The race, Colleen\’s Fat Ass ultra, began in a house owned by a taxidermist. I ran 28.8 miles, 9 laps, in about 6h50 elapsed time.
Here is my reflection:
Ultra running, for me, is not primarily about speed; not like shorter road races are. Ultra running is completely inexplicable; especially to the non-running public. While some non-runners might say, “Wow, you ran 50 miles. That is awesome.” They actually have no idea what that means or what it feels like or why you did it. The purpose of ultra running, for me, isn’t about a sense of accomplishment or honor or award.
I don’t speak for others, and most other ultra runners are far more accomplished than me. I am barely an ultra runner distance-wise. But in so far as most 50k’s (31 miles) are run on courses much more difficult than a road marathon, that additional 2 or 3 hours and additional challenge to legs muscles, is what turns the run into an ultra for me. Plus the resultant and dramatic physical destruction. Plus the seeming nonsense of the endeavor.
Potential ultra runners think ultra running will solve their sense of boredom with road marathons by adding an additional notch in their belt. For me, the idea germinated and has always grown in a desire to go beyond my rational ego mind by taking the body beyond its training envelope and beyond its logical capability. What I find in this beyond place is almost impossible to have a conversation about. Such conversation always seem to de-generate into a worldly discussion of distance and time and placing and schwag. This degeneration frustrates me because the worldly things mean nothing. However, when I meet another ultra runner, its possible to say nothing but connect on the thought level; where we have an entire sharing of meaning without a word having been spoken. The meaning of ultra running cannot be explained, but it can be shared by connections made beyond words
There is nothing to brag about for me; and that is what my ego hates. In fact, I don’t think I have officially “finished” an ultra in several races. So can I cut to the chase: Why would I value the result of a futile effort so much that I put up with the pain of it over and over? I just spent nearly 7 hours of a cold windy January night jogging in a tiny pool of light, having no idea where I was or where I was going or what for. On the trail, where my legs are far more challenged than on a road, it took me several hours to bring my body to the brink of destruction. The first lap found me lost and confused and angry as twice I lost the trail. I fell down once. I peed in a cold outhouse by choice because I didn’t want to go into the warmer restroom. Each lap I put a mark by my name on the chart.
As time wore on and my body wore down, I lived a very simple and elemental existence. Alone in the dark, my thoughts ranged as follows: I hope I don’t trip this time (I tripped 7 times at the exact same spot over something I never could see, but on the last 2 laps, I used an extra hand held light at that place. I never saw what I tripped over, but didn’t trip on the last 2 laps); I hope I don’t get lost (well after 2 laps, while the pink flags were still my security blanket, I was guided by the landmarks of the footing, various rocks and such); Should I eat my Power Bar now? (too late, it is frozen and I hope I don’t break a tooth trying to bite it); Is it time to pee? (I hate stopping, but oh well, it must be done).
I have NOT thought about the ego’s world: work, co-workers, money, retirement plans, health care plans, Boston qualification, age group awards, why I am not rich or famous or a vowed religious.
I did the journey to the ultra runner’s nether world and the secret of the ineffable. The nonsensical infinite timelessness of the intangible formlessness calls me over and over.
I keep answering the call.