Monday, February 10, 2014

Rebuttal to '10 Reasons NOT to Run an Ultramarathon'

Kristyn Bacon, a freelancer writer and ultramarathoner recently wrote an article for Trail Runner Magazine called "10 Reasons NOT to Run an Ultramarathon."  One of my clients passed it along to me with one question...

"How close is this to the truth?"

So...  As a one time ultramarathoner (the 2013 JFK50) who is looking to do 100 miles (maybe 2015?), here's are my thoughts...


Are those feet BURNT?  They look like Hobbit feet.  Was this from the Mordor Ultra??  (*pause while I Google search it*)  Ummm...  Hold your wizard staff!  They have T-Shirts for this race.  And it's apparently called The Walk Into Mordor: The Race for the Ring.  And this lady just started the 1,779 mile journey this past week!  Where do I sign up?!  I bet the finisher's medal is an inscribed ring.  Take THAT belt buckle!

1.  It’s dirty.
You have to use the bathroom in the trails or, if you’re unfortunate enough to do an ultra in the street, on the side of the road. Your Camelbak will never be clean, no matter what kind of bleach or organic cleaning product you use. You will eat with your hands. If it’s raining, your calves and butt will look exactly like the trail. Whatever color your shoes are now, forget it, because they’ll soon be brown.
Let's be real.  We do not go to the bathroom.  Ew!  That is a known fact.  And I don't know about anyone else, but I carry a full tea set, dining set, and umbrella with me.  Sometimes I'll even pack a blanket so I can make a picnic at each aid station.  Sure, it slows me down, but I refuse to eat with my hands.  No proper gentleman does that.  And my shoes started out brown, so the trails only help to add accent colors.
2.  Your feet will look like aliens.
No pedicure can save them. They will be calloused and blistered and your skin will never grow back the same way again. Your feet will swell and shrink. You will lose your toenails. First the pinky, and then, depending on the length of your race, every single one.
They make something for that.  It's called nail polish.  No one knows what color your nails are under that glistening layer of sparkles, let alone whether there is a nail under there or not.  
3. It’s expensive.
You’ll have to find a way to cover your grocery bill, which grows every time you move up to a new training bracket. You’ll have to buy a new wardrobe once your clothes stop fitting. You’ll need to buy rain gear and snow gear and first-aid kits, and then you have to pay for the race. You have to buy trail shoes. Then you have to buy new shoes after yours wear out.
No worries!  Now that I've discontinued my 5,000 channels of cable (who has time to watch tv with all this running?), skipped all of my dinner dates (how do you expect me to run tomorrow if I eat this non-organic slop??), and make all my food at home (because I don't trust anyone to use the right ingredients), I have more than enough money to balance out my new running gear addiction.  Plus, if you're a real runner, you don't need shoes!  Barefoot Hobbit!
4. You have to travel.
Where do you live?  There’s a better ultramarathon two hours away. If you don’t live near the mountains or the hills, there’s no option except in the next time zone. The race goes from the fifth to the sixth and then you have to drive and acclimate and meet new people. You have to take pictures. Sometimes you’ll have to learn a new language.  Then you have to run in a new language. Impossible.
Runner's have a universal language.  The raised right hand is "Thank you."  The thumbs up is "Good job" as well as "I'm good."   The raised left hand is "I'm slowing down or stopping."  The pat on the shoulder is "I've been there man!  Keep going!"  There is only one spoken word we need to know...  "LEFT!"  And the kids have always been begging for a vacation.  At least after you're done, you won't have to worry about them begging anymore.  "Who wants to go watch dad run again?!"   
5. Planning your social and running calendar becomes a science project.
It’s easier to get new friends who train, or just stop having friends.
Friends?  What are those?  Oh, you mean people who can keep up with me?  No, I don't have any of those.  They slow me down.
6. Explanations.
Nobody knows what an ultra is and then once they do know, they don’t understand why you’re doing it. They sometimes don’t know what kilometers are and then you have to convert. They’ve never seen a hydration pack before. You have to explain how to eat while running, and you must defend your food choices. They don’t know what calories mean in an ultra.
Eventually, the ego trip of describing what an ultra is and how cool you are for doing it wears off.  After the millionth question of "Don't you have to pee?," "What do you eat for that?," and "How many days is this over?," you begin to shorten your explanation to "Suffice it to say that I'm crazy and you're not about to come join me."  However, you say this secretly hoping that it sparks a challenge, spawning a new training partner.   
7. It’s unhealthy.
It is absolutely impossible and preposterous for someone to run 100 miles in a day without stopping. It has NEVER been done before. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You will be crippled. Ask your doctor. Your knees will lock up forever. The last step you ever take will be across the finish line and then you are DONE. People don’t even like driving 100 miles! Don’t do it. You’ll probably die.
You've become a whiz at Web MD because you don't want to hear your doctor tell you how badly you're treating your body or how many surgeries you're going to need by the time you hit 40.  They may label it as Ignorance Is Bliss, but you know its just their way of justifying that only 30 minutes on the elliptical without breaking a sweat is a "healthy workout."  Break a sweat dude!!   
8. It’s too hot.
It’s also too cold.  It’s also too windy and rainy and it might snow. Ice? It’s everywhere.  You’ll get a sunburn. Sometimes it hails here. What if it rains?
There is no such thing as bad weather, only weak runners.  BAM!  Plus, adverse weather patterns allow us to show off our incredible sense of style.  This week in runner's fashion - multiple layers of non-matching & bright neon colored clothing, garbage bag ponchos, sweat stained hats pulled so low you wonder how they can see in front of them, and the perpetual squint.  It's all the rage!
9. You will spend way too much time with yourself.You are not that interesting. You will probably be bored after two miles. The songs you have stuck in your head? You will hate them by the end of the race. There is no scenery to look at. The lakes that you pass will be ugly. The ocean is so loud. As for the mountains—you think you’ll have fun running for 17 hours in the mountains?  Anyway, you’re going to be in so much pain you won’t be able to think. Nobody is going to talk to you; after all, it’s a race.
It starts out with a thrill.  Thrill gives way to the question of "What did I get myself into?"  The answer never comes, but you eventually get lost in the monotony; not quite boredom, but certainly no more of that thrill.  At some point you hit a low and continue only by your basic survival instincts; fight or flight.  As long as another runner doesn't get attacked, you eventually get pulled out of your low and experience one of many highs during which absolutely EVERYTHING is interesting.  You start singing the most random songs - if they're even songs to begin with - and you are convinced that you should have a recording contract.  Shortly after, you decide to invent something that you're sure will make millions.  Then there's another low and everything from the cheering crowds to that stupid squirrel that you swear is following you is your mortal enemy.  Another high and your bounding excitement becomes visibly annoying to the other runners.  Another low; "The next person who passes me is never making it out of these woods!"  High; "La-la-la-la-laaaaa-la-ti-daaaa!!"  Low; "I'm never doing this again.  I'm quitting at the next aid station."  High; "I am never doing a puney marathon again!"  Low; "I want my mommy!"  ...and eventually those final miles come into view, snapping you back into reality.  Whether you're in a low or high, you know the end is near and you will be done with this roller coaster of an emotional endorphin ride.  As soon as you cross the finish line, you are either the most emotional teenage girl on her period or the picture of an emotionless serial killer.  Either way, all you want is food.  You don't even care that it's non-organic and will probably give you issues for a week.  And you're telling me THAT isn't interesting?!  Fine!  Go back to watching your reality tv! 
10. Somehow, you have to get in the best shape of your life.
You have to train in the morning and do your yoga at night and swim to keep your hips together and do push-ups. You have to run up stairs and up hills; you have to run them forwards and backwards to work all of your muscle groups. If you don’t have defined abs, you have to get them. At the end of the race when you’re skinnier and older, you won’t be able to walk and you’ll realize with mixed emotions that you’re in the worst shape of your life. Then you have to rest for days. Good luck.
Yeah...  Well...  Well....  I've got a medal / buckle / ring.  What do you have?  ...HA!  I win!


Kristyn, If I'm ever in Germany, count on me looking you up!  We should go for a bike ride or something.  You know, something actually sane.



it's all about pace said...

I thought that her tongue was firmly in cheek for the entire list.

CautiouslyAudacious said...