When asked why anyone would want to run the incredibly punishing distances required to complete an ultra-marathon, Sam Kasdorf did not hesitate with her answer.
“Because people have no idea what their body is capable of,” she said. “You’re capable of so much more. You can run until you die.”
Kasdorf certainly does not plan to die running, but the Prince Rupert runner and yoga instructor has shaped and organized her life around a sport that transitioned from being her pastime to her passion and therapy since moving to the city of Prince Rupert.
Kasdorf is currently training to run in the ultra-marathon category of the Mount Robson Marathon on the Berg Lake trail Sep. 9.
Defined as any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres, ultramarathons are typically trail runs that take place on rougher terrain than normal marathons and can stretch to distances of 100 kilometres or more.
Athletes who run in ultramarathons, or ultra-runners, typically wear specialized vests while running which contain water, fuel gels and other items to to replace nutrients and hydrate their bodies over the course of a race.
Kasdorf said trail runs differ from road courses in a number of ways, but the most critical difference is the uneveness of the terrain and the how that punishing the runners legs, especially when running up and down hills.
Kasdorf said her training to prepare for her uupcoming race consists of running 70-90 kilometres per-week in addition to weight training three times per-week to strengthen her legs and core. Kasdorf said she takes advantage of the trails in and around Prince Rupert to prepare for toll a long run will take on her body.
“You become a strong runner just due to the fact that you can’t escape the hills here,” she said. “It’s beautiful that you have access to trails like Butze rapids that are so close to home and you don’t have to filter through traffic to get there.”
Kasdorf has completed an ultramarathon distance in the past having competed in the Scotiabank 50 kilometre run in May.
However, that while that run took place on a road course on a road course, this will be the first time Kasdorf is running a full 50 kilometre trail run in a competition setting, and she said it was not so long ago that running 3 kilometres would have been a challenge for her.
Before she moved to Prince Rupert in 2013, Kasdorf said she played volleyball, soccer and competed in track and field, but was never much of a runner. However, she said the annual Skeena River relay race took place within the first week of her arrival to the city, and while it was too late to run in the official race, she decided to ride her bike and support some people she knew who were participating.
“I rode to Terrace and I realized, ‘Oh, this is really cool, getting into running and being in a good atmosphere with really good people,’” she said.
Kasdorf said watching athletes on TV complete trail and adventure running also inspired her.
“These athletes are pushing their bodies to the limit, and so that kind of sparked me to think maybe I can try and get into that,” she said.
While she has been a Prince Rupert runner ever since, Kasdorf said completing an extended distance is a challenge she finds especially appealing about the sport of ultrarunning.
“It’s not actually the race that’s the most challenging, it’s the training,” she said. “The time, the dedication, the waking up at 4:30 in the morning. Eating properly and makind sure you have all the necessities when you go out for three or four-plus hours.”
Kasdorf said the process of preparing for her most recent runs has made her both physically and mentally stronger. And the gradual transformation has taught her that anything is possible with a certain amount of discipline, planning and a willingness to do the work required to accomplish a seemingly impossible task.
“Anyone can do it. Anyone can run 100k. It’s just a matter of putting the time and effort into it and having a little bit of grit,” she said. “I’m an ordinary person, anyone can do it. It just takes a little discipline, and sometimes a little stubborness.”