Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a friend and director of the Natural Running Center (among his 100 other titles), produced an excellent video that describes and explains how and why natural running should be developed. I would HIGHLY recommend any new or experienced barefoot or minimalist shoe runners check it out:
When people find out you run ultras, they ask two questions:
1. Why do you run that far? and
2. What do you think about all that time?
I’ve always struggled with both because the exact answers are difficult to nail down. I usually give a basic answer to placate the inquirer… something along the lines of “It’s a challenge.” or “I enjoy the solitude.”
Tony Krupicka wrote about the second question in his latest blog post over at Running Times.
The answer, for me, is paradoxical. I think of nothing and everything. Usually at the same time. Which is just another way of saying that I’m not really thinking. Rather, I’m listening. To myself, in an as unintentional manner as possible.
This inherently self-centered act of listening–letting anything and everything and nothing bop in and out of my mind without intent–is, after 17 years of running, usually the first thing I miss when I can’t run. Running is that space each day for me to just be, with as few unnatural distractions as possible.
As Wallace points out, listening to oneself with full attention is something that, as a species, in modern society, it seems we’ve become almost phobically averse to. I’m not willing to place a value-judgement on that–I’m not convinced that there’s anything inherently good or better about being comfortably alone–but I do know, that for me, it’s an important and unique part of my daily routine. And it does seem to be something, that, as a culture, we’re rapidly moving away from.
This may be the single best answer I’ve found as it perfectly describes my experiences. The experience is so hard to quantify because the very act of listening can take so many forms. Sometimes I’m assessing my physical state. Other times I’ve reveling in the beauty of my surroundings. I occasionally relive past events or try to work out problems. Most of the time is spent in apparent thoughtlessness as I become one with the trail… simply being.
For those of you that run ultras, what are your thoughts? What do you think of when running your races?