Running Ruins Everything
Every addiction starts out small – a little here, a little there. Maybe no one is watching and you keep it to yourself, otherwise your friends may be goading you into participation through peer pressure or facebook-status-shaming you into conformity. Whatever your entry drug of choice is; a simple 5k fun run, Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, or even a half or (gasp!) a full marathon, make no mistake about it – running is more addictive than heroin* and within no time you'll be hooked and running longer and longer distances just to get your “fix.” Your weekends will no longer resemble “time off” from work, as you'll be spending all day on Sunday running long after countless hours on smile.amazon.com buying new gear, and online researching and adding new races to your schedule, booking flights, and mortgaging your kids future. Running longer and longer distances will consume your life, destroy your relationships, and eat your soul.
…make no mistake about it – running is more addictive than heroin* and within no time you'll be hooked and running longer and longer distances just to get your “fix.”
* think I'm lying? Here it is straight from Artie Lange
Running is the Bestest Thing. Evar.
Lean, powerful legs, sun-drenched abs, running in shorty-shorts and a sports bra. Bright, new, cute Asics shoes that match oh-so-well with a new pair of injinji socks and the sweat-wicking visor you had to have once you saw it on that gal you met in the starting corral of that marathon you did in Maui. Your GPS watch blerps with an update, your heart rate seems to have jumped at the mere though of how wonderful it feels to be alive, effortlessly striding to the beat of Pink singing an anthem to an audience of one through your bluetooth headphones, paired to your fitness-tracking app on your smartphone diligently strapped to your arm to provide constant metrics of your fitness pursuit that your state-of-the-art GPS watch fails to register, gleefully thinking of syncing all that data on Strava and sharing with your friends while the warm embrace of runner's high washes over you like unicorn kisses and butterfly poop… and then it's gone. “%&^* this damn arm band keeps sliding down, these damn shorts were so cute on the mannequin but are giving me a nasty wedgie, and now I can't remember if I took any endurolytes or not… then the sweet caress of sugary goo hits your spinal cortex and you're deeply, madly in love with your run, your life, all the training, the lids, the job… “why'd you have to think about your damn job? WTH, you just ruined the moment.”
You laugh out loud, cry, hug strangers and high-five little kids along the race route, or throw mind-numbing hissy fits over an untied shoelace. You're a snot-rocketing, behind-a-bush peeing, 4am alarm-setting running machine. It's true, you're ^&* crazy. Get used to it.
It may sound completely loco, but anyone who's been on the endurance rollercoaster has had the above experience. You laugh out loud, cry, hug strangers and high-five little kids along the race route, or throw mind-numbing hissy fits over an untied shoelace. You're a snot-rocketing, behind-a-bush peeing, 4am alarm-setting running machine. It's true, you're ^&* crazy. Like I've already said…get used to it.
It Only Gets Better (or Worse)
Everyone actually hates running, but you can't look past the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. So, running's awesome and you should all do it. OK, bye, conversation over.
When you (probably) love running, occasionally you will %^#* hate it with a%^#* passion. The training, gear, packing, traveling, thinking about it constantly and posting your schedule to social media so all your friends can comment how awesome you are and live a full live and marry the woman of your dreams and get a nice new car… where was I? That's what running can be like too; all-encompassing and life changing. It's a tough addiction to keep in-check.
Luckily for most of us, we live in the middle somewhere (or at least I hope we do) where running is a lot of what we do, but not necessarily everything we do… at least not yet.
When you cross over and become an ultra runner, it kinda gets dicey though. Most likely you're at a point in your addiction where you either need an intervention or more supportive family members to buy you gift cards to REI for every holiday.
Why Ultramarathons Totally Suck
Unless you live in the southwest United States, there are just no good options for running ultramarathons anywhere else in the world, so let's just keep it that way and drive up home values in northern Phoenix, cool? Actually, there are plenty of ultramarathons all over the globe – and that's a really huge part of the reason why ultramarathons totally suck; the travel to amazing places… to go run ridiculous distances.
Sure, go ahead and plan a trip to Costa Rica, one of the top 10 most amazing places on the planet to run 100k, climb a few %^&*$# volcanoes, and scale a tree or 10 carrying a chicken – voila! You've got Fuego y Agua Survival Run! Some folks like to go to Mexico for endless margaritas and Día de los Muertos tattoos, but some fools like to head to Urique and run 50 miles with the Raramuri people in the Caballo Blanco Ultramarathon. Visiting Northern Arizona? Make sure you see the incredible sights of Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Bryce National Park… better yet, why don't you run 50 to 100 miles in 'em? (As a side note, remember the spot where Forest Gump stopped running? Well, that's in Monument Valley boys and girls. Fictitious history lesson over.) Instead of visiting select parts of the Unites States, why don't you run across the whole damn thing from coast-to-coast like the aforementioned Mr. Gump? As I'm writing this, Adam Kimble is attempting to break the 35 year-old Guinness World Record for a transcon (trans-continental run).
If you think all this is fun & games and no rational person does any (or all) of it, take a look at the photo above of this dude Patrick Sweeney. He looks pretty chill, seems like a normal guy, right? Well, he's done everything I've mentioned in the above paragraph – and much more.
Ultramarathons will suck you in, and suddenly you've got this wildly exciting life of travel, adventure, excitement, lean legs, and a killer tan.
Friends Don't Let Friends Run Long Distances (…alone)
Sometimes you need to put your foot down with a friend. Then, follow that foot with another foot, then another foot, and pretty soon you're step-for-step, right there beside them, soaking in the scenery, enjoying the exotic travel, and imbibing copious amounts of post-race margaritas, wearing leg gaiters and colorful neck buffs to boot.
All kidding aside, ultramarathons are a completely different animal than any other type of event, the long distances require an entirely different set of skills as OCR superphenom Amelia Boone has already realized, in order to overcome what we may perceive as our natural physical limitations, develop the mental strength to stick to a plan, navigate the aid stations (trust me, they are more like a food oasis than a water stand), meet cutoffs, etc. They are not the type of events you'll normally jump into alone or under-prepared. Unless you're like me or absolutely everyone I know who's jumped into these things utterly mal-equipped to handle the rigors of 12-24 (or more!) hours of locomotion. It's tough, challenging, mind-bending fun that surely isn't for everyone, but a hell of an interesting experience that more and more people are getting into. Outside online runs at least one article a week about crazy ultras, and even more posts are popping up in OCR groups, especially World's Toughest Mudder – those already addicted to getting their ass whipped for 24 hours straight can look lovingly at a run up the side of an active volcano, right?
Ultras Are Here to Stay
There's no denying it, right now athletes are looking to shake up the same ‘ol racing. You can only run so many 3-8 mile OCR's per year, and after a while a marathon can start to feel like a boring waste of 26.2 miles on the road. Once you jump into the trails, ultras are not too far behind as there are fewer and fewer short trail runs popping up each season. Long is the way, baby!
This new series on ultramarathons will feature bits and pieces from inside the world of ultras, from race recaps to tips and tricks, we'll cover all we can and as we keep doing more ourselves, you can surely learn from our mistakes. Speaking of mistakes, later this week I'll post Part II of this series on last weekend's Antelope Canyon Ultra on the AZ/UT border. It was so epic, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around what we saw and how we screwed up our plan so badly… stay tuned!