He didn’t just survive the longest-distance day, he led it! Here’s the account from Jeff himself:
I am writing you tonight in utter amazement with the MdS, the severity of the challenge of the course and conditions, and the perseverance of those who tackle this epic event.
I approached today’s stage (the long one – 47 miles) with the special dedication that I mentioned last night — to my supporters, and with the mindset that I would race the stage hard (based on my coach’s advice — advice that I thought was crazy when I first heard it two weeks ago).
With the elite 50 males and 5 females starting (later) at noon, I found myself alone at the front of a pack of the 750 non-elite runners within minutes of the start, with the helicopter making passes overhead. I’ve never led a race of any distance, much less at the MdS. I held on within half a mile (one km) of the top five runners and finished a stunning second place.
The course was brutal, with three climbs that would nearly qualify as mountain climbing, dunes, very rocky sections, off-pitch sand, and scorching salt flats. It was very lonely at the front — something I have never ever experienced in a race. It made route finding much more challenging and added a new level of mental challenge. In one particularly hallucinogenic moment I saw all of you running with me in one wide line, pushing me forward… A bit crazy, but that’s how strongly I felt your support.
I passed the second place runner with 12k to go and pushed myself harder than I ever had to finish a strong second (of the main field). I beat the elite runners in so I had the true experience of being very early to cross the line (at just over 9 hours of a stage with a 32 hour cutoff).
I’m very sore, but healthy and immensely happy at how today went. This should help me move up a bit in the overall standings; moreover, it was a joyous day in a spectacular setting and a small way for me to thank you for your awesome support! And now I get a rest day!
To Coach Lisa: Thanks for pushing me!
Jeff Grant is the author of Flow State Runner: Activate a Powerful Inner Coach’s Voice, Hill Running: Survive & Thrive, Run Faster: Unlock Your Speed in 8 Weeks, Running Heavy, and UltraRunning: Coach’s Handbook. Based in Switzerland, Jeff is a coach and writer who specializes in mental coaching, peak performance, and transformation. Jeff’s popular newsletter is a digest containing inspirational and instructional resources, including his latest content. See recent issues and subscribe for free here. Refer to Jeff’s bio for more information, and please check out Jeff’s Coach & Author page on Facebook.