Monday, January 29, 2007

Why I run ultras

I read a blog entry called Confessions of a Running Addict. (Thanks, Bob.) An excerpt asks: "Why do I run? More’s the question, what if I didn’t?"

That's always a great question. For me, it's almost always about meditation and relaxation and getting in touch with my "real" life. A research buddy of mine recently asked me a similar question about why I run ultras. He wanted some quotes for a presentation he was giving at the Mid-Atlantic ACSM conference. I decided to go with a little slant in my answer because it's sometimes easier for me to answer the question: Why not run ultras? Here's the actual slide from the presentation. The photo is of my friend Dave at mile 120 of the 2006 Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon. He arrived at the time station beaten down from the desert and her unforgiving ways and moments later, he pulled from the strength of many around him there, he grabbed his own bootstraps, peeled himself out of the chair, and said to his crew: "Let's go up the mountain. I want you all to cross the finish line with me together!" And he took off... and he climbed the last 13 miles (which rises up nearly a vertical mile!) to the Mount Whitney portal and finish line in 3 hours and 40 minutes.

Now, look at Dave's finish line photos. The answer to the question of why is there.


Olga said...

Lisa, I love this:) I am always at a loss why I run ultras, and the biggest explanation problem I run into is within my own family. Thier response is to all - selfish. Is it? Absolutely yes. While I come up with reasons, nobody asks: why not? Why can't I be selfish once a month? Is it too much to ask? And interestingly, none of other ultrarunners consider their peers selfish out there on the run. Different perspective? So WHY do I run ultras? I have no answer. No simple one anyway. And I am not sure I am looking for it.
But one important thing to mention - because otherwise I wouldn't have met you and so many others. That alone is worth every minute of training. Because every minute of doing a race is pricless in its own right:)

Bob - said...

WOW Great POST Lisa, I really LOVE your reason Why NOT? that is an awesome response... I am such a newbie at all of this BUT what I have read and the feelin I get when I do read these race reports of what people experience during their Ultras is what moves me... NOW the big UN-Answered Question is HOW will I respond....ahhh that's gonna be very interesting....the UNKNOWN, I love IT!

Geesh U got me fired up, stop that!! I am nursing me Knee still, I had a good run today and I think I am on my recovery some cold ass peas on it now--lol


PS: check out my FED EX video on my blog....its toooo funny, well I thought it was-haha

Lisa B said...


I couldn't agree more that one of the reasons for DOING ultras is because of the people. There is something that sets all these ordinary people apart from others, or rather it's something that draws these diverse people together.

Maybe it's the self-imposed challenges, maybe it's the adventure-seeking personalities, or maybe it's knowing that others are struggling with you to reach the same goal. I don't know.

I just know the people are priceless, just as you say. And even when I wasn't running ultras last year, I was yet flooded with the support of my ultra friends. No fair-weather friends here, no! Through the valleys and over the peaks, we can always "see" a little of ourselves in one another.

Lisa B said...


I had the same curiousity and desire as you when I got started running ultras. I was, however, completely clueless in my knowledge and training of ultras for the first few races. The learning curve was at first very steep, and I am, of course, still learning.

The physical training is only half the battle. The other half is all in your mind. Call it will power or (as Tim Noakes names it) "The Central Governor," but whatever it is, it is THAT that gets you to the FINISH LINE of an ultra.

Some of us just can't get enough of tapping into THAT part of our souls. To experience THAT, I suppose, is yet another reason why we DO RUN ultras.

Like Olga says, it is a selfish sport. I completely agree. But I also agree with Rich Benyo's quote from his book "The Death Valley 300": From Richard Benyo in 'The Death Valley 300':

“We had done this thing we had set out to do, and instead of becoming larger because of the experience, we became smaller, more humble – more aware of how little we know: about the world in general, about ourselves specifically.”

Oh, how true that is!

Keep up the training AND the ACTIVE REST for your knee. You're in this for the LONG run!

PS - The FEDex video is hilarious. :)

Olga said...

Lisa, help! I have pain I described in my recent post. It hurts more than I would like to admit to:(

Bob - said...

Lisa SORRY but you have BEEN Tagged, see my blog for details...Not that bad after you read mine and some of the others :-)