Lizzy Hawker: Runner
Lizzy Hawker is, without doubt, one of the World’s greatest ultrarunners. Most people know her for her multiple victories at the UTMB (5x), but she has also succeeded on the roads, having been the 100km World Champion and held the 24 hour World Record for running.
However, what I find most inspirational is not her fantastic achievements racing, but how Lizzy has dedicated much of her time and ultra-distance efforts more lately in accomplishing endeavours of exploration and adventure in Nepal, mostly alone and for days at a time, crossing the country on the Great Himalaya Trail.
What it means to be a Runner
In her book, Runner, Lizzy captures and puts down on paper what it means to be a runner, and what has driven her to succeed. It doesn’t just cover successes – what I found most interesting and inspiring is learning about not just the highs, but the lows of her journey, and how she has overcome them.
The lows may be short-term, such as suffering during a race, or longer-term, as Lizzy experienced in having multiple stress fractures in successive years. As I write this post with a freshly-sprained ankle, and have suffered from my own share of running injuries over the past few years, I can imagine how frustrating this must have been.
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There are many wise words in Runner, and I particularly recommend reading it if you have suffered from self-doubt, injury or bad race experience. As with many things these days, unless you look hard enough, all you see are other peoples’ successes, which can make you feel bad if you don’t remember what others have been through to achieve what they have done.
“Other people could be forgiven for imagining I somehow have it different. They see the good times, the strength, the power, the beauty. But the rawness of complete vulnerability is there for me too.”
There are also some great reminders to enjoy the journey, rather than just focusing on the destination. I know I’m occasionally guilty of this, for example when I skip a training day without reminding myself that this will make the race or challenge I’m training for harder or slower than it otherwise could have been.
“But of course the race is the smallest part of the story. It is the journey that is important; the everyday, the day in, day out. Start and finish lines are just steps on that journey. The prize is not a position, or a time; instead, the getting to know myself, the work and the training must be its own reward.”
We had the pleasure of meeting Lizzy in person last summer in Gressoney, Italy, one of the stops on her ultramarathon race, Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, and our base for our Aosta Valley adventure. I don’t tend to get ‘star struck’ by meeting people I admire, but I found myself full of nervous excitement to meet her.
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Lizzy was in person as she comes across off the page – calm, quietly confident yet humble. She kindly signed my copy of her book (conveniently with me to read while on holiday) and asked me where my Trail & Kale T-shirt was from (our Shop!).
A fitting place to end the journey
Runner finishes with reflections on what is important, as a runner and in life. It is a fitting end to a book about mountain adventures and ultrarunning, and left me feeling inspired and looking forward to taking on new challenges and adventures. I’m looking forward to picking up Lizzy’s next book, ‘Journey’, when it is released in a year’s time, and hopefully one day I will also revisit the Alps and tackle Lizzy’s race: the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, which looks fantastic.
Lizzy’s book has of course been added to our list of “Best Running & Adventure Books”. Take a look at it for more reading ideas!