Ultramarathon is an extreme physical sport. It takes some deep introspection, however, to conclude a reason why we choose to run these distances. Why challenge ourselves physically to exhaustion in pursuit of personal quests of endurance? We have everything we need in modern society, so why would we choose to run when we could drive a car or fly a plane?
I am reminded during any long run, why I run these distances. For me, it is the fulfillment of simple human needs. Our modern world is full of convenience. We no longer work to satisfy our most simplistic needs…such as air, water, food, or comfort. Running ultra-distances, however, reinstates great value to simple things such as the comfort of a chair, warmth, conversation, fresh water, or food.
In our modern society, cheap food is plentiful. We no longer plant the seeds or harvest our own food. We don’t hunt the animals that nourish our families. We take for granted the electric lights that illuminate our homes. We no longer migrate by foot with our belongings on our back to find fresh water. We are not required to construct the shelters that protect us from foul weather. No, our society has become one of complete convenience. Lucky us! Today, we are left with very little to do other than participate in the 1st world game of consumption. The goal? Well, the goal is to accumulate more than each other, correct? I’m afraid we may have forgotten that running water and fresh food is truly something to celebrate.
Sadly, the average American is overfed and malnourished. The thought of “working” for something is more diluted with every new generation. Into the void, an epidemic of entitled children stand in line for their hand-out. Disease and sadness fill the void of imbalance, but of course, we have prescription pills for those problems, right?
In a world where we are no longer required to lift a finger for ourselves, people inherently struggle with their true purpose. A great onslaught of addictions help mitigate lost people who truly have never “lived.” From alcohol to prescription medications, people disconnect their feelings chemically from the bountiful world around them. But happiness is right there for the taking…and I argue that happiness is found in the satisfaction of our most basic human needs. Through physical effort, the connection is made that happiness is a direct result of one’s effort to attain it.
Ultrarunning brings great joy to my life. I am resolved to believe that running great distances reduces me to a simple human… One that is more like that of our ancestors. At mile 25, I smile at the sight of fresh water. At mile 40, I sit in a chair and feel comfort beyond words. At mile 50, a conversation with my pacer reminds me I am not alone. At mile 100, I am fulfilled to breathe clean air and lie calm under the warmth of the sun. By running, we earn the right to stop running…and that is a wonderful thing.
Upon returning to “normal life” after an ultra, I am calm and satisfied. I continue to enjoy simple comforts and the opportunity to rest. Still, I am very removed from the common pursuits of modern society. If happiness could be quantified, I believe you would find immeasurable amounts inside my soul. In truth, happiness is found within. Through ultrarunning, we earn the right to be happy. Without exhaustion you cannot truly appreciate what it means to rest.
This is “why” I love ultrarunning. How about you?
Run long and prosper,