Why I think I thrive on Ultrarunning

I took a 4 hour solo run this weekend, which gave me plenty of time to think about plenty of topics.

Around hour 3, I started to wonder why I like ultrarunning.  What does it say about me as a person? Why do I run so far? Why do I run so often?  This is what I came up with.

The obvious …

  • I have a very private, surprisingly introverted side to myself, which I realize is an ironic claim for a blogger.  I enjoy being alone and I enjoy not talking.  Hours of running allows me to recharge that very important part of my personality.
  • I am competitive, but so are a lot of athletes. So why ultras? I like saying I do something that only 19,000 other people in the United States did last year (according to UltraRunning Magazine).
  • I never get tired of what I discover on a trail.  With ultrarunning, you have time to notice the world around you.  Sometimes you can even take a photo.
  • I need breaks from the world, as we all do, and I can’t think of a better respite.

What else I learned about myself, that maybe isn’t so obvious …

  • I need meaningful friendships with a small group of people.  I don’t need to surround myself with many people, but I need to surround myself with a tight group who’s ideas I respect, who’s company I enjoy, and who together we can solve our own and the world’s problems. Endurance running naturally brings people like that into your life.  Hours of running together builds and feeds a relationship.
  • I don’t thrive on speed.  I thrive on strength and longevity.
  • I am disciplined.  Life is unpredictable and chaotic and crazy and wonderful.  But Ultrarunning provides a measure of control, stability, and predictability.
  • I prefer things simple.  Shoes, check. Sunscreen, check.  Shirts and shorts, check.  Water and Gu, check.  Map, check.  That’s it.
  • I need dedicated time for peace of mind.  I believe that 99% of us try our best to do our best most of the time, but it isn’t easy.  We think about how we could have done this or that better.  We worry.  We wonder.  We question our decisions.  But when I run, I just run.  I don’t worry or wonder or question.  I just run.  We all have times that make us pause.  A best friend dies.  Your job changes.  Someone close to you moves.  But when I run for hours on end, I come up with solutions and clarity, or I don’t come up with anything at all.  I just run.  And when I am done, I am calm and happy and ready to try and be the best that I can be for another day.

So maybe that’s it; ultrarunning, with all it’s defining characteristics, propels me to try a little harder to do a little better in my non-running life.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Cynthia says:

    I think this is true for many ultrarunners, or runners in general. Endurance junkies are perhaps inherently introverted, sensitive and spiritual. We need our escape from the noisy, demanding and superficial world just to be alone with our thoughts or with trusted friends. People who don’t understand how we can run just for the enjoyment of it don’t have the same psychological and mental makeup, so they can’t understand.

    Good job at Cool by the way! It’s good to hear that you’re doing well. I’m hanging in there. Gonna try for ~12 miler tomorrow in Huddart Park on some soft trails (so much better than pavement for me right now).

  2. Really like how you are able to present your thoughts and reflection of yourself in writing. I would describe myself in much the same way. I just don’t think I could actually describe it quite as well as you did. Your post helped me reflect on why I enjoy being out on my own, running for hours at a time with only myself for company. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Paige T. says:

    Ultrarunning gives me better perspective. Nothing is ever really that difficult once you’ve run far beyond expectation, knocked down walls and discovered you don’t really have that many limitations.

    🙂

  4. Chris Barber says:

    I think you are right about what makes ultrarunners tick. I think ultrarunning teaches us that if you push yourself hard you can attain any goal. You may never necessarily be the best (win a race) but you can always set personal goals, work hard, and accomplish them. I think that’s what we have to remember in life and ultrarunning. I analyzed what makes Dean Karnazas a trail and long distance runner: http://www.seriousrunning.com/blog/trail-running/what-makes-dean-karnazas-a-trail-runner/

  5. runrunrunrun says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone! I almost didn’t post this. I thought, “this sounds silly.” Ha ha. Must be that private, introverted side of me. Glad I did post it and it was great to read your thoughts.

    -JW

  6. Dani Seiss says:

    JW,

    I am also glad you decided to post this. It hit so close to home. Perhaps it sounded silly to you because it is hard to put such profound feelings into words. But for me–and for others–you broke it down, and summed it up very well.
    Thank you!
    I’m a newbie to ultrarunning, but have quickly learned that it is for me, and how amazingly wonderful it is, and also how hard it is to convey this to non-runners and shorter distance runners. Nothing could feel more natural, more real, than a long run. To me, it is a deep meditation that heals the body, mind and spirit like nothing else.

    I was really struck by the stat you posted from UltraRunning Magazine–only 19,000 people ran ultras in the U.S. last year??
    That’s so amazingly low compared to the marathon which is growing in such popularity by leaps and bounds. Perhaps we will start to see spill-over into the Ultra community (bittersweet though it would be, I suppose–one of the things that I found I love about the sport so far is how non-commercial it is).
    Speaking of commercial, I also just ran Boston–congrats, by the way! See you next year!!! : )
    This was my second year for it. I thought I would only do it once–l like solo running in the woods, and even in the city, but not the big crowds, I thought, but it was such a great time. And something about Boston is addictive. It is such a celebration of running, and you feel a part of history.

    Next year, I hope to do the new Exeter in RI on Saturday and Boston on Monday–a small, no-crowd marathon to ease into Boston, and making it a double is a little closer to an ultra, I suppose. Do you run doubles when you do marathons?

    Since I am so new to ultrarunning, I hope you don’t mind, I am also seeking your advice as a coach and seasoned ultrarunner.
    Most of my 3-4 hour solo running is done on the flat, or semi-rolling hills. (I’m on the east coast–Washington, DC area.)
    I ran the JFK 50-miler last November–it has one low elevation climb (around 1600ft), and then is mostly flat. But to me, the “mountain” is what made it. It was just so amazing for me. I want to try another 50 with mountains, and there are a few not far from my area, but I don’t know quite how to best prepare as I haven’t many elevational climbs in my training area. I also don’t know best how to gauge pace on steep climbs. Do you go by heart rate?
    Do you have any suggestions for me?
    Hope you don’t mind my asking.

    Anyway, thanks again much for the gift of your words, and for reading mine.

    Warmest regards,
    Dani

  7. runrunrunrun says:

    Hi Dani

    Thank you for your lovely note! I am totally with you, hills are the greatest. I am going to email you directly with my thoughts. If you don’t get it, ping me back here.

    JW

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