain Championship (Pikes Peak Ascent), the Tarawera 100k, the Speedgoat 50km, and TNF50 mile championships.

Through his and Coach Sandi Nypaver’s Sage Running coaching company, Sage offers training plans and advice to runners across the world. His Vo2maxProductions YouTube channel, where he releases training tips, gear reviews, and other content, has over 100,000 subscribers.

Feeling Based Training

As vital as a strong training plan is, it can be even more important to know when to know when to leave the plan behind, so Sage Running’s training plans are all based on how the runner feels. Canaday and Nypaver futher explain the philosophy in a joint post on the Sage Running site, “The Art of Feeling Based Training”.

In the same post, they offer several tips to avoid (or recover from) overtraining.

The coaches caution that poor sleep, incomplete nutrition, long term stress, or bad caffeine habits can all mimic the symptoms of overtraining. If you maintain healthy habits outside of running, it will be easier to tell when your body needs more rest.

Be honest with yourself when evaluating your condition. You don’t want to force yourself to meet the schedule unless you’re sure it’s right for your body.

Bad quality of sleep, an uncharacteristically sour disposition, a weak immune system, or an elevated resting heart rate can all be signs of overtraining.

If you have overtrained, check your training logs to get a sense of where you went wrong. For now, cut back on hard runs and mileage. Go easy until you’re feeling normal, and then cautiously ramp back up to full intensity over a few weeks.

Don’t Underestimate Easy Runs

Canaday is a big believer in easy runs, and pushes runners to take them at an even lighter pace than they typically expect. Pushing the pace on easy runs limits your ability to recover from the hard days. The key is to get enough work in to keep your heart rate elevated for an extended period, while still giving yourself enough rest to heal from your more intense work. The exercise strengthens your heart, builds capillaries and increases the efficiency with which your body transfers oxygen to your muscles.

Make the Long Runs Count

The long runs on Coach Canaday’s schedule are all specific workouts, rather than pure mileage. Canaday believes that this is the most effective way to simulate race conditions for event specific training exercises, so he makes them an integral part of his training. To further simulate the intensity of competition, Canaday recommends planning long run workouts so that the second half of the run is taken at a much faster overall pace than the first half.

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UTMB Champion

Thoughts on UTMB

UTMB, the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc is the biggest mountain ultra in the world. It is a dream for most mountain ultra runners to take part and winning catapults any runner to trail stardom.
The race kicks off tonight at 6.00pm local time. It is 170km with 10000m of ascent – Everest is 8848 meters to put that in context. There are 2300 runners and a cutoff time of 46.30 to complete the course. The leaders should take approximately 21 hours to finish.
So, what are the thoughts of the international champions who have taken part (past or present) as UTMB 2016 gets underway? We look at their motivation and inspirations, reflections and even share some of their training tips.

Zach Miller –  2015 CCC Champion

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Photo Credit: Zack Miller’s Mom

“I’ve received many messages, emails, and words of encouragement from all sorts of people in the lead-up to UTMB, but this picture of a bulletin board from the school where my Mom teaches really hit home today. Thanks Mom!”

Rory Bosio, 2 x UTMB Champion

Photo Credit: North Face

Photo Credit: North Face

“I do not have the fortitude to run just for the sake of running. I like to use running as a way to escape from everyday life or to see a new place. Fitness is a great by-product. I choose races based on location rather than competition. If I’m running somewhere that inspires me, or I find beautiful, I usually have a better race anyway.“ https://www.theguardian.com/

Kilian Jornet, 3 x winner UTMB

Photo Credit: UTMB

“A great athlete is one who takes advantage of the ability that genetics have brought him in order to secure great achievements, but an exceptional athlete is one who can swim in the waters of complexity and chaos, making what seems difficult easy, creating order from chaos. Creative individuals search for chaos in order to explore all the places they can imagine beyond the frontiers of consciousness, following the irrational forces that come from within themselves and from their environment.” https://www.amazon.com/Run-Die-Kilian-Jornet

Marco Olmo – twice winner of UTMB and Ambassador for IRUN4ULTRA

Marco Olmo

“It is very emotional to be back here because ten years has passed since I first won UTMB. I realise that the years have passed and that you have to be happy with what you have done before.”

Xavier Thevenard  2 x UTMB Champion

Photo Credit: © UTMB® - photo : Pascal Tournaire

Photo Credit: © UTMB® – photo: Pascal Tournaire

“UTMB is mythical because of its relationship to Mont Blanc. It is a place known all over the world and everyone wants to get closer to see what it looks like. And then there is the route itself that is very tough and physical. For purists, it’s something to do. Chamonix is the capital of mountaineering and all these make this race unique. I think this is how it will continue for a long time.” https://www.meltyxtrem.fr/

David Laney, UTMB 2015 3rd place

Mont Blanc

Photo Credit:David Laney

“Run the most technical trails you can find.  Find steep rocky mountain ridges and steep rugged canyons that mirror the course you plan to race on.  Get to a place where you can roll through really rooty, rocky or steep downhill sections.  Find those trails that allow you to practice the more technical aspects of running. Do them again and again and again.The mountains are big and free and wild and powerful.  Use those emotions to inspire your next race.” https://davidlaneyrunning.com/

Luis Alberto Hernando Alzago, Skyrunning Champion

Photo Credit: correrxmuntanya.com

Photo Credit: correrxmuntanya.com

“Everything is prepared and we are convinced that the third time is a charm!“ https://www.luisalbertohernando.com/utmb/

Lizzy Hawker, 2 x winner UTMB

Photo Credit: Lizzy Hawker

Photo Credit: Lizzy Hawker

“As a child I preferred to walk rather than take the bus and I just found moving under my own effort more appealing. By the time I came to run that first UTMB I was used to long days on my feet – mountaineering, hiking as well as running – and for a long mountain ultra like the UTMB ‘time on feet’ is good preparation.” https://www.independent.co.uk/

Jason Schlarb, 4th place UTMB 2015 and IRUN4ULTRA Ambassador

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“I want to improve on my 4th place. I want to get on to that podium which is a very high ambition for a USA runner.One of our difficulties (in the USA)  is that our mountains just aren’t as steep. We have the Rockies, but they are more characterized by switchbacks and there are trails there for mountain bikers and hikers whereas the Dolomites and the Alps are really sheer. I really attribute my fourth place to the fact that I went to Europe for three months to train. It made all the difference.” https://www.runultra.co.uk

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IRUN4ULTRA in Chamonix for UTMB: TDS – The Wild Alternative

August 24, 2016

I Run4Ultra Race

By Alice Hunter Morrison

Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA.

It is quite possibly the most important mountain ultra on the planet UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc). It takes place annually in Chamonix in the French Alps and is a week-long fest for ultra runners from around the world.
IRUN4ULTRA is based here all week, following the action, and raising awareness about Autism and
ADD/ADHD from our base in the Competitors’ Village at Booth 99.
An estimated 50,000 runners and supporters will be in this tiny Alpine town during the week to enjoy and participate in the five races that take place from July 22 – 28.
The five races are:

  •         UTMB: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (166 km + 9,600 m)
  •         CCC: Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix (101 km + 6,100 m)
  •         TDS: Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (119 km + 7,250 m)
  •         OCC: Orsières – Champex – Chamonix (53 km + 3,300 m)
  •         PTL: La Petite Trotte à Léon (approx. 300 km + 28,000 m)

There are also mini events for children and the YCC (Youth Chamonix Courmayeur), which is open to 16-22 year olds.

TDS Depart

TDS Start © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

TDS
The big race for today began at 6:00 a.m. local time from Courmayeur in Italy. It is the TDS (Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie) and comprises 119 km with 7,250 m of climbing.
1600 runners lined up this morning on the start line on a cool but clear dawn. The weather conditions were perfect with 100% visibility. The runners set off in great spirit.
It was a hotly-contested race from the get-go with the leaders changing constantly. The course starts off with a sharp climb and the pressure never lets up. At the four hour mark, Jessed Hernandez Gispert was leading the men and Meredith Edwards from the USA led the women.
Meredith Edwards hung tenaciously on to that lead, running strong over the peaks and for the main body of the race. As we publish this, however, she was in second place, having been overtaken by the strong Frenchwoman, Delphine Avenier, who had an eleven-minute lead.
 

Pau Capell

Montée de Bourg saint Maurice – Pau CAPELL © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

Pau Capell
As the men’s race progressed, Pau Capell, the young Spaniard who won the Ultra-Trail of Australia in May went into the lead for the men and stayed there, pulling further and further ahead.
He came through in a final time of 14.45.44 to an ecstatic reception and spent time celebrating with the crowd and enjoying his tremendous victory.
In his post-race interview, he said that one of the hardest things about the course was the heat. It was the hottest race he had ever run. And he said that whether he was 5th, 10th or 1st, it was absolutely extraordinary to see the public in Chamonix coming to welcome the runners across the finish line.
In second place was Yeray Duran Lopez with 15.14.07.
Congratulations to all the runners, many of whom will be out there for many hours to come. Don’t forget we will be covering all the action on Twitter @irun4ultra and will be regularly updating on Facebook.  Also, check out our Instagram @irun4ultra as well!

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The UTMB Course: An Expert Preview

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UTMB

Arête du Mont Favre © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

August 24, 2016
By Alice Hunter Morrison
Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for IRun4Ultra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA.
Ester Sofia Alves is a Top 10 female UTMB finisher. She is in Chamonix for her third Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc race and is running for Salomon Portugal. This year she is hoping to break her personal record and finish the 170-kilometer course in 28 hours. We caught up with her just after she had collected her race bib and asked her to talk us through the course.

UTMB

Arête du Mont Favre © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

The Facts
Start date: Friday, August 26 at 18:00
Start and finish: Chamonix, French Alps
Distance: 170 kilometers
Elevation: 10,000 meters
Number of Runners: 1900
UTMB in the words of Ester Sofia Alves
 

Mont Blanc

PTL © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

“UTMB is like the Mecca of trails. Everyone wants to run around Mont Blanc. It is SO hard. It has nine tough climbs and you get cold at the top of the passes and hot while in the lowest valleys. The heat this year is going to make it a hard race. We have the best runners in the world gathered here, so although it is beautiful – gorgeous in fact – it is also very competitive.
In my experience, everyone wants to try and win this race before the 10-kilometer mark, so they set off quickly and then the real crunch point comes at Champex-Lac. That is the point where many elites blew up last year. It is also the point where you can tell who is going to win.
So, the course starts off with a fast, flat 8 kilometer to the first climb, Le Delevret, to which you can also power up. Then the next climb up, the Croix du Bonhomme, is more technical, as are the next three climbs. They tire you out.
The front of the pack will pass through Courmayeur (78 kilometers) while it is still dark. But, for most racers, they get to that stage as day breaks or during full daylight. That is when you get a new battery. It is a great vibe. Some people start passing and the race goes on.
Then, you need to get into your rhythm for the next section. It brings you up the Grand col Ferret, which is the highest part of the course at 2525 meters. Then, it is down to the lake…
For the last three climbs after the lake, you don’t use your legs, you use your soul. You have to put your trust in your ambition.”
The UTMB Dream
For many runners, UTMB is the dream race and the buzz in Chamonix during race week is palpable. The fastest runners are expected to complete the course in approximately 21 hours. The cut-off point is 46 hours 30 minutes.
The sheer size of the organization is astounding with over 2000 volunteers working the five races and competitions for young people and children that comprise the entire event. UTMB is the jewel in the crown and is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
We wish Ester and all the other runners the best of luck as they take on the ultimate mountain race. We will be following live with updates on Facebook and Twitter, so please join us!
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The Challenge of Badwater 135 miler 2016

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release

For more information, contact:

Alice Hunter Morrison, Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants, 8000 miles across Africa by bike” and Special Correspondent to Hope So Bright [email protected]

The Challenge of Badwater
Running America’s toughest race for awareness of Autism
July 21, 2016
(Manhattan Beach, CA)
Mohamad Ahansal is a Moroccan Berber from the desert town of Zagora. He is a five-time champion of the Marathon des Sables, the six-day race across the Saharan Desert. This year, for the first time, he took on the challenge of STYR Lab’s Badwater® 135 in the USA, running for IRun4Ultra to raise awareness about autism.
The STYR Labs Badwater® 135 covers 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA. It is the most demanding and extreme one-stage running race offered anywhere on the planet. The start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 280’ (85m) below sea level and boasts some of the hottest temperatures in the world. The race finishes at Whitney Portal at 8,300’ (2530m). The Badwater® 135 course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600’ (4450m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100’ (1859m) of cumulative descent.
Before he started the race, Ahansal said, “Running for IRun4Ultra gives this race special meaning for me. It is going to be very difficult, very tough with the heat and the elevation. I have never run this far in one go, but I believe that when you take on something so hard and give it everything and push through it to help children with difficulties; it is worth the suffering.”
The elite wave of runners for Badwater, including Ahansal, set off at 2300 PST, Monday, July 18. At the first checkpoint at 17 miles, he was lying in 12th place and was running strong. However, trouble started to kick in over the next 20 miles and his position dropped to 25th with a time of 7 hrs 17 min at 41 miles.
His knees, first the left and then the right, were failing as he was not accustomed to running on tarmac and he was wearing new shoes.  His luggage had been lost at Los Angeles International Airport.  As he pounded down an eight-mile descent, he was forced to confront the fact that he was facing long-term damage to his knees unless he gave up. He made that heartbreaking decision at 73 miles, with just over 62 miles to go.
“He gave it everything he had,” said Linda Sanders, Founder of IRun4Ultra, “ We couldn’t ask any more of him. Ahansal is a true champion and great desert runner but Badwater is a massive challenge and, this time, it was not to be. He has made us proud and, most importantly, he has helped tremendously in our mission to raise awareness of the problems of autism.”  Will he be back? “I hope so,” said Ahansal, “Next year, God willing!”
About Mohamad Ahansal
Mohamad Ahansal is a Moroccan Berber from the town of Zagora in the Sahara in the south of Morocco. He started running competitively in his teens but as a young boy he ran to and from school every day (7K each way) so, his conditioning started early. He and his elder brother, Lahcen, have won the Marathon des Sables 15 times between them. Ahansal has just taken first place at the Iranian Silk Road Ultramarathon.
About Hope So Bright and I Run 4 Ultra
Mohamad Ahansal ran as an IRun4Ultra Ambassador for Hope So Bright.  Linda Sanders founded Hope So Bright, a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity foundation in 2012, to provide financial support to nonprofit organizations who offer programs and services to disadvantaged, underserved and at-risk youth. The current goal of Hope So Bright, for the next several years, is to promote awareness, collaboration, education, resources and advocacy for children with learning disabilities, particularly autism syndrome and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with special consideration given to the underserved.  IRun4Ultra uses the sport of ultrarunning to promote those goals. For more information visit:  https://hopesobright.org.  To watch the sizzle reel for the ADHD documentary filmed at Marathon des Sables please visit https://vimeo.com/155417209 .
About Autism
Autism is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities, which cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning.
Hope So Bright’s 2016-17 Autism Awareness Campaign is focused on spreading awareness about the epidemic of Autism as well as the non-pharmaceutical behavioral programs that can effectively help children who exhibit symptoms.
 

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The Challenge of Badwater 135 miler 2016

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Harvey Lewis

Harvey Lewis Became Ultrarunner Despite Learning Difficulties

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How One Inspiring Man Conquered His Learning  Difficulties to Become a Teacher and World-class Athlete

By Alice Hunter Morrison, Moroccan-based Journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, RunUltra, and Special Correspondent to Hope So Bright

June 27, 2016

6E1A5136_MDS Harvey Lewis - Fresh Start Photo - John & Dawn Borntrager-34Harvey Lewis is a world-class champion, a lean, mean running machine, and a high school teacher of Economics and Government. He is an Ambassador for Hope So Bright, working to raise awareness about autism and ADHD and he is engaged to his beautiful fiancée, Kelly. By any measure, he is a very successful man – someone to be looked up to and admired. But that wasn’t always the case.
When he was young Lewis was fat, in fact, he was the second biggest boy in school. He was also categorized as having learning difficulties and was put in a special education class. “I was put into the Learning Disability classes. I was embarrassed by it,” said Lewis, “It was rough. In first grade, I got F’s on all of my English assignments. Writing was my worst skill. My teacher put me in the back because I was naughty. My parents had gotten divorced and my attention wasn’t there.”
Then a couple of things happened that were to change his life forever. The first thing was that Lewis went on a long hiking trip in Wyoming with his dad and the weight dropped off of him. The second was that he entered the Cleveland Marathon at age 15. Lewis finished the marathon, even though he had never run half the distance before and that gave him what he really needed self-confidence. “That changed things,” said Lewis, “My mindset changed. I thought to myself, this means that anything is possible. It’s what you put into it. After that, I got all B’s and above for the rest of high school. There was nothing that was going to stop me.”
6E1A7643_MDSLewis truly understands how children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD often feel. “They have lost hope. If you feel you are always going to fail, you don’t put in any effort,” he said. “It becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy.”
Lewis now teaches Economics and Government to 11 th and 12 th graders at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He works with up to 130 kids a day and many of them are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD. He says that as many as a quarter of them might say they have ADHD, for which the school has an excellent program in place, but you have to remember that kids are kids and that it’s generally hard for many of them to sit still hour after hour in a classroom.
Added to that, modern life has changed the family unit, the way we communicate and, most importantly, our diet.
“Kids now are living with instant, changing technology. They are scrolling through Instagram, then looking at Facebook or a video. Concentration is different. One thing I have observed is that kids who are in orchestra or ballet are able to concentrate better, they have a little bit more focus.” Harvey Lewis - Fresh Start Photo - John & Dawn Borntrager-57
Lewis also says that the way children eat is a real problem. “A lot of the kids come to school and they’ve had chips, soda, doughnuts, or a Frappuccino…It’s not adequate and it doesn’t promote concentration. It only provides short-term energy. These are unhealthy choices. Kids are not eating properly.”
Everyone agrees that children should eat a healthy, balanced diet, but with many kids now living in single-parent homes or homes where both parents work, it can be a real challenge to make sure that food is home-cooked and nutritious. We live in an instant gratification world. This is something that Lewis believes we really need to prioritize. “We should have a serious push on teaching nutrition. Without that, everything else falls apart,” says Lewis.
Another major issue is fitness or the lack of it. “For some kids, walking to the bus stop is the only exercise they get. In lots of states, they have cut back on gym class because of budgets, which means there is no positive outlet for kids to expend their energy. The body is not regulated.”
Harvey Lewis - Fresh Start Photo - John & Dawn Borntrager-29Lewis continues, “I feel mentally and physically at my best when doing some form of fitness. Just 30 minutes a day. If we started off with yoga it could really have a calming effect. At the moment, we want the quickest solution for those with learning disabilities, just give them a pill. Of course, there are cases where that is necessary but it seems to me that we are not educating children about coping mechanisms, which will be beneficial to them throughout life.”
As someone who has actually walked this walk and has conquered his early problems to go on and have a full and productive life, Harvey Lewis is an inspiration to others. He believes that with the right support and attention, with correct diet and exercise, huge steps forward could be made for many children.
Harvey Lewis - Fresh Start Photo - John & Dawn Borntrager-24His story is one of hope and triumph against adversity. Lewis believes that his early struggle and the fact that he conquered his problems have given him strength in his later life and helps him when he is facing a challenging time or a really tough race. This is what he has to say, “I am thankful I went through it, it was a hell of a struggle but I had to get through it, and I did.”
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mohamad-ahansal

Moroccan Athlete to Run Hardest Marathon on Earth in California

Morocco world news

By Tatiana Flowers

Rabat – Mohamad Ahansal from JbelBani, Morocco, has been invited by the United States to run “Badwater,” one of the world’s toughest foot races in America.  

The nonstop race comprises 135 miles (217k) of mountainous terrain and it starts in one of the hottest climates in the world, in Badwater, Death Valley, California. The starting point is at 280 feet (85m) below sea level and finishes in Mount Whitney at 8,300 feet (2,530m).
Moroccan Athlete will run a total of three mountain ranges, spanning 14,600 feet (4,450m) vertically, and 6,100 feet (1,859m) in ascension. On July 18, 2016, he will compete against some of the strongest male and female marathoners in the world, running for an organization called “Hope So Bright,” which raises awareness of autism, affecting one in 10 American children.
“I will be doing my very last bit of training for Badwater here in Morocco with a fast run up our highest mountain. It will be a special run from Marrakech to Toubkal summit 4167m; 78 km with 4000 m+ climbing … We will be leaving on 9 July at 00:00 from Bab Rob in Marrakech if anyone would like to join,” Ahansal told Morocco World News.
Ahansal is a five-time champion of Marathon Des Sables, one of the hardest races on Earth and equivalent to six full marathons.
He and his brother, Lahcen, who is also an award-winning runner, had not started training until their late teens, but they would unknowingly become conditioned early, growing up in a high altitude with scorching temperatures, and mountainous terrain.  Each day, they ran 7 kilometers to and from school, or 4.3 miles in distance.
When Mohamad Ahansal was 17, he ran his first competition against other young men at the Eid Al-Ashor festival. He did not have running shoes, so he wore heavy football sneakers with improper soles. At the starting line, he realized his friends and competitors had proper running sneakers, so he decided to discard his own and run the race barefoot. He finished the race in second place, realizing for the first time, he had a tremendous ability.
Although Moroccan Athlete is well known for his capability of handling such tough foot races, he acknowledges the difficulty of Badwater.
“In a way, it was a crazy decision to sign up. It is almost the same distance, [as Marathon Des Sables] but Marathon Des Sables takes six days and Badwater is non-stop. I have never run this far in one go. Yes, the temperature will be the same, but the quality of the sun will be different. The altitude, the humidity, and the difference between the desert plain and the mountains are all factors. At the start, it is going to be very dry with lots of heat coming up from the ground, and then by the end, you are at high altitude. This is the difficulty,” he said.
Ahansal is internationally known for winning noteworthy, difficult races, including Marathon Des Sables, Fire and Ice, and The Iranian Silk Road. He has also created his own multi-stage race, called the Trans Atlas Marathon.
Last year, an American, Pete Kolstenick, won Badwater.  This year, Moroccan Athlete has a chance at bringing the victory home to Africa.
Mohamad-Ahansal

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Running for a Cause

Running for a Cause

Marathoner Linda Sanders and Team I Run 4 Ultra head to Africa to raise awareness for ADHD.

WRITTEN BY AMBER KLINCK | PHOTOGRAPHED BY JEFF BERTING
Life comes with its own set of challenges—that’s unavoidable. How we choose to deal with those challenges, however, is up to us. When life threw a curve ball at Manhattan Beach resident Linda Sanders, the founder and chair of the board of Hope So Bright, she went in search of perspective and poured her energy into giving back.
“I founded [Hope So Bright] close to three years ago, after my divorce,” Sanders explains. “I’ve always been a giver, but after my divorce, I thought, ‘What should I do with this pain? Should I reminisce over what I did wrong, what I did right and what I should have done better?’”
Instead, Sanders started spending time in the cancer ward of the children’s hospital. “I observed people going back and forth, kids in pain and the desperation of their parents,” Sanders notes. “I realized that [what I was going through], although it was painful, was nothing compared to what was happening with these kids or what their parents were feeling.”
With a sense of gratitude for her own children’s well-being, Linda Sanders decided to form a foundation where she could focus her time and energy into something positive while helping kids in need.
One of six children, she was born in Spain and raised in Mexico. Life with her family was filled with love and support, but Sanders was sensitive to the needs of others around her, including animals.
“I used to wake up in the middle of the night in Mexico when I was young, maybe around 10 years old, and go out into the streets and steal dogs that were chained, not being fed or needed help,” Sanders says. After taking in the neglected animals, she would nurse them back to health and adopt them out.
That same give-back nature she had as a child has manifested itself today into the Hope So Bright Foundation—a nonprofit organization with the goal of promoting “awareness, collaboration, education, resources and advocacy for children with learning disabilities.” Through numerous events, participation in international marathons and the I Run 4 Ultra campaign, Hope So Bright works to raise awareness and funding for their cause.
Their most recent endeavor: the Marathon des Sables, widely considered the toughest footrace on earth. Taking place in the Sahara Desert, with more than 156 miles of sand dunes and temperatures surpassing 100º, runners carry their gear on their backs and head out for the physical accomplishment of a lifetime.
This year’s runners for Team I Run 4 Ultra were Marco Olmo (Italy), Harvey Lewis (U.S.), Jason Schlarb (U.S.), Ricardo Mejia Hernandez (Mexico) and Carlos Sa (Portugal). The official end of the race was April 15, with an additional open 6k race on the 16th dedicated to UNICEF.
After 10 long days of travel in Africa, it’s clear to see how committed Sanders is to her cause. Still, with so much on her plate, her main focus is her two boys. While giving them the support and love they need, Sanders makes sure their eyes are open to the world around them.
“My boys travel all over,” she notes. “I make sure that my kids don’t get the full volume of what’s going on in the world, because they’re too young, but I want to give them a little bit of empathy. I want to make sure they know that they are lucky to have what they have … so when they become adults, they too can give back.”
Article found here:
Southbay Health | 2016
South Bay Magazine-June 2016

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Italian Running Hero Bids for Desert Crown

Italian Running Hero Bids for Desert Crown

Marco Olmo: “In my everyday life I’m a loser…I run for revenge, I run for vengeance.”

By Alice Hunter Morrison, Moroccan-based Journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, RunUltra, and Special Correspondent to Hope So Bright

April 6, 2016

Marco Olmo, the legendary Italian runner and two-time winner of UTMB has united with four other trail stars to take on the legendary Marathon des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth. He joins Harvey Sweetland Lewis and Jason Schlarb (USA), Carlos Sa (Portugal), and Ricardo Mejia Hernandez (Mexico), to run the team competition at Marathon Des Sables 2016. Last year he placed 16th at MdS at the age of 66.
The team has been brought together by USA Ultra Runner, Linda Sanders, to create awareness of the plight of children suffering from ADHD. A staggering one in ten children in the USA is diagnosed with the condition and seven billion dollars a year is spent on drugs. Their team name is: I Run 4 Hope.
The Marathon des Sables is called the Toughest Footrace on Earth. It is six marathons in six days across the Sahara Desert in Morocco. The middle marathon is a double. Temperatures regularly reach 50 degrees C. The terrain is arduous with endless miles of sand dunes and salt flats, interspersed with rocky trails. Competitors must be self-sufficient and carry all their own food and equipment for the week. Water is rationed. Dehydration and bloodied feet are the enemy, but contestants who need to be put on a drip incur time penalties for using extra water.
“In my everyday life, I’m a loser…I run for revenge, I run for vengeance,” says Marco Olmo, who at the age of 66, came in 16th overall in last year’s competition. “But this time I am honored to be part of the team representing the organization, Hope So Bright, and raising awareness about ADHD.”
 

FURTHER INFORMATION

Please find attached a full article and sample photographs. High-Resolution pictures are available on request through Dropbox. For INTERVIEWS, more photos or any further information please contact:
• Erika Dial + 1 (310) 374-2862 [email protected]
• Linda Sanders or Lisa Enriquez + 1 (310) 374-2862 [email protected]otmail.com
• For more information on Hope So Bright please visit www.hopesobright.org

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