Ultra Big Wild Challenge

An ultra Big Wild Challenge

Jim is a runner, an optimism ninja, a cancer warrior, and an adventurist. Essentially, he is a man who understands the nature of a challenge.

His 2014 challenge – a Big Wild Challenge – was running the Bruce Trail end to end, all 885 kilometres of it, in a single push, setting a speed record on the way and raising $4 per kilometre to support wilderness conservation.

We asked him to help break it down so we could wrap our minds around the scale of this project.

As an ultra-distance racer, have you done anything comparable to this run?

I have done week-long races, but nothing quite as large as this. To run this kind of distance for this many days in a row … well, there aren’t many people around who have. That makes me feel both excited and a little freaked out.

An ultra Big Wild Challenge
Does the Bruce Trail have any particular challenges or hazards?

The trail runs along the Niagara Escarpment so there’ll be a lot of short steep climbs and descents, which are not only tough on the legs, but can be worse on the feet – in terms of blisters. And it’s fairly technical and rocky in spots, particularly towards the north end. Even just hiking some of these sections can be tough, so running them could be insane.

There’s also something to be said for the motivation you can get from being in a race. In ultras, the field of competitors is usually pretty small so you do spend a lot of time on your own. And I’m used to doing the majority of my training alone as well. So the solo aspect doesn’t faze me. But, I’ll miss having competitors on the trail.

Do you have a specific training plan in place for this run?

I’ve never been one to follow a structured training routine. Probably not the best approach for an ultra runner, but it’s what works for me. And there is progression in my training, but it’s more of a guideline than a plan. I’ve really just learned to listen to my body and base my training on that.

Ultra Big Wild Challenge
Can you share some optimism ninja wisdom with us?

I’ve come to the realization that this journey isn’t about becoming anything … I think it’s more about “un-becoming” the things I’m not. Stripping away the preconceived notions and labels of the person I thought I was so I can become the person I was meant to be.

What I’ve learned about being positive is that the more you do it the better you get at it. Just like most things in life. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but it’s necessary if you want to complete any kind of goal.

An ultra Big Wild Challenge
Why is wilderness conservation important to you?

I could go on all day about this one. I could talk about our responsibilities, both as a society and individuals. Or, about how grateful we should be to live in a place like Canada, with so much to offer us. But aside from that it’s freaking amazing. When I went through the cancer stuff; surgeries and chemotherapy, it was the doctors and nurses who helped to heal my body, but it was running and nature that helped to heal my soul. That’s the kind of power it has on us.

Does anything kick your ass?

I have no doubt the Bruce Trail will kick my ass … over and over again. As have most of the races I’ve done. As did the surgeries and chemo. But without the adversity and struggles we wouldn’t get the opportunity to grow. Or, be given the choice to get back up when life knocks us down. And we wouldn’t know how strong we really were or what we’re capable of achieving. Personally, I know I can take an ass kicking, pick myself up, and keep moving forward.

A Big Wild Challenge is about pushing your own limits and doing something that matters to you. They all happen outside and they support wilderness conservation in Canada. 

Jim Willett
Jim Willett

MEC running ambassador from Ontario, with a consistent desire to run ridiculously long distances for the greater good of natural places.