You are all trail runners, at least at heart; otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article. But are you an ultra runner? Have you gone the distance, that one step beyond 26.2 miles? Or does being an ultra runner mean something different than just running a 50k or more? In the lonely hours I’ve spent out on the trails I’ve given this considerable thought, about what defines us as runners; not in the sense of placing a label on our shirt-sleeve or in the title description of our Twitter account, but how we define ourselves through the commitment and effort we put into running. I truly believe that if you can relate to any of the following, you qualify as an ‘ultra-runner’, who cares about how far you’ve run.
- The Early Bird – Any committed runner is capable of getting out of bed and throwing on a pair of mismatched socks to go running the roads in their neighborhood, but it takes a true ultra-runner to get up at 4am, drive to a trailhead in freezing temps or a downpour, and put in muddy/snowy miles just so they can bag a peak or suffer in preparation for their next race.
- The Inability to Quit – Ultra runners must endure more injuries than any other type of runner because we simply don’t know when to stop, back off, or even rest. We’re driven by a hunger for more miles and more dirt than can possibly be healthy. Then, even when we are wrecked from our last long run or race we are already scheming about when we can get out on the trails again, even if our body isn’t ready.
- The Cookie Monster – Trust me, if you can eat a PB&J mid stride, all the while clutching a handheld water bottle and having a conversation about last Monday Nights ‘game’, then you have the heart (and stomach) of a true ultra-runner. We have to eat food when we run. Real food. It’s that unique quality that helps define what we really are.
- Hurry Up and Wait – Maybe this one is just me, but I often run with friends and at some point along the run we get separated. Even though we may have started together, at some point we find ourselves alone, lost in our own thoughts, only to stop periodically and wait for the group to gather up again. Then run and chat and get separated all over again.
- Drive the Distance – I love this one. Trust me; ultra runners probably drive farther to get to wherever they want to run than the actual distance of the run itself. We do this because we value the location above everything else. We’ll drive 120 miles, one way, to run 35, and then come home. The same day.
The list could go on. I’m sure we’ve all read those Facebook statuses that say “You’re an ultra-runner if…” and then the comments go on for ages with silly anecdotes and quips about the little quirks that make us unique in the world of running. If you can relate to any of the five listed above I’m pretty sure you have the heart of a true ultra-runner and it is only a matter of time before you go the distance. By all means, feel free to share your “Ultra Runner” quirks in the Comments section on this post. I’m sure we’d all enjoy it.