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Dream job: ultra runner

Dream job Ultra Runner
Photo: Claus Rolff

Jeri Chua, 41
Ultra runner, Free to Run ambassador, and director of WOOP and RaceBase

What is ‘ultra running’?

It’s a microcosm of life. All the ups and downs, joy, heartache, pain, fear, triumph all condensed. It’s when everything gets stripped away, precipitated into a simplicity that’s both humbling and empowering. It’s all you. And there’s an incredible sense of freedom in that.

What’s your training schedule typically like?

Every Monday, my coach, Andy Dubois, sends me my programme, because I’m flying every three to five days and sometimes it’s hard for me when I work long hours to think, ‘What do I have to do tomorrow?’ Andy will adjust my programme according to the countries I’m in as well as take into account the upcoming races. I also go to this place called Ziklag Fitness. The guy who runs this, Aldrin Ho, he’s a physical therapist. He works on things like pains, injuries – he keeps me in shape to train. I do strength and flexibility exercises, and dry needling – which is an active release technique. 

So on average, how much do you run in a week?

About 15 hours? The minimum would be 10 a week, and the maximum 20. It’s about efficiency – getting as many sessions done in an efficient manner.

That’s insane. You’re also going for a big ultra marathon soon – tell us more.

It’s called TransPyrenea. It’s in the Pyrenees, a mountain range dividing Spain and France. The whole mountain range is about 900-kilometres across, so we’re gonna start from one end and finish at the other. We’re given 400 hours to finish, which is just over 16 days, and I’m hoping I’ll complete it within 13 or 14 days. If I take 16 days, then I take 16 days.

Do you get to sleep, at least?

If it’s less than 24, 36 hours, then no. But if it’s more, I’ll have, like, 45 minutes or 3 hours, depending on how long I have to go.

But doesn’t it ever get to a point at which you start hallucinating?

Definitely. I’ve seen, like, rollerskating sheep, that kinda thing.

Do you carry snacks for when you start to crave food?

Craving is different from hunger – you have to train your brain to know that there is psychological hunger, and there is physical hunger. I keep bak kwa in my bag and if my brain is hungry, I’ll eat that. It’s protein and fat – it’s a nice cheat. My body doesn’t need it, but my brain does.