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Ian Dalton - Ultra Runner

Judy Brown

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Running Chapel en le Frith Ian Dalton Ultramarathon

Ultramarathon runner Ian Dalton

‘I like a challenge. I love running. I don’t like stopping.’ So Chapel-en-le-Frith draughtsman Ian Dalton runs ultramarathons. 

Ultras are long-distance events  and they could involve running 50 miles in a day, or 1,000 miles over several days, or as far as you can go in 24 hours. They could take you along city streets or to some of the roughest and most remote places in the world. 

Ian Dalton

One of the toughest is the Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G) in the deserts of central America. It starts on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and finishes seven days and 275km later on the Grand Staircase, an iconic rocky summit in Utah. The route includes stony tracks, forest trails, rock scrambles, and ridge after ridge of soft slippery sand dunes. In September 2017, Ian was one of 120 elite runners attempting this course. Twenty-six dropped out due to injury or exhaustion. Not Ian – on stage 3 he slipped and injured his ankle and back, but giving up was out of the question. He simply lay down for an hour at a checkpoint, did back exercises to free up the problem, then carried on. ‘Failure doesn’t come into it. I enter these things to complete them, not to drop out.’ 

The G2G organisers provide water, tents and medical checks. The runners carry everything else with them – kit, sleeping bag and food. ‘We live on energy bars by day and reconstituted dried meals at night. You have to force in enough calories to carry on running next day.’ 

The rewards of ultra running are what you discover about yourself and your world. ‘You go to the limits of your physical and mental endurance and then beyond. You visit amazing places where few others venture. Endless desert studded by weird contorted rocks and cacti; hazy faraway mountains; great burning sky. The vastness of a million stars at night. It makes you ask what it’s all about, and what your tiny place in it is. Except at the time you’re not philosophising but concentrating on where your feet go.’ 

Ian Dalton

Some entrants run in teams, but Ian prefers self-sufficiency. ‘I like to run on my own and look after myself. But if someone is struggling, the rest of us help them keep going. Campfire talk builds a wonderful sense of comradeship. Running brings me good friends from all over the world.’ 

Fundraising for local charities is another benefit. Ian raised nearly £600 for Blythe House on the G2G. ‘They do great work in our community. And you never know when you or a loved one may need their services.’

Training involves the gym and twice-daily runs. Ian takes in regular local challenges like the High Peak 40 while working up to international events. ‘I’ve run in Iceland, the Alps and the Sahara, and my next big goal is Chile in 2019. I believe in aiming high.’