Martin Fryer was the first ultrarunner whom I met at Soochow University and he happens to be from Australia. I started to know him when we had a conversation over lunch with the Race Director of the event, Frank Kou and I spent more time to talk to him later in the afternoon. I did not ask him about his past feats and credentials in ultrarunning as I could easily “Google” his name on the Internet.
Knowing that he lives near the mountains in Australia, our topic was concentrated on mountain ultra trail runs until I found out that he finished the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in 2007. He placed #21 out of the 300+ finishers on that year’s edition with a time of 20:30:02 hours. Our conversation got more interesting when I told him of my plan of trying to get into the next year’s MIWOK 100K Run in Marin Headlands. He told me that he had a chance to run the Marin Headlands trails when he was still living in the United States as he got married with a lady from New Mexico, USA.
Our conversation was focused about his experience in finishing the Western States 100-Mile Run with an impressive time for his first time run on the said event. What impressed me most when he told me that he finished the race without any support crew, pacer, and “drop bags”. He exactly gave me a description of each of the segments of the course and he had to tell me a story about his lucky experience that contributed his fast finish time. He was so grateful that a Pacer (for another runner who DNFed along the way) waiting for his runner to arrive across the Rocky Chucky River offered his services up to the Finish Line! Running at that point of the course during nighttime for the first time could be a problem to Martin Fryer if not for the help and assistance of the Pacer. He intends to run again the WS 100 in the future, hopefully to improve his previous time.
After a long talk with him, I tried to “Google” his name and the following is one of the articles that I discovered which I will repost in this blog. If you have time to browse the Internet, he had posted his article and story about his experience when he won the TNF 24-Hour Endurance Treadmill Run in Australia. Another story is also posted about his win in the 2009 Surgeres 48-Hour Endurance Run. You can “Search” his name at http://planetultramarathon.wordpress.com.
The Trek of an Australian Runner from Down Under to the Top of the Commonwealths Podium (published 25th October 2010)
“Running these races just didn´t mean running longer, it meant running deeper into the places in yourself that had to be found and conquered.” (a line from Kirk Johnson´s book “To the Edge”)
This is the motto that drives the Australian athlete who set the stage for the Commonwealth Mountain and Ultradistance Running Championships.
The start of any Championships is pretty unnerving for the event coordinators. The cocktail of nervousness and excitement is quadrupled, when it is the inaugural Championships, with the eyes of everyone in the Commonwealth athletic world set on the event. The 24 Hour ultramarathon was the first event on the Commonwealth Championships itinerary and once the event ended, the organizers’ fears were put to rest, and these were destined to be an outstanding Championship.
Martin Fryer, a veteran ultramarathoner from Australia, performed a record breaking feat in this first event of the inaugural Championships. He took the race beyond leaps and bounds and elevated the ultra event to whole new level by running a distance of 255.934 km, breaking the existing Commonwealth Best Performance and sketching his name into the record books.
Fryer has sported the international vest several times through his running career. His running resumé includes running for Australia in World 24 hr Challenges in Taipei (2006) and Drummondville (2007). He was elected captain of the Australian 24 hr team for Seoul (2008) as well as for the 24 Hour Commonwealth Championships.
As a veteran in the sport, with over 100 ultras, Fryer started running at a very early age. He reminisces, “I clearly remember the great joy that I derived from running as a child. My father and I would get up early each morning and jog a few kilometres to the beach followed by some running on the beach, a quick swim in the surf, and then an easy jog home.” Little did this young lad know that one day he could call himself a Commonwealth Champion?
Continuing on the family tradition and recognizing the memorable times he spent with his father on the beach, Fryer has enacted the same with his own son. He says, “This routine set the pattern for my lifelong enjoyment of running and now I have the joy of sharing running with my own 14 year old son.” He credits his family and friends for his success in running.
Fryer has been in the sport of ultrarunning for over thirteen years, running his first ultra in 1997. He ran the 6 Foot Track 45 km trail ultramarathon based in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. One would think that this gifted runner would have been on cloud nine and itching to get out to compete in more ultras. He proved me wrong, “Like everyone I vowed never to do one (ultra) again but little did I know that the transformational experience of the event would lead me to where I am today.”
He awed numerous athletes through his athleticism, determinism and dedication at the Commonwealth Championship. I asked Fryer on what were his expectations going into these Championships, “Having fallen just short of achieving 250 km at the 24 World Challenge in Seoul (247 km) it was a natural goal to aim for at Keswick. Fortunately, the running conditions there were excellent and I was able to break this barrier with a little time to spare.” Not only did he end up gaining that goal but bettering the Commonwealth Best Performance in the process.
The 24 Hour event is an intense power play between mind and body. Having run about eight of these events, I can attest that the body refuses to cooperate and the mind plays games, but its mind over matter at the end of the day. Fryer ran more six marathons in one day!
I was curious about his tactic in a very strategic event. He explained, “My game plan was to run my own race and not to consider any “racing” aspects until the last 3 or 4 hours when it really counted. I think my strong run at the Surgères 48h earlier in the year built my confidence to reconsider the 24h race as a “speed” event.” A 24 hour speed event might raise an eye brow or two but it is all relative in the ultra world. 24 Hour is a sprint for those who do 48 hours and 6-day events!
The event in Keswick was unique in the sense that it brought together two offshoots of mainstream athletics, ultrarunning and mountain running. I asked Fryer about his views on his mountain running counterparts, “It turned out to be an excellent mix at Keswick. The Commonwealth Championships presented a unique opportunity to showcase two very different sides of running.” He went on to say, “I’m sure that runners on both sides developed an increased mutual respect for what it takes to compete in the other side of the sport after watching the performances in the Mountain and ultrarunning races.” This was a widespread sentiment during the duration of the event.
Like many in the ultrarunning and mountain running world, Fryer holds a day job and trains when he can. He works as regulatory toxicologist for the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA). I am always intrigued by how athletes balance their everyday work lives with competitive training. He put my inquisitiveness to rest, “I balance work with increased training volume by often doing 2 runs a day: the first is done before or around sunrise so it is out of the way before the working day. The second is either done at lunchtime or I run commute home with a small backpack.”
Fryer’s training regiment includes training weeks of approximately 90-140 km with one easy 30-50 km run, a faster 20 km run and a fartlek session for speed. He also mixes his running routes with cross country and trail courses and competes in the occasional mountain running race to increase his VO2 max. Being a non-professional athlete, sponsorships play a supportive role in furthering his progression, with currently sponsors including Inov-8, 2XU, Injinji and Hammer Nutrition.
Fryer has been a busy man since his Commonwealth exploits. He recently established course records at the Deep Space Mountain Marathon (44km, 1800m ascent) in 3h46min. He started his 2010 calendar with a win in a 50K road race in January and some short, fast trail and mountain running in February followed by a personal best at his 13th completion of the 6 Foot Track 45 km trail race in March, which was the scene of my first ultra (an improvement from 5h 3min in 1997 to 3h 46 min in 2010).
Australian runners are taking the ultrarunning world by storm with the women’s team recently finishing third women’s team at the International Association of Ultrarunners 24 Hour World Championship. I asked Fryer about this recent change, “There has recently been a big boom in ultra participation in Australia, particularly for trail events, but we (the Australian Ultra Runners Association) have been also fortunate to lure some of our best runners to the track.” I was curious as to how Fryer sees the sport change over the next decade. He replied, “I think participation in ultras in general will continue to increase over the next 5 to 10 years but the runners will be spread thinner over an ever increasing range of exciting options – new running events on road, track and trail as well as variants of adventure racing.”
What goals has this ultrarunning phenomenon set for himself? Fryer shared, “My number one long term goal is to run for life – stay injury-free and enjoy my running for as many years as possible.” He added, “My number two long term goal is to expand my coaching and mentoring of up and coming ultra runners and to generally help promote the sport to people from all sorts of backgrounds.”
As Fryer ties his shoes, closes the door behind him and sets out for another run to the beach and back with his son, one can only imagine if the running tradition of the Fryers will continue, and we might perhaps someday see Fryer Jr. at the World or the Commonwealth Championships. Do not be surprised if we do!
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