Running for Sensation: Interview with ultra-marathoner

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Sohaib Jidar is a 21 years old athlete from Catalonia, Spain. He loves running ultra-long distances and thus overcoming his own limits. For this reason, we decided to interview him and find out more about the fascinating world of ultra-marathons and his running philosophy in general.

What does running mean to you?

For me running is not just a sport. It is a ritual. It is some sort of other life. That is the best way that I can put it. It is the other side of life.

When did you started to run?

I started to run, when I was 17 years old. Before that I was doing a lot of different sports like judo, karate or rugby, but in this period of my life I also liked to run from time to time.

One day I went to play the basketball and my teacher of physical education told me: “Sohaib, may I ask you something? Why do you play basketball when your sport is running?”  I was pretty surprised by this question: “Wait, running? Why running? It is a pretty boring sport? I do not particularly like it.” After this conversation, I still decided to give it a chance and out of curiosity, I started to train. Just to see if my teacher was right or not. And then out of nowhere, surprisingly enough I have won my first race. I was amazed and I had to admit to myself that my teacher was quite right about running. So to make a long story short, I had my first experience with running when I was 17 and approximately one year later I started to run professionally.

Athlete Sohaib during ultra-marathon training
Sohaib running a race


What is the difference between ultra-marathon and marathon?

Marathon, as most of us know it, is the 42,195 meters long race. It has a very long history and its origins go back to ancient Greece where the soldier named Pheidippides ran as a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens in order to announce that the Persians had been defeated.

As for ultra-marathon, those are usually the races that are longer than 50 kilometers. So in this category, you can find races that are 60, 70 or 80 kilometers long. According to my opinion, the criteria of ultra-marathon should not start above 50 or 60 kilometers. OK, it is difficult to run these races, but for me, the real challenge of ultra-marathon starts somewhere around the limit of 100 kilometers. So for me personally, ultra-marathons are races that are 95 kilometers long and longer. For example, the longest one that I know of is the ultra-marathon that is 225 kilometers long. So, in general, I can say that according to my definition, ultra-marathon is each race which distance in kilometers is consisting of three digits.

How many days do you usually train for these ultra-long races?

It depends on various factors. For example, when I was training for ultra-marathon in Andorra, in the beginning, I ran at least 10 kilometers a day, sometimes 20 kilometers, sometimes 25, depending on the mood, weather or other factors. That was some sort of initial warming up, let’s say, and then I started to prolong the distance step by step. Preparation for this race took me more or less three months. During the first month, I ran just 10 kilometers a day, during the second month, I ran approximately 21 kilometers a day and during the third month, I was running the regular marathon distance almost every day.

How much is running about physical preparation and how much is it about your mental state?

The physicality of running only makes up about thirty percent of the whole thing and all of the rest I would say is mostly about the state of mind that you are in while running. Let’s call this dimension the psychology of running.  I think that this aspect of running is essential in the end, because for example when I go for a marathon and my mind does not feel good, I just cannot run it. Even if my body is the best and the most trained in the world. Once the mind is not prepared for the race you are just not able to finish it.

What does it mean that your mind is prepared?

Let me give you an example. The most important part of the marathon comes somewhere around the 30th kilometer. This limit is called el muro, which means the wall in Spanish. It is the point in which your mind starts to doubt everything: “Am I really ready for this race? Can I make it? Is my body strong enough?” And when your mind is not ready for this phase, you just cannot overcome all that questioning. If you do not prepare your mind for this, you put yourself into a huge risk, because you would most probably not be able to overcome this phase and in the end you would let yourself be defeated by the spiral of uncomfortable doubts and questions.

In the midst of running


What would you advice to the people would like to run, but they find it way too exhausting and difficult?

Any person is able to run. Be it half-marathon, marathon or ultra-marathon, I think that all healthy people are theoretically able to run these distances. The only thing that matters in order to endure the whole thing is training. Without training, it is not possible, but with proper training, it is quite easy in the end.

“I like to run for sensation, not for the time records.”

Sohaib Jidar

Post Author: Filip Grác

I am 30 years old traveller and art-lover from Slovakia, staying in Greece throughout the whole year of 2018. My main interests are nature (of reality), board gaming, music and visual arts. Thus I love to report mainly about the local cultural events and writing interviews. Since the beginning of May, I was also appointed as one of the editors-in-chief for our lovely blog bubble.

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Christian

Nice, some extra motivation before the night half marathon in Thessaloniki!