My least favorite part of ultrarunning is the running.
A lot of people ask me why I run so much. I think people associate running with pain, injury, and boredom. Yes, running involves those things, but it also involves so many great things. I’ll tell you about my favorite parts.
Adventure (noun) An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
Running in a new place is one of the most enjoyable experiences there is. Your own two feet and a water bottle is all you need to explore a new street, park, or forest. Running has made boring business trips exciting. It allows you to get away from the crowds at tourist attractions like national parks. But my favorite part is that it lets you go places in half a day that you can’t get to otherwise, like the continental divide: being on top of a mountain, alone, miles from your car, with only some snacks and water, produces a feeling of individuality and strength that can’t be matched.
Challenge (noun) A task or situation that tests someone’s abilities.
“I wonder if I can do that.” is a constant thought in my head. Usually the answer is “yes,” however, theres no way to know until I try.
When I first glimpsed what it took to complete 100 miles over a mountainous course, I was in awe of the grit, determination, athleticism, and power that the runners showed over the course of more than 24 hours of continuous movement. It spoke to me like nothing else has. I knew, standing on a windy mountain at 1am in southern Oregon, that I had to try this.
That feeling hasn’t gone away after completing my first ultramarathon, nor my first 100-miler, nor my second, nor my first Barkley-style, nor my first sub-12 50 miler. I don’t expect it’ll stop after my first sub-24 100-miler, nor my first 48+-hour event, nor my first 200+-miler. I will keep seeking to challenge myself by going longer, running faster, pushing my mind, body, and soul toward its fittest and best self.
Community (noun) A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
So many people run alone as a meditation or escape from life. While I enjoy doing that on a regular basis, my favorite part of running is sharing miles with friends and strangers. I love group runs where we chat about our lives and joke around. It feels great to drink a beer with your running partner after a long run, basking in the satisfaction of a long day spent outside. When you meet a fellow runner out on a random backcountry trail or deep into a long race, even though you are strangers, you have a connection to each other. The interaction could be a nod or grunt, or it could be hours of chatting; both are satisfying.
I can’t tell you how many of these small and large interactions have made a huge impact on my life. One woman at the 2018 Jemez Mountain Trail Runs, when I was ready to quit the 50-miler, told me, “if you quit this, you’ll quit your goal race,” challenging me to buck up and finish what I started. The Hallowed Hundred is a 30+ hour group run, and its one of the best events all year: just a group of friends running together through hardship and sacrifice together, as a team. This most recent Niwot’s had some great community memories, from finding others scouting the course out in the middle of the forest, sitting around the campsite the night before, and running the entire 27+ hours of the race with four others and learning about their lives.
Races are an especially important part of the running community. People from across the state, country, and globe come together to challenge themselves to an adventure, together as a community. Since races combine all my favorite aspects of running, its no wonder why I sign up for so many. I’m always looking forward to my next race, and I’m always signing up for something new that sounds exciting.