Pushing the limits of endurance while taking in breathtaking scenery is what drew Shuswap resident Ron Ellis to the sport of ultra trail running.
Ellis took on the Mighty Quail Trail 100-kilometre trail run on Sept. 30 and finished with the fastest time of approximately 50 entrants. He conquered the course, which ran from the start line at Skaha Lake Park, through the hills above Penticton and down to the shores of Okanagan Lake in a blistering 11 hours 30 minutes and 42 seconds.
“That’s the best feeling ever, that’s why I do it. There’s no other feeling like it. It’s definitely a magical feeling,” Ellis said of the pride everyone who finishes such a grueling race enjoys.
The race began before dawn 6 a.m., and Ellis had to run with a light for the first 45 minutes.
The sun rose as Ellis was summiting the Skaha bluff to views that he said were a highlight of the race.
“The first 25 kilometres were unreal,” he said.“There were some pretty good moments early in the race.”
Ellis kept up a fast pace through the rest of the race, drawing on experience in other ultra runs to ensure he didn’t push his body beyond what it can take.
“In any of these longer ones you want to feel decent at the halfway point,” he said.
As he neared the end of the race, Ellis was greeted by his wife and sons at the 70-km aid station, as well as his brother and training partner Warren, who ran alongside him to act as a pacer for the final 30 kilometres.
Ellis said it was reassuring to have someone running alongside him for the home stretch and his brother was a good choice for a pacer because they do the vast majority of their training runs together.
Ellis praised the organization of the Mighty Quail, especially considering it was a first-time event and 100-km races are far more logistically challenging to put on than 50-km events.
Ellis enjoyed the challenge posed by the course, saying the terrain was very different from what he runs on around Salmon Arm.
“Penticton is very technical – all the trails in the area are very rocky,” he said.
Following the race Ellis returned to his training schedule, covering between 80 and 120 kilometres of the trails around Salmon Arm each week.
Ellis does all his running on trails and has never competed in any road-running events.
“It’s just great being on the trails and in the mountains,” he said.
Ellis has been competing in trail ultra-running events for six years. He initially became interested in endurance events after his brother asked if he would join him for an enduro mountain bike race in Costa Rica.
The pair eventually transitioned from biking to running and trained their way into a 50-km run.
“Me and my brother needed wheelchairs at the end of the day to get home,” Ellis said of his first foray into long-distance trail running.
Ellis said he now averages four or five races per year. Though there have been highlights to all of his past races, events in Gibsons and Fernie stand out.
Up next for Ellis will be an 80-km race in San Francisco, Calif. this November. Ellis said the event will have a few thousand people at the start line, among them many of the fastest ultra-runners in North America.
Ellis hasn’t done this particular event before but has been told he can expect unreal ocean scenery as he pushes himself to the limit once more.