From the top of a mountain, Darren Seaman can see things from a different perspective. He can see his potential, and the next peak, and possibilities.
The 40-year-old runner from Nanaimo won the Lost Soul Ultra 100-kilometre race in Lethbridge, Alta. earlier this month. Not only did he finish first, he set a course record of 11 hours, 17 seconds.
“People didn’t expect to see me at the front of the race,” he said. “I knew I had it in me and my coach told me I had it in me and I believed in myself.”
He’s built that belief over time, criss-crossing and conquering Nanaimo’s trails. Seaman reached the summit of Mount Benson 75 times last year. This year he’s trying for 100. Up the hill, down the hill – it’s all part of a run that goes on and on.
A 100km ultra race is sort of like running two and a half marathons all in one go, up and over hills.
“I’m like a diesel burner – I’ll get better as the distance gets longer and harder,” Seaman said. “If I do a lap of the lake I’m probably not the fastest guy, but if we were to do seven, I’d probably be up front.”
He realized that long-distance running was a strength after completing a couple of marathons, and last year he tested himself with 50km and 80km races.
This year he upped the degree of difficulty, entering the TransRockies Race in Colorado, consisting of six stages totalling 200km. His high-elevation training there was perfectly timed leading into Lost Soul, a qualifier for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California that is a goal race for a lot of ultra runners. He won’t find out until December if he gets to enter that one, but in the meantime, he’ll keep running.
Seaman enjoys the long days on the mountain trails, and always has. He knows, too, that he’s getting better and faster each time he summits Mount Benson, making the hikers seem like slowpokes.
“Everyone looks at you like you’re a little bit strange, for sure,” he said. “Lots of ‘wow, how do you do that?’”
So how does he do it? All those kilometres have given Seaman the know-how to handle the ups and downs of ultra running. He thinks about hydration and plans his routes accordingly. He recognizes, on certain steep grades, when he’s better off to decelerate to a brisk hike.
As a former national-level power lifter, Seaman has a strength base that he thinks has helped him avoid injury. And as the owner of a carpentry business, he works flexible hours that leave him lots of time to run. He’ll set out from Westwood Lake, Witchcraft Lake, Doumont Hill, or occasionally Strathcona Park in the Comox Valley, and run for hours.
“I’m very motivated, very consistent,” he said. “I have no trouble with putting in the time or finding the energy to do it.”
He doesn’t plan to slow his pace anytime soon. He hopes over the next three or four years to become one of Canada’s top ultra marathoners and well-known in the niche sport.
Of course it’s possible. For those who can run and run, there are fewer limitations to how far they can go.
“You hear a lot of, ‘oh, I could never do that, I could never run that distance,’” Seaman said. “I think it’s a building process. And when you get to that point, there’s a lot of freedom in it.”