Simone Leo and the Ultramarathon as a metaphor of life
In recent months, the ultramarathon runner Simone Leo has approached our products and we therefore took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about this intense discipline where the head often counts much more than the legs. The result was an interview full of anecdotes that we are pleased to share.
Let's start from the end, what does it feel like at the end of an Ultra marathon?
Consider that for me "ultramarathon" is something that is over 140 km. The ultramarathon starts at 42 km, the ultramarathon understood as I live it, means a marathon after 100, the true essence of the ultramarathon is therefore the journey itself, 140 km means many hours, it means all a number of complications and so much more.
So what you feel in any case is always a great, great satisfaction, which is kind of the feeling I'm looking for.
The reason why I run is precisely that, which has been there since the beginning, since I started doing the first runs of a few kilometres, from the very first outing and up to today at the most important races. Then it is clear that if there is perhaps a goal involved, therefore an important race, a "top ultra", a race that you have been preparing for months this satisfaction is also doubled, but even to say 100 km that it may have gone not well however, when you finish it you are happy, so let's say: happiness is enormous satisfaction, mostly satisfaction as a job completed, let's say so.
Is an Ultra marathon a bit of a metaphor from life?
A metaphor for life, absolutely. I speak in schools, I speak in companies. Because my story from sedentary overweight to ultramarathon runner is brought a bit, in short, with everything I've done.
But precisely because it is a metaphor for life, that is, the ultramarathon is a lifestyle, in the sense that it puts you in front of so many difficulties and then it's up to you to be able to overcome them, to have that determination that then takes you to the finish line and if you what you apply it to everyday life or to your job or whatever else it fits, because life isn't easy either, it puts you in front of so many obstacles, but if you have the strong determination to go all the way, you have the perseverance to keep fighting in the end you bring home the result.
So let's go back to what we said before, that is, in the end you will be very satisfied, and this satisfaction then makes you feel good.
In the book "Spostando il Limite" you tell us about limits and how to overcome them. Can you tell us about some episodes during a race where the obstacle seemed insurmountable?
Eh here we could do a thesis, we could do another book. There are so many, I wouldn't even know where to start.
The first that comes to mind is perhaps the hardest race I've done, that is Arrowhead Ultra 135 which I ran in January 2020, just before the pandemic started, and it's the coldest ultramarathon in the world. And it runs precisely in January, the middle of winter in northern Minnesota, on the border with Canada and it's 220 km non-stop in total self-sufficiency, pulling a 20 kg sled, with everything needed for survival in the woods, therefore ice, snow, in short, it's already very difficult.
Then there is clearly a time limit and there it happened that due to a series of unforeseen events (up to that moment in all the races I had done, top ultra, let's say those over 200 km non-stop, I did one a year , I've always done one a year and I've never had any particular problems, it's always been good for me from a physical point of view, I've never had any injuries or things even during the race) instead at Arrowhead, apart from the fact that you race at -40°, so already that… the temperature dropped to -39°, realize that the highest was -14°, but when you get used to -39, -14 feels hot.
Practically due to a series of unforeseen events I had a series of injuries all close together, so I had phlebitis, basically there was inflammation of a vein in a calf, but nothing special, normal for the effort. Then I had a collapse of part of my back muscles, due to the sled. And then I also stayed alone for 9 long hours at night, because due to a series of fortuitous inconveniences I didn't see anyone from the organization or any other athlete and so I stayed on the course for 9 hours at night alone.
With all these problems, I thought it was over, that it was useless to finish in those conditions, but then it was an endless night that I will probably never forget, and we managed to bring it home.
That's when I realized that that was the maximum limit I could reach.
There too there was a lot of satisfaction at the end, but I guess not the same satisfaction as the other times, I assume you had more satisfaction than the other times in completing this ultramarathon?
Yes, yes, I was satisfied, but it also left me with that sense of "you can't do more than this". I had enormous satisfaction, even enormous emotion, among other things I dedicated it to a friend of mine who was no longer there. But it was just a bit like closing a circle. It was a satisfaction, but almost with a little melancholy, let's put it this way. Because in reality I have understood that more than this you die and therefore it is better to avoid. In short, that's the limit.
Now let's take a step back, what do you think about in the minutes before starting a race hundreds of kilometers long?
The minutes before, a question they almost never ask which is nice, I try to isolate myself, I try not to think, that is, I really try to almost belittle, almost to smile at what awaits me.
Then there are races and races. For example, if I have to do 100km like the passer who has done it 200,000 times, it doesn't bother me in the slightest. As a result I laugh, joke, in case I get a little pissed off because then it's not like I always have all this desire to do all those hours, but I take it as an adventure, so I try not to think about it.
On the other hand, in the slightly more difficult races there is obviously a lot, a lot of tension. They are always challenges with myself, it's never a race with the others, but you already know that in any case from that moment you will have them maybe hours, if not days, because in any case I have also done races of 500 km, so 5-6 days in around and you already know that these are days of impatience or in any case of little comfort, outside the comfort zone. Let's say that I really try to disconnect completely, to concentrate, not to think, to make fun of it, really not to think about what awaits me because it's better not to think about it.
(Simone nella sua impresa di Arrowhead Ultra 135, 20 gennaio 2020)
Is there any competition to which you are particularly attached?
But look there are many, perhaps, I would like to tell you the Spartathlon which is between Athens and Sparta, which is considered the toughest road ultra marathon in the world, which I did in 2016 because it is a bit Ultra marathon Olympics. The ultra marathon is not an Olympic sport, but the Spartathlon is somewhat considered the Olympics because it has similar characteristics.
You have to qualify, you enter with qualifications, you are part of the Italy team, you go to retreat, that is, in the sense that there are really hotels divided by national teams. It's a very difficult race: 246km, 4500M of elevation gain and 36 hours maximum time, so very little, and you always have to run. It starts from the Acropolis of Athens, arrives at the statue of King Leonidas Sparta,
It's the race that every ultramarathon runner would like to do and I managed to qualify and finish it in the first attempt in 2016. Today I probably wouldn't do it anymore, nor would I have the desire to do it again, but there is still one thing that has been done, on the bulletin board.
The last question, what are your next challenges?
Eh, look, now I'm in a bit of a lack of motivation because I can't find anything that particularly inspires me. I was supposed to do a race in Greece but I canceled it and now I was thinking, but I don't know yet if I will, that I would like to do the Milky in France, which is a 500 km race in 150 hours, where you can have the assistance, a little simpler, which would somehow give me some impetus for the future. Compared to the others I've done, it's a little less in terms of risks, for now it's an idea, but I don't have anything concrete yet.
We just have to thank Simone for the time she dedicated to us and for anyone who wants to learn more about the topic, we suggest you read his book Spostando il limite.
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