Ultra tales

Sometimes I wonder what drives ultra runners both elite and mortal.  Even as a runner, I struggle to answer that question.

“Its not..normal, ” my sister told me once.  She had a point.

The first time I heard of an ultra marathon was through my marathon clinic instructor and mentor Dave who regaled us with his tales of Western States 100 miler. I was in awe but 100 miles seemed so far outside the realm of my possibility.  I filed it away in my memory banks and left it at that.

Two years later I was volunteering for a 50 mile ultra marathon in Squamish. I thought those running that far was insane. You wouldn’t catch me doing that.

The next year l signed up for a trail half marathon. At the finish line, a friend and I watched with envy as the 50km runners stumbled and ran across the finish line, their faces etched with the miles they had run. A mini lifetime lived in a day. Next year, we decided, we would run a 50km. And so we did. And in order to prepare for that 50km, we decided to sign up for a 50km in advance of  our goal race.  Those 2 50kms might have been it.

 

 

Except that it wasn’t.  Despite not being able to walk properly for a week after my first ultra  (due to a whole bunch of rookie mistakes),  I was hooked.  Never mind road running.  The mountains were my love.  I discovered that I might not be the fastest or slowest, but I could go forever, under my steam power. That and a cast iron stomach (being able to eat during an ultra is critical)= a good fit.

So the first ultra, which was a bucket list goal, led to a love affair of sorts.  I joined a new road running group and discovered that a group went out on Sundays for trail runs. They took me under their wing – and I discovered the wonders of back country. I met some incredible people and made new friends. Deep bonds are formed when you spend hours on the trails, suffering together and pushing each other towards common goals.

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Climbing mountains with my favourite:).

And indeed crazy breeds crazy.  That is part of it.  As I became immersed in the ultra running community,  running 50km, 50 miles and 100km + was accepted and encouraged.   There is a redefinition of what is normal.  As I write this, I think of friends who have raced distances of 100 + miles, and instead of telling them they are crazy, I am in awe.  And that distance is on my bucket list – I am building towards it.  I threw my name into the hat for Western States this past year.  Not surprisingly I didn’t get in (the chances of getting into a race like Western States as a non – elite is about as good as winning the lottery) but at least I tried.

At the end of the day, if I were try to answer the question of what drives me as an ultra runner, other than the fact that I just love to run, it is about chasing my own potential.  I want to find my own limits and push the boundaries of those perceived limits.  For me, it is about about daring to try, and daring to set a goal big enough that it scares me, and big enough that failure is a possibility.  And knowing that it is ok to fail.  Just get up and try again.  The biggest lessons in running and in life come through failure.

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The race I wanted to quit ..but didn’t.  I almost did though.

I have a t- shirt from a trail race I ran this year.  Emblazoned on the front of the t- shirt are the words: “Be Fearless.” The back of the t- shirt reads: “Redefine your impossible.”   That about sums it up for me.  The relentless pursuit of more.

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