Why the heck do we run ultra marathons, isn’t a marathon enough? Or is it, cause running is addictive? Is it a sport addiction in the end? Or what are we actually running away from? Or maybe we just have to run longer and longer?
Everyone that actually runs ultras might know these and many other questions… and everyone else, including maybe us runners, might wonder nevertheless that why question. It is not that I don’t ask myself that question (sometimes). And I found many answers to it popping up in my head. So I wondered what other ultra-runners think about it. On a online community commentary section 100 Ultramarathon runners had a go:
“Why do you run Ultramarathons?”
100 runners gave their answer in any form and format. Overall some could be categorised as rather competitive runners that realised that they would never be able to compete successfully in shorter races (anything shorter than an ultra). Or they came from a different sport (e.g. cycling) and applied their same competitive mindset on a different sport. Especially the cyclist were used to spending hours training and competing and now ‘simply’ did so in running.
In a similar manner the structure ultra marathon training requires, seems to be seen as positive. Pursuing e.g. a 100km run without training is basically impossible and there is no guarantee that one will make it in an actual race. It will always stay an enormous challenge and as one runner pointed out “We never truly know what we are capable of, until we push”. In a way this adds value to running ultra marathons. You really put a lot of hours, effort and dedication into it (and that for many weeks, couple of months really), all focused on that one day of running your ultra. This ‘one-pointedness’ or structure can give great satisfaction and meaning- not just to your running, but actually to life.
When reading through the hundred comments, there were so many points I can relate to. Of course, the absolute love for running. The incredible feeling it gives, when you know that you can put your trainers on and run for one, two or maybe seven hours. The feeling of ‘mind over matter’ and how a sport suddenly becomes more of a mental challenge. Both in training and in races one can discover trails, nature and parts of a country slowly and by foot. It’s a beautiful experience to reach areas, one would otherwise never get to (e.g. 100km through forest and fields on little trails). Personally I really like to do long runs in areas I would love to discover.
One quote sums it up quite well: “I get “to go places in my head” that I otherwise can’t reach + ultras is kind of a epitome representing life in so many ways, the highs and the lows…” I like this quote, as it sums up for me an experience I had in the 100km ‘London to Brighton’ in 2015. Imagine it’s about 3h into a 100km race. Suddenly your hips give you a pretty painful feedback, every time you run downhill. And well, London to Brighton is hilly, lots of ups and many downhills. First I got completely nervous. How should I ever be able to complete another 10h and more of running, if I was already in such place after only 3h? I spare you all details of what was going on in my head. What I want to point out is that ultra running for me resembles the life experience of change. The constant change we experience in life is for me replicated in almost a condensed version through one ultra. Just cause something negative happens does not mean it will stay forever. Things come and go. Let go, breathe, be in the moment and enjoy it if you can. No matter how bad it is, it will also disappear again. Or surely will the situation change. In an ultra, and during very long training runs, I experience very aware the positive side of change and I am very thankful for it (as often in life, change can be such unsettling challenge).
And why do I run Ultras? Because I can. And I wish to do so whilst I can.