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Ultramarathons for Lazy Runners: Chapter One- Why Run Ultras?

Posted by on Feb 24, 2010 | 7 Comments
When people ask this seemingly simple question, I’m often left without a response. There are the typical canned responses like, “I like the challenge”, “I enjoy trail running/nature/pooping in the woods” or the ever-popular “Oprah ruined the marathon.”
My reasons are a little more personal. We all have that little voice in our head that tells us to stop. It is the self-doubt or regulator that is ready to throw in the towel. Some would call it a self-preservation instinct. As a dedicated lazy ass, that voice wins out a lot. Do I get off the couch to put my beer bottle in the garage, or do I just leave it on the table? Ninety-nine percent of the time, I leave it on the table. When running, that voice is constantly reminding me how I could be doing something more relaxing.
Don’t get me wrong- I love running. But the longer I run, the louder that voice becomes. I enjoy the inner turmoil of mustering the will to overcome that voice. I don’t always have to silence it; the occasional ultra will do.
I also run ultras for the social scene. In every ultra I’ve participated in, the race directors, volunteers, fans, and other runners have been absolutely awesome! There is a sense of camaraderie that simply doesn’t exist in other races. Maybe it’s the mutual suffering. Maybe it has something to do with nature. Maybe we’ve all suffered a self-induced lobotomy from long runs. At any rate, the ultra crowd is filled with genuinely nice people that are willing to help each other reach the finish line.
Finally, I like doing stuff that most people believe is impossible. Running extremely long distances is one of those things. I like that only about 1-3% of all runners even attempt ultras. Of course, I’m a pretty crappy ultrarunner as I often finish in the back of the pack. I don’t mind, though, the front-runners motivate me to continue to improve.
The decision to run ultras is ultimately a very personal decision. It is up to you to find your motivator. Having said that, each and every person reading this should have the capacity to run ultras. It’s not as difficult as it may seem. If my unathletic, slow self can finish them, you surely have the ability. My goal with this blog series is to help you along that journey.
Okay, so you’re seriously considering the idea. My advice at this point- COMMIT! Go to one of the many ultra calendar sites on the ‘web (as a shameless plug, I recommend Pick a race in your area. Depending on your experience level, it may be best to start with a 50k. If you’re a complete running rookie, allow a good six months to train. If you are a veteran marathoner, you could probably do one next weekend. Print out the registration form or register online. Ninety percent of tackling ultras is mental, and a good first step is initiating the process. The rest will take care of itself.
If anyone does sign up for an ultra, share your news in the “comments” section!
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  1. Chris
    August 5, 2010

    I am running the Farmdale 30 in East Peoria, IL on Oct 9th. The event offers a 50 miler as well, but I figured since my longest race to date is a half marathon I should start easy. I am really looking forward to the event.
    I got caught up in the idea of an ultra while attending the CRUD 8 in Jubilee State park, IL. It was a 8hr endurance trail run. Even though I did not run I had a blast. The camaraderie is indescribable. After hanging with all the great people there I just did not want to leave. Now I get to join them!

  2. Sheri Graziano
    April 23, 2010

    I just signed up for my first Ultra – The Summer Beast Of Burden 100 ( I watched my friends run the Winter Beast of Burden and it was too awesome not to try it myself. It is run along the historic Erie Canal. Charlie Engles ran the Winter Beast, hopefully he will be there for the Summer Version also – what a great guy, the epitome of the running spirit!

  3. seangavor
    April 1, 2010

    What a profound way to describe it, Shel. That was amazing and heart-wrenching and even made me a little emotional 😉

  4. Jabadoo
    March 20, 2010

    That was beautiful, Shel. I 100% agree. For the past month since I ran my first ultra Iron Horse 50 mile), I look at myself in the mirror differently. I never knew that guy existed.

  5. shel
    February 24, 2010

    why run ultras? the food. no really – you can eat candy bars while your running and nobody looks at you funny.
    the real reason – honesty. something happens after running in harsh conditions or on a tough trail or after a certain number of miles or hours… there is no pride left in you, no desire to please or look cool or be the best. the suffering strips all that away and all you are left with is this very vulnerable human being who deep inside of them has a little bitty super hero. it's not a great big giant hero.. just a little guy. and each time you catch a glimpse of him you get this fear that this time he won't triumph- the world is too big. he is so so small.
    but you finish. with your honest tears, shouts, dirt stains, sweaty shirt, cut up knee, fear and all. and you can finally say after all that – THIS is who i am. the person no one else ever sees, with your heart and your mind and your guts and your body exposed to all. all you have is you. and you crossed the finish line. and you are a winner. and it's enough.

  6. Barefoot Johnny O
    February 24, 2010

    A week ago I committed myself to the Oil Creek 50k FA run Feb 27 in Titusville, PA. It should prove to be quiet a challenge since the park is covered in a foot of snow – at least. If the trail is ice packed or if I'm trailblazing in deep snow, 31 miles will be impossible in my vff sports – I can't find any traction. But, I'm committed. I plan on being back of the pack in my first ultra. I'm nervous! The race starts at 7am – I'll bring my flashlight :o)

  7. Barefoot AngieB
    February 24, 2010

    I have not signed up yet but plan to run the Psycho Summer Run Toto Run 50k in July.
    I will shell out the cash for it closer to the date and it is also free entry if run barefoot….considering it but dubious.