Photograph by Braddan Johnson

The Language of the Ultra Runner:

The System. Braddan DB Johnson – Ultra Runner

One of the senses must be more acute. The awareness of imminent change should be attributed. It’s so hard to say which. The scent perhaps the taste of air opens doors to past experience. The smallest cues call for response.

Laces tied not too tight. Shoes quickly wet out, material and feet swell. It shouldn’t be comfortable but it is. Familiar. The sooner the feet are wet the happier the running.

Fronts push. Skin tightens and hairs stand. Some broken bonds with lifetimes passed. Past. Are fleetingly reunited. Not tied but touched. A shiver of memories unknown.

Preparation no process more organic. Everything where it needs to be. Gear tried and tested. Surprises only from lack of attention. Being lost in a moment. Being lost. No longer unknown scenarios.

What’s out there? A best guess and all the technology at our disposal is no better than a whispered promise. Change is the only certainty. Prepared. Packed. Multiple dry bags nestled in one trusted pod. Spare clothes emergency shelter sustenance – an art in itself. First aid head torch and more as necessary.

Companionship welcome but not essential.

Sometimes guiltily unwelcome.

Miles one and two could be the same. Wherever. Knowing what is to follow is the only impetus. Feel similar. Pre-flight checks. Better or worse last time. Successful pre fuel. Interspersed with mid-week worries work relationship hopes and dreams. Dreams. The first grind triggering awareness of hidden tightness and buried fears. The physical overriding the emotional.

The vastness always wins. I’m here because of that.

Nothing aggressive. The weight of emptiness simply leans tired on the shoulders of consciousness and the knees of the mind are powerless. The burden of nothing sinks us. The mechanism takes over.

I’m here because of that.

The system is on stream.

Lungs rasp then sigh then flow. Legs burn, throb then just turn over. Climbs descents ridges colls tarns lakes trods cairns summits gylls. Terms change with geography. Topography doesn’t bend to colloquialisms, underfoot they feel the same. The day to day is gone. The day goes. Flow. Turn over.

Don’t check time. Don’t check ascent. Don’t connect. Breath. Be.

Climbs descents ridges colls tarns lakes trods cairns summits gylls. Flow. Turn over.

One of the senses must be more acute. But the awareness seems all at once. When does dawn break? First light? When does the discomfort resurface? The field of repetition fails as the body ticks over. Shafts of resistance pry open a carefully constructed cocoon.

The metronome stops.

Awareness seeps then pours through the cracks.

Check the system. Food’s in. Fluids. Relax. From the top down. Remember the thread – hang from it – relax. Shoulders back chest open arms loose let the legs spin be calm. The head has this. There is no fight. It has to be an understanding. If the fight starts the fight’s lost. Fear of failing. Coming undone. Patching uncertainties with experience.

The flow is back. The doubt is gone. Flow. Turn over.

The summit seen. Bent grasses frigid bog damp pine slick rock. Climb. Through cloud. Rocky trail glassy puddles runnoffs. The summit. The ridge. The burn the grind the rasp gives way again to an altered state.

The flow is back. The doubt is gone. Flow. Turn over.


The scent or perhaps the taste of air. Fronts push. Skin glistens and hairs bead.


You’re towing Spring. Tiny valiant climber. Still or wind sun or building storm you climb drop ascend pause climb. Trill. A dot in the blue a spec to one sense a balm to another. A song so faint but the sound of all the hills ever. Simplicity and strength.

Skylark. Flow. Turn over. Is there really a connection. How could I really feel stronger and lighter beneath your call. Your kin splash underfoot. Miles unfold.

Miles unfold.

The sinewy trail chosen offers glimpses back of improbable distance. Are the hours in the mind or the miles in the eye a stronger record? Like times of geographical upheaval are recorded in strata could you cut me open and see periods of ease? There is nothing so completely perfect as this. It must be tangible somehow.

I’m here because of that.

The system is on stream.

There is no substitute for running so far. For pushing hard for so long. There is no substitute for running the electric line between sunshine and towering darkening threatening cumulonimbus. For running into another dawn. There is no substitute for racing a stormfront, cold rain nipping heels. There is no substitute for being lashed blind by hail.

For knowing that with less experience and more time this would be the end.

I’m here because of that.

The car the warmth the uncontrollable shiver the wash. The down jacket, veteran of all adventures. The tired limbs. Ache. The hunger. The coffee shop.





I’m back.

Most of me.

I’m here because of that.

The system is on stream.