Words & Interview: Conan Marshall
From the ocean to the mountains, the iconic Gold Coast of Australia has it all. Jake Malby, an Australian ultra runner, who has competed in various ultra-marathons, is lucky enough to call this place home. Though it hasn't always been easy, "my whole life I've possessed an addictive personality, I've often had to do things to distance myself from self-destruction".
Like many runners Jake has battled with depression, "I've always had to find things to quiet the mind without taking what I was prescribed which only made me feel hollow". Recently Jake has been exploring how far he can physically and mentally push himself. In this exclusive interview, Jake talks achievements, disasters and future ambitions...
What was your inspiration for taking up trail running?
As I touched on before my life wasn’t the typically case, when I look back now much of it was self inflicted but a lot of the time I sat thinking why me. I always saw my brother running hundreds of kilometers sometimes ending up on the way to the hospital. I couldn’t fathom the enjoyment in putting yourself through the pain… late September 2016, 24 years of age I was coming the end of my tether, at this point in my life I would turn to drugs as an escape, the more I would take the more the high would suppress my subconscious.
For years I kept to myself suffering in silence but when it came too much to handle I reached out to my older brother Ben. He instantly moved me into a room in his house as I couldn’t be trusted on my own and I will always have him to thank for that. Soon after moving in I was informed that he had signed me up for a race. October 2nd, 2016, I laced up my shoes, no training and no Idea what I was about to embark on.
After the most defining 25km of my life I was hooked, the high was better than any drug and the feeling of achievement filled my mind so that no negative thoughts could.
Now I Run.
Do you have a routine when preparing for a race or run? Is it a case of preparing differently depending on the distance of the race or say the altitude and terrain?
I believe what I do when I’m not training is just a beneficial as smashing my training plan. Obviously, whatever race I have in my sights effects what program I will stick to. But a general sort of consensus whether it is trail or road, I keep my shorter faster runs for the weekdays as I work long hours often having to double up on night shifts. And my longer runs are largely a weekend thing as I'll go out for a whole day and explore this wonderful world.
Recovery-wise I believe what I put into my body plays a massive part on what I can put out on race day so sufficient nutrition, stretching and meditation allows me to successfully complete a training block ready and raring to go niggle free. Quickly touching on my taper week, it consists of lots of good carbs, long sleeps and hydrotherapy at my local hang P3.
What has been your ideal race in the past, and do you think it went so well?
Hands down Wild Horse Criterium 50miler (80km). It was my first ever 80km race with only having done 50km previously I was heading into the unknown, roughly six months into my running career and hungrier than ever. The race started at midnight and the conditions were ideal to test my body and that’s what I did.
Staying on top of nutrition allowed me to finish off my back half stronger than my first and that alone I was proud of, than coming over the finish line and finding out I was 5th overall was euphoric. As for my preparation it was my first authentic loading block for 8weeks I knuckled down and the feeling of having the time on the legs and my body working as a unit was like nothing had ever experienced.
Have you ever had any disasters or bad moments during a race or run?
I believe I had a good stint completing numerous short runs, a respectable number of marathons and 8 ultras without anything more than a little nausea and dehydration. I became a little complacent with the severity of what can come of running your body into the ground.
Early Feb 2018 I was viciously reminded…
102km of lavish but saturated Tarawera trails stood before me and I thought I was prepared.
12km - My stomach began to turn in on itself. A close friend offered some nausea tablets and that allowed me to repress the feeling.
35km – Body temperature dropping, the moisture penetrating my bones, uncontrollable shakes and my muscles knotting themselves. I needed warmth if I wanted any chance of a finish line.
50km - After 45minutes inside the 50km aid station tent sleeping, my close friend Emmet woke me like any good friend would and pushed me on.
56km- Stumbling through knee-deep mud I told Emmet to go on, as I didn’t want to keep him waiting.
60km – Around here I found a new respect for Ultra marathon runners... Body cramping, disappointment coming over me as the realization hit, I wasn’t going to complete this… blacking out, blurred vision and vomiting I came into the 62km aid station and that is where my Tarawera Ultra Marathon 2018 dreams came to an abrupt halt.
A few bags of fluid later, the feeling of resentment was overwhelming, 2019 TUM we have unfinished business and I will go into 2019 with a new admiration for the power of those trails.
Do you prefer to run alone? Or is running a good way to meet other like-minded people?
Hands down the kindest souls take part in ultra running, some of the most grounded, like-minded people I have ever met, I found through this crazy sport and I can now call them my friends. I undeniably love the social aspect of running and will always try to link up my long runs with buddies, but I also enjoy getting primal and nailing sessions alone, I find I can really delve into a certain single-mindedness when I am running, and my awareness is closed to outside interaction.
By looking at your social media, you run in an extraordinary part of the world. It’s an obvious question but where is your favorite place to run and why?
When people think of the Gold Coast their mind instantly jumps to our golden beaches and crystal-clear waves, nobody comes to the GC knowing about our astonishing hinterland… which personally I don’t have a problem with. A conveniently located favorite of mine would have to be Bally Mountain standing tall about a 20-minute drive from where I reside. Whenever I’m chasing some quick and easy Vert I head out there, often alone and ready to put my lactic acid threshold to the test. The 5.7km loops has constant coastal views to keep my mind off my burning muscles.
Where in the future would you like to explore next?
But as far as future endeavors go, I won’t bore you with my extensive list as I really want to see how many places my legs can take me but hiking in Nepal and linking up to do the Everest ultra is a personal ambition of mine.
What advice would you give to people who are completely new to ultra-running and the lifestyle that comes with it?
I assure you the places you will experience are nothing short of amazing, whether you are running through the undulating mountains, grassy hills or simply the road by the highway if the sights aren’t something astonishing you will still be rewarded by experiencing something within yourself. As for race day, keep hydrated; keep your nutrition on point and something I can’t emphasize more RUN YOUR OWN RACE.
Ultra running is one of those sports where a lot can happen over the duration of the race, one second you could be heading for a PB the next you are questioning why you even started running all those years ago. Physically if you push through that buckling couple of km with that mind set, you do come out the other side and find your rhythm again.
If someone passes you when you are contemplating life don’t dig yourself deeper into a hole trying to stay with them, work on yourself… for all you know 20 minutes later they could blow up. I will leave my advice on one last note, rest and recovery is key to performance.
What are your ambitions in the future?
2018 is going to be a defining year for myself, hoping to run faster and longer so keep a close eye on my socials. Next up for me is the Cooks Tour 50miler, I then will be returning to do the Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge (96km) and later in the year setting my sights on the Glass House 100km. I’m sure there will be a few late entry races I will use as long training runs. And ultimately, I want the 100miler+ under my belt to bring my ultra running to another level.
Like in any sport involving long distances, situations can occur which are out of the ordinary. Do you have any funny anecdotes you'd like to share while on your journey as an ultra runner?
People often ask me ‘What do you do when you need to go to the toilet mid way through a race?’ I have always replied with “the benefits of being a male, I find a tree, and do the deed… as far as number two I'll cross that bridge when I come to it” luckily until late last year I never had to cross that bridge, but unfortunately sooner rather than later I had to employ some improve practical thinking. I'll set the scene for you, 8km into a 16km race… coffee unsettling in my stomach and my insides preparing for a blow out (sorry if I’m painting to much of a picture).
As I came to the 8km turn around point I purposely overshot the pink marker and ended up in some bushes taking care of my business, what I didn’t realize is other runners, many of them who I know had thought I blatantly missed the turn around and came to resurrect my course and continue on with their race… from there I think we all know what went down.
After a couple of rude shocks, they quickly turned around and ran their PB's back to the finish line.
To keep updated with Jake on his amazing journeys, follow his Instagram page, @forest.goat.