So you wanna be a great ultrarunner, huh?
I know the secret.
I know what you’re thinking. I am… or was… a half-assed ultrarunner on the best of days. On the worst of days, I was just showing up for the food.
What would I know about becoming an elite?
Luckily, I’ve gotten to know a lot of runners, both good and, well, bad. And there’s a definite pattern that led me to discovering the secret.
So what is this secret?
Work your ass off.
You’re disappointed right now, aren’t you? You were hoping there really would be some magical shortcut; some way to attain the upper echelon of the running world without having to put in the countless hours of training, treating your body as a temple, following a strict diet, cutting out the weekend benders, sacrificing social and romantic relationships, and ignoring your children.
As it turns out running is no different than any other endeavor. To get really good, you have to pay your dues.
Unfortunately Americans love a good shortcut. Maybe the secret is to become vegan and eat nothing but the bounty from the ground. Or maybe eating nothing but fruit is the secret. How about a diet like our ancestors ate when they were rubbing elbows with Neanderthal?
What if the solution is the right training plan? Nothing but long, slow distances. Or Fartlek runs. Or hill repeats. Maybe the solution is the eliptical machine at Curves.
Wait, what about the crap we can buy? The right shoes should make us great runners, right? Or that new hydration pack with the angled bottles… you know, the one that gives the ladies great cleavage?
Of course none of it will make you an elite ultrarunner. All receive significant hype, but it’s nothing but window displays. We buy into the false promise. Yes, that dress will look as good on our fat ass as that size 0 mannequine.
Every good ultrarunner I know has either a) been running ultras for years AND train like a fiend, or b) were competitive runners at shorter distances (track and field or cross country)… in which case they’ve been running for years AND they train like a fiend.
The idea of the “overnight success” is a fallacy. There are no overnight successes. Those that accomplish great things put in the hard work that made them great. They just toiled away in obscurity before they entered our consciousness, ergo the appearance of instant greatness.
But what about those with talent? Aren’t there a few Michael Jordan’s or Tiger Woods’ out there that clearly have some biological gift?
Absolutely not. Maybe they have some biological gift that gives them a tiny leg up on the competition, but it doesn’t explain their dominance. They achieved great things because they spent years busting their asses.
If we want to become great at something and we can’t seem to get there, there’s a better than average chance we’re just not willing to do what it takes to become truly great. There are no shortcuts. There’s no magical formula that brings immediate success. It takes hard work and dedication. It takes sacrifice.
If you really want to be a great runner, you probably shouldn’t be reading blogs in your free time.