'Ultramarathon mom' urges everyone to test their limits

The author of a new book looks ahead to her latest challenge at this weekend’s OMM

Holly Zimmerman says the long stage of the 251km Marathon des Sables has been her toughest challenge yet

Holly Zimmerman says the long stage of the 251km Marathon des Sables has been her toughest challenge yet

Many of us have the desire to take on an extreme running challenge, whether it be the Marathon des Sables, going from John O’Groat’s to Land’s End or something equally testing but less renowned. But few of us will will see it through to completion.

Holly Zimmerman is one of the few to regularly bring such dreams to fruition, combining training for events such as this weekend’s Original Mountain Marathon with being a mother and wife, and she believes all of us have the capacity to push ourselves beyond limits we might previously have set ourselves.

The author of the book Ultramarathon Mom: From the Sahara to the Arctic has inspired by many by writing about her exploits in the MdS and Polar Circle Marathon.

As a veteran runner who was first female at the Mount Everest Marathon this year, the Germany-based American wants to remind all women that success can come at any age.

She told Trail Running: “I want to provide motivation especially for women - and woman who have already had children - to maybe try and get out there and be competitive because at the ultra-distance we are still competitive over 40. And that’s really my message with the book.”

Zimmerman recognises that more and more people are taking part in tough ultras and they are coming from all walks of life, rather than being a select band of marathoners seeking a new challenge as was once the case.

“That is one thing I noticed when I was in Everest,” she said. “The individual runners who came on their own were much more outgoing and open to adventure, but there were a lot of couples of friends. And usually when you had a pair together one of them was the adventurer and the other was the complete introvert that was inspired by the adventurer, so I think it’s all in us but sometimes we just need a little push to get it going…

“I think that’s why they’re becoming more popular now - because everybody is saying, ‘hey all these people are doing it so I can certainly do it too;’ it’s not this fringe group of people who out there.”

She says the 91km stage of the MdS in the Sahara has been her most trying adventure to date. “It was so difficult, not physically but mentally - the battle of a complete foreign environment in the dark. The lights were playing games with me and I’m seeing and hearing things. I spent hours on end just crying and you’re alone most of the time. You just need a mantra and to push through and know that at some point you’re going to reach the finish line.

“It took me 19 hours to get there and it was a huge mental battle. But I’ll never forget that. It’s a challenge that I overcame personally. And you know the next time you encounter something like that, you can handle it and that things get easier and you can push your boundaries.”

Zimmerman, who has also competed in the Hochkönigman Endurance Ultra Trail (85km) and the Regensburg Landkreislauf (71.7km), said she was looking forward to her first race in Britain at the OMM. “I’ve never done a navigation race so I’m really excited about something new,” she said.

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