Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Definition of an Ultra-Runner.

As if a Marathon was not long enough already, there are some folks out there who insist that 26.2 miles has to be longer for them to value themselves as runners.   Who are these people?   Well,   You  could simply label them with all other runners.  You could even call them "marathoners" because, I'm sure many of them have run a 26.2 mile race somewhere in their running lives. But the people I'm focusing this post on are the ultra-small, Uber-elite folks known as ULTRA-RUNNERS.  These people feel that there is no distance too great; no mountain too high; no hardship too painful.  They push themselves and their bodies to their limits.  Break those limits!  And then search the ends of the earth for new ones.

Cheryl, in her never ending thirst for knowledge ( and all things running) has purchased and read countless books about these people.   You would be amazed at how many Ultra-Runners actually have books out there.   You would probably also be amazed that many of them seem to follow a formula that seems to be a defining characteristic in  the building of these Elite Machines.  Oh sure, there are details and anecdotes that are unique to every human being.   But,  as a Mathematician, Statistician, and former Fisheries Biologist,  I try to find patterns and correlations in just about everything that I find interesting.  ( Even when it fails to make much sense.)  So let's try to shed some light on these constants that are found in the formula for an Ultra-Runner.

So I have boiled down a few things that I find  as common threads tying these people together.  First:  You have to be old!  At least over thirty.   Over forty is better.
  Perhaps it is a mid-life crisis thing, but it seems that many of the ultra runners don't even seriously begin running until after they turn thirty.  Some for health; others for sanity; perhaps it is that moment in life where they feel a change is required, And since most people would Never think of running as "fun",  they choose that.   Or maybe because a pair of shoes is cheaper than a Gym Membership.

Next:  Stuff in the Basement!   I love this category because it sums up many things.   A troubled childhood, a lost love, a tortured past, Drug or alcohol addiction.  This possibly is linked to age because young people have not lived long enough to reflect on the hardships of their youth and wonder what they should have done better.  These problems and issues are things that no amount of money can solve. Time ticks by and youth disappears with every moment.    I can only speculate about the  reasons why this is important for Ultra-Runners.  Are they trying to run away from their problems?  Are they trying to build themselves up so they can gain a sense of overwhelming confidence?  Or  are they simply trying to run themselves to exhaustion so they can exorcise the demons and stop thinking about the things in life that are troubling?

Third:  Health nut!  Not because they care about any deep political or moral  cause.  Nor for any longevity or "healthy living" reason.   They only reason they do additional  exercises  or  watch what they eat is so they can run faster!  Seems dumb, right?   Shouldn't running be enough?   Doesn't running allow you to eat anything you want?  Not to these guys....   Issues like Runners Knee, Plantar  Fasciitis, and Tendinitis are all problems that can be helped or prevented with certain exercises.   And Eating certain plants reduces recovery and healing times, while also helps to prevent injuries.  Running extreme distances takes a toll on ones body simply be being long.   Add in their desire for speed and you had better forge a body out of iron.

And lastly,  Beards.  Mostly because these guys run not for hours; but days!  Or even Weeks!   In that time, you are bound to develop a lovely Forest Gump type beard.  Now I know this is not universal.   Besides women,  there are a few guys who somehow manage to shave for every camera that takes their picture.  ( Scott Jurek and Dean Karnazes  are a couple of examples)  But if you check out any picture of an Ultra Start line...there are beards....Lots and lots of beards.

So there you go.   If you have ever wondered if you have what it takes to become an Ultra Marathon Runner....Check off the boxes.   Are you over thirty?   Has life dealt you a losing hand more than once?   Are you sporting a beard that belongs on Duck Dynasty?   Well,  you may have what it takes to be an Ultra-Marathoner.  Now all that's left for you to do is run...a LOT!

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