When Inov-8’s Shona Stephenson lines up at the UTMB start line later today, her arms and hands will be emblazoned with words scrawled in thick black ink. The words change with each race but the intention stays the same – a short, sharp, shot of inspiration when the miles start taking their toll on body and mind. It’s her ritual, like applying war-paint before battle. It gives her strength while, at the same time, probably frightens the bejesus out of her fellow competitors. Go, Shona, go.
Shona Stephenson – Scrawled © Inov-8
inov-8 press release follows.
Before every race Shona Stephenson writes inspiring words and messages all over her arms and hands.
One word that always features is committed.
Obsessed with ultra-distance running and pushing her body to the limit, on Friday the inov-8 athlete will commit herself solely to one of the toughest mountain races in the world, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB).
Passing through three countries, France, Italy and Switzerland, the complete tour of Europe’s most famous mountain remains the must-do ultra.
This year 2,300 runners will take to the start line in Chamonix, France. Ahead of them will be a grueling 168km (104 miles) high-altitude level course that includes a mammoth 9600m of ascent.
For Shona it will be her first UTMB, but her third race this year over the 100-mile plus distance.
And courtesy of a course record 24hrs 46mins at the Northburn 100 in New Zealand (8000m ascent) and a 25hrs 56mins clocking for second place at the Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji in Japan (9000m ascent), Shona is widely tipped as ‘one to watch’ for the UTMB.
She said: “This race has been two years in the planning for me so I am determined to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s going to more than tough, it’s going to be a war of attrition, but I’m pumped up and ready for the battle.
“I will again write words and messages on my arms and hands to inspire me. The names of my two daughters will be on there, as will that of a friend back home in Australia who going through some tough medical treatment.
“I change what I write for each race but always include the word ‘committed.’ This time I will also include ‘make it count.’
“When my body and mind hurt, which they will undoubtedly do over the 24-plus hours, I will read what’s on my arms and hands, take inspiration and sharpen my focus.”
Shona was last in the Alps in June/July when she finished ninth in the much-shorter Mont Blanc Marathon.
Since then she has been running big miles back home in Australia and training with the use of an altitude mask, ramped up to mirror the heights she will reach in the Alps.
Tomorrow will also mark Shona’s 35th birthday.
She said: “My present is an awesome one – the UTMB. The icing on the cake would be to place high up in what is a really stacked international field of top girls.
“Having done well at Northburn and UTMF already this year, I will use those experiences to help me on Friday.
“People say you need to add 20 minutes to your UTMF time to predict what you will do the UTMB in, but I want to run the same time at least, if not faster.
“Key for me will be nailing the downhills, which is definitely one of my strengths.
“I will look to conserve energy on the climbs and then gain time on the big descents.”