Last week I touched on role models and some of the dangers of ultra-running. This week I want to put the focus back on the positive, especially since I believe that there is a lot to be gained from ultra-running.
To go back to the subject of role models, last week I mentioned three in particular, Dean Karnazes, David Goggins, and Ray Zahab. One thing that I have noticed in reading articles from these three runners is an overwhelming respect for other runners. I’m sure that there have been cases of intense disagreements between ultra-runners, but I haven’t encountered them. My theory is that this may in part be due to the overwhelming difficulty in simply finishing a 100 mile race. As I said in my first posting, I actually came in last of all of the finishers in my first 100 miler, and I did not feel bad about that at all. Would I have liked to have been faster? Sure. But finishing at all is an accomplishment to be proud of. Having had that experience, I feel nothing but respect, and sometimes awe, for anyone else who finishes a 100 miler. No matter who you are or how well you’ve trained, you are going to go through hell to reach that finish line. This brings me to the subject from the title of this posting: Why?
Naturally, I can not answer this question for anyone but myself, but I suspect that some of my motives are shared among many of my fellow ultra-runners. As you can probably imagine, “Why?” is a question that I get asked pretty regularly when I tell people that I have, or am going to, run a 100 mile race. The answer that most often springs into my head is a quote from mountaineer George Mallory: “Because it’s there.” This is in part an acknowledgment that there is really no practical reason to run 100 miles. Also, I think that it reflects a certain approach to life, one that seeks out new challenges with which to test oneself. After all, how are you to know what you are capable of if you don’t push yourself as far as you can? I also consider myself a bit of an experience hound. I want to experience as many things as I can during my lifetime, however long that may be. This is both a motivation to push myself to my limits, and to attempt to avoid mangling myself too badly. Not every experience worth having is entirely pleasant. I’ve done the local polar bear dip twice now, and it hurt like hell both times, but there is something to be said for an intense experience that causes no lasting damage. In a nutshell, that is the basis of my attitude towards running 100 milers. Battling exhaustion, fatigue, and plain old pain while running through the woods in the middle of the night is not really fun by any reasonable standards, but it is an experience that you will never forget, and if you pay attention, you’ll learn something important about yourself. Also, how many times in an average life does someone get a chance to do something truly fantastic?
There are also external motivations for running 100 milers. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I proposed to my fiancee at the finish line of my first 100 miler. If I had not finished I would have found somewhere else to propose eventually, but I had been psyching myself up for it for months, and I really wanted to propose that day. That was a huge motivator for me. Some people have external motivators that are less self-centered than mine. In my last post I centered out David Goggins as an example of a role model who wasn’t always the best example to follow because of his lack of training and willingness to injure himself at the beginning of his ultra-running career. Now I want to center him out for being the amazingly positive role model that he is. Goggins is a Navy Seal who began ultra-running to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a group that pays the college tuition of the children of special-operations personnel killed in the line of duty. He continues to do incredible things to gain attention for his cause and to bring in donations. Many runners and ultra-runners do what they do in part to support a worthy cause. Inspired by them, I am attempting to set up fund raising for a cause that is close to my heart that would be tied to my 100 miler at the end of the month. I am unfortunately running out of time to get things set up and communication difficulties are slowing things down, but if I fail to get things set up for this race, you can bet that I will have everything organized well in advance of my next major challenge.
My tip this week is: find your inspiration.
I hope that this has given some insight into what motivates ultra-runners and I will be back next week with an update on my own training and some expanded musings on running gear.
Thank you for reading, and as always *polite* comments are always appreciated.