Running long is becoming more popular. People are discovering there are races past the marathon distance, called an ultra marathon, or the more cooler term, "ultras."
Why on earth would someone want to run for five, seven, twenty-seven hours in one race? Are these people just pain lovers? Well, not usually, but sometimes there is usually some pain involved in a long ultra. Why do I like to compete at the distance longer than the marathon, from the 50K to 100 mile races? Here are my top 5 reason why I like long runs, and you may, too.
Image: Nicholas A. Tonelli via Flickr
It's more time to spend outside in nature! Away from noise, people, cars, buildings. If you are lucky, you are on a trail somewhere, soaking in the sunshine, blue skies, green foliage of the trees. You get Mother Nature in her full force, she might be sending cold headwinds your way, or fluffy snow falling.
No run is the same, day after day, there is always something in nature changing. You can be the first person to notice the first daffodils peaking their head up in the spring. You get your requirement of Vitamin D fulfilled.Real Estate
As a long distance runner, you can see more of the neighborhoods you run through. It's not snooping, you're just running by. Do you ever just slow your car down to a crawl, just to admire a garden or check out a chicken coop or a tree house? No, that's dangerous, and the homeowner might find that creepy.
But a runner just running by? Generally I get a friendly wave back. You can cover miles and see a far different scene from one side of 100 miles to the next. In long distance running, you can be in the heat of a desert and be in a snowstorm in the change of a few thousand feet of elevation all in the same day of running.Runner's High
The first few miles of an ultra can be tough. The mind can be anxious. Body parts hurt, I feel clunky. Many times I have felt like my body has warmed up around the ½ marathon mark and and now running feels easier, muscles feel supple.
Running releases tension, and running long gives you the chance to ponder, muse and appreciate many things. It's very rare that I return from a run less happy than I began it.Mind Over Matter
In long runs, you find out you can do more than you think you can do. This is an old truism in the ultra community, most famously quoted by Ken Chlouber, former Race Director of the Leadville 100: "You're tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can."
Ultra running is 99% mental. To coax yourself out of an aid station when you are nauseated, sleep deprived and in pain-well, you generally feel better about this the next day, after the race.Accomplishment
Many ultra runners keep their hobby rather quiet. We've gotten used to the statement that "I don't even like to drive my car that far." Other people cannot comprehend a 100 mile race. They will ask how many days it took. (Most 100 mile races have a cutoff of 30 to 36 hours.)
It's usually not at the finish line that you get this big sense of satisfaction and awe from an ultra. You are too tired for that, you just want to find a chair to sit in. It is later, maybe the next day or the day after that, that you come to the realization that you accomplished something extraordinary.
Not many people finish a 50 or 100 mile race, and within your fellow participants of the race, not everyone who started that race finished. But when you realize that you did finish, it's the cherry on top of the sundae, the proud culmination of months of training.
Have you considered an ultra marathon? How far will you go?
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