Ultramarathons – Understanding Why

As I sit here… at 4 am…staring at the calm, quiet, not-yet-sunlit festival area…I find myself marveling at this whole thing.

Ultramarathon.

Like…this is really a thing…and I’m freaking DOING it today…

Whoa.

It has occurred to me at several points throughout this journey that many people don’t really get it. Like…ok, you want a big achievement, you work hard and go do a marathon…good for you, that’s a big deal. Now shut up about it and go to work on Monday.

But longer? …why?

It’s only now, sitting here, hours from the start, that I truly understand why I’m here.

There’s something deeper here.

It’s been an interesting ride these last 7 months. Up until now, the way its always gone is I register for a new distance, I kinda pee my pants a little bit with a mixture of terror and excitement, then I train, show up on race day, have that surreal moment in the first mile of “oh my god I’m really doing this” and then I finish, hurrah.

Not to get all hippie-dippie, but ever since pulling the trigger in (I think) November I think I knew this time was going to be different. I registered for the 50K and after the first 15 minutes of “oh God”…I started to plan. Really plan. At that point I realized if I could do 50K I could do 50 Mile, so I upgraded. And somewhere in that process I discovered the “ultrarunning community”.

Finding my way into the “Ultra community”… and learning what it is…its been a trip. It’s a very different world from that of traditional running. The people seem to be…so much more laid back. So relaxed. They’re not all about the glitz, glamour, flashy finisher medals, and the general to-do that typically comes with road races. The people also seem to be pretty…chill…about the fact they’re running 30 – 100 miles or more.

I guess that makes sense when you consider…

You can pretty much run forever if you slow down.

And these people get that. It’s not about speed. It’s not about being the best, it’s not about the split seconds you beat that guy by. It’s hardly about competition at all. It seems to me that this is about willpower, determination, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Maybe I’m being naive here. Maybe I’m still too much the uninitiated newbie. But that’s how this seems to me. Especially today.

Why?

Because I know my training was good. I know my fitness level is there. I know, physically, I can do this. At this point, it’s all mental. I’m going to hit points where I question why I’m doing this. I’m going to want to stop. Quit. Sit down. I’m going to look at my Garmin and say “sweet Jesus I have 30 miles left”. And I’m going to have to dig deep and find it within myself to continue. To persevere. To fight back the demons clawing at my heels and whispering in my ear demanding I stop and give in to the fatigue and the enormity of what I’ve set out to do.

That is why I’m here.

I’ve come to conquer something. Not a distance. Not a trail. Not a mountain. Something within myself. Something we all have deep within ourselves. That voice that says “no, you can’t”. Damnit, Yes I Can. And I WILL.

And if I can do THIS…I can do anything.