Ultrarunner Amanda Nelson broke the Canadian women’s 24-hour record at That Dam Hill in London, Ont., over the weekend, running an unofficial distance of 248.8 kilometres and picking up her fourth national ultramarathon record.
Although Nelson, who hails from Woodstock, Ont., told Canadian Running on Monday that the exact distance likely won’t be made official for a couple of weeks, she broke the 238.261-km record held by Bernadette Benson by at least 10 km.
“I had lots of highs and lows—more highs than lows—but there were times where I was like, ‘Why am I doing this?’” she said of her weekend effort, her third attempt at breaking the Canadian 24-hour record.
She said while her path to achieving the 24-hour record hasn’t always been smooth, an uneven surface is exactly what was needed to finally accomplish this feat.
Nelson said her two previous, unsuccessful shots at the record were both attempted on the track. Although running on a flat surface would seem to take less of a toll on the body, the monotony of running laps on a track was too mentally draining.
“Mentally, just doing the track, it’s not for me,” said Nelson. “That Dam Hill isn’t a track—it’s a 2.25-km loop on pavement with hills. Although it’s hard running on pavement for that long, there’s more variety to the surroundings at That Dam Hill. I need the hills and the downhills and variety. They help a lot, mentally. I knew I had to do a course that wasn’t on a track if I was going to take another try at breaking the record.”
Nelson said positive self-talk was also key to staying on track during her most recent shot at the record. “When I’m going through a low, I make sure to remind myself that I can keep going, that I am strong enough and this bad feeling is going to pass.”
She said she felt “amazing” in the final moments of her run, and that the end of her record-breaking race was made even more special when Hanna Nelson, her 10-year-old daughter, joined her for the last partial loop until the clock hit 24 hours.
“It was great, but it’s crazy how the second you finish, you’re done. Everything just kicks in and you’re like, ‘I couldn’t even run one more step.’”
In addition to her latest record, the 34-year-old holds the women’s 12-hour Canadian record (135.072 km) and the 100-mile Canadian record (14:45:51). In May, she broke her Canadian women’s backyard ultra record by running 375.51 km over 56 hours at the Race of Champions-Backyard Masters in Rettert, Germany.
That performance in Germany helped qualify Nelson for Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra Individual World Championships in Short Creek, Tenn., which begins Oct. 21. She is one of only three Canadians who have qualified for the race (Ihors Verys and Eric Deshaies have also punched their tickets), and one of only four female qualifiers among 75 runners representing 38 countries.
However, there’s a chance the race may be over for her before it begins—the cost of making the return trip to Tennessee could end up being too prohibitive for Nelson.
To help Nelson make it to the start line, friends have set up a gofundme page to help supplement her travel fees and associated race costs.