I've been reading a lot of articles lately about an outsider peering into ultrarunning and adventure races, and the comments are filled with people questioning why would someone want to devote so much time and effort to do something like run 100 miles. What is the point? It's selfish. It does no one any good. It's a waste of time. And better yet, most people are bad at their sport. They prioritize training over relationships and sometimes their jobs and families to get a PR that will still put them in the middle of the pack.
So, what's the point?
This has me thinking about why I sign up for races (other than peer pressure) and why I devote so much time and effort into running. Running isn't new to me. I started out running to lose weight when I was in Junior High School and like every other girl, I had body image issues. I soon fell in love with running around my neighborhood to collect my thoughts. I took up track for a season during High School and it turned running into something I hated. To this day, I still have issues with running in circles.
Two years later, I started college and discovered all (rather, some) the great ways to run through DC. One day, I went on a run to get away and when I got home figured out I had run 6 miles after not running for almost two years. That led to this crazy idea that I should cross "Run a marathon" off my life's to-do list.
That next fall, I ran the 2006 Baltimore Marathon. I knew nothing at all about the running community or how to train. I had one book on marathon training and I took it very slow. To motivate myself in 2009, I started this blog, joined twitter, and started learning so much more about how to train. In October 2009, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon for the second time, qualifying for Boston by over 18 minutes and getting a 55 minute marathon PR.
Through twitter and other blogs, I realized that my crazy energy after long runs and marathons was not normal. I'd get home and be energized and wanting to go back out. I starting looking into ways I could get away with double long runs and stumbled onto the ultrarunning trend. I knew the best way to jump into something new would be to sign up for something I couldn't do yet. So, I set my sights on the hardest 100-miler in the east—Grindstone. Not only local, but it started on my 23rd birthday. I finished the race, but more importantly it motivated me to dedicate myself to trail running and I met a ton of great people.
So, why do I run ultras?
Peace and mental health - There is something awesome about disappearing into the woods for several hours on weekends when you are in a cramped office from 9-6, M-F. Often, you're alone and you can meditate, think things through, and let the stress just fall away. Road running can't compare. Add the endorphins and it's way cheaper than therapy. When I stopped running for a few months, I fell into this weird depression that only running brought me back out from.
Friends - Ultrarunning quickly became a big part of my social life. Races have huge parties and we go away for a weekend to a race and have a blast. I've met some really great people and I even live with ultrarunners. If I backed away now, I'd be the odd one out. Peer pressure is a great thing and VHTRC could be considered a cult.
Fitness - There is the fitness aspect to it. I've discovered something I love doing, and keeps me in shape. The best way to stay healthy is to do something consistently. Ultrarunners don't follow rules on limiting long runs and taking breaks between races. We barely have an off season since there are races all year round in all sorts of weather. It's a great activity that keeps you committed to staying healthy. Also, I'm able to deal with body image issues better when I focus on what my body can do instead of what it looks like.
Basically, it's something that I really like doing, and I'm unhappy when I don't do it. I think that justifies a few thousand dollars a year, countless hours, and substantial effort.