I haven’t been a runner all my life – only a little more than four years to be precise – but in that time I have come to a certain set of conclusions about this amazing sport we participate in. I’ve known these for some time, as do many of you, but I’ve come to realize that I’ve repressed them, not wanting to admit the reality of these truths. Ascertain for yourself after careful mediation whether you agree with me or not, but I ask you to be honest with yourself before you jump to conclusions.
- You can’t eat whatever you want just because you run super far. I’ve used the excuse of “I run ultras so I can eat whatever I want” and had it used on me more times than I can count. In fact, I’ve heard it so many times that I’ve even bought into it. And yes, while my extremely high level of activity does allow for a few indulgences, this statement is generally an outright lie. The truth is, while running certainly helps your overall health and those benefits will reduce the risks of certain health-related illnesses, it will never outweigh a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle. If you fill your stomach with fast food cheeseburgers and milkshakes, while it may not go to your hips, a considerable amount will still find its way into your heart and arteries. If you want to perform at your best, try and eat at your best. Or in my case, at least a little better.
- Ultrarunning is inherently selfish. I can say for certainty that my accomplishments in ultrarunning have inspired more than a few people to change their life and start living a healthier lifestyle. I have participated in charitable events and given money to others. All of that aside though, I’ve come to realize that what I do is actually quite selfish. It takes considerable amounts of money, dedication, and time – all of which take away from our families, our jobs, and social responsibilities. While we may inspire many and raise money for those less fortunate, the actual act of ultrarunning is a selfish ambition and likely someone besides ourselves is seeing the negative impacts of that.
- It’s cool, but is it really that cool? When people find out how far I run they regularly respond with the same three comments – “I don’t like to drive that far”, “You’re going to ruin your knees” and “All in the same day? That’s just stupid”. I’ve convinced myself that they are just jealous and are projecting their personal frustrations and disappointment with their own lives onto me because the coolest thing they do on a regular basis is record 4 different shows at the same time on their DVR. But the reality is this…YES, it is that cool. It’s really f&$@ing cool and every time I hit the trails I’m happier for making the decision to be out there. Each time I’m 80 miles into a 100 and suffering beyond belief I remind myself just how cool it is that I can do that; be healthy enough to move under my own power that far, and that less than .01% of the people on the planet can do what I’m doing.
So don’t ever forget just how cool it is that you can run ultra distances, inspire others, and eat whatever you want. Wait. What?
Thanks for putting these ideas into words Craig. The juxtaposition of points 1 and 2 are tough for me. I seem too often to run with the burden of guilt. Even though I run 80-90% of my miles before my kids wake up and (because we homeschool) I get to spend the rest of the day with them, I still struggle with the time and focus I give to running. When I’m at mile 80, suffering beyond belief, I want to remind myself just how cool it all is instead of “Why did I leave my kids to do this!” Learning to have and feel balance in all things is the trick! I LOVE running, especially running far! I LOVE my family beyond comparison!
Awesome Carol, I home-school as well. I’ve only raced 2 50ks. I pick Spring races so I can train over the winter when activities are minimal. But I, too, run very early 5:00 am for long runs so I can spend the rest of the day with the family. Are you on FB? You can find me https://www.facebook.com/pfafmansmith?ref=tn_tnmn
Beer is still OK…right?
I mean…how else can I get my legs to go to sleep after 7-hours of running?
Good stuff man!
I think the selfish thing is hard for people with a conscious and a balance of life’s priorities. But I’m often reminded of what happens to people both physically and mentally when they don’t take time to enjoy a hobby or stay healthy. There’s obviously a balance, but I think personal ambition is okay and so is having your own hobby. Golfers don’t lament all the time it takes to play a round (or maybe they do, I don’t know any) and the course doesn’t open at 5am so you can golf when the kids are in bed. I’ve met too many individuals who didn’t care about themselves and then had breakdowns and cracked because they gave to everyone but themselves and eventually it was too much. I’m not saying be selfish, but understand the important balance required in life. Selfish isn’t as selifsh as it seems (ha ha).
Jonathan and Carol, thank you for your comments. I agree with both of you. I do most of my running in the early morning and, gratefully, during work hours (I have a flexible schedule and an understanding boss). Yet, my dedication to my family always makes me feel a little guilty when I take off for three days to go run a 100 mile race somewhere. But even my wife will admit that I’m grumpy and short-tempered with the kids when I don’t run, so I assume the trade-off is fair.
Missing Nail, beer is just fine . . . . in moderation (an equation of 1 beer to every 10 miles good enough?). Ha. I don’t have a clue.
#1. Yep, the balance between calories in and calories out is false. “Why we get fat” was a huge eyeopeneer.
#2. How can a sport that breeds community support from like minded runners and nonrunners be a selfish sport?
#3. I’m not necessarily invincible because I run ultras, but pretty darn close. 😉
Thanks for putting your thoughts and revelations into words. 🙂
I can totally relate to number 1. I’ve slipped on that banana peel more than a couple of times. Nothing like just undoing all that hard work after a twenty miler all in the name of ” my recovery program”. Good stuff thanks for the food for thought
[…] Five common myths about running…and three unpopular truths about ultrarunning. […]
#1, it is true…having done some races in Europe and Central America, the aid stations are the best!
Last year in in Europe the aid stations had all sort of jams, Hams, cheese, soups and fruit and fruit tee (it was cold!) and not to leave out Central America (Guatemala); Corn tortillas, Atol de Elote, Tamalitos and great fruits.Oh we love the aid stations…
#2, All so true, I know that some of us try to involve our families as much as we can in our races or training, but it is difficult at times not to think “i have been out for hours today, i wonder what the family is doing?”
#3, Running is cool!
Thank you everyone for your comments and insight. It sounds like we all face a lot of similar challenges. What’s great is that, central to all those things, is our desire to run and be on trails. We are all awesome.