I just don’t understand why you do this to yourself…
My wife has generally been ok with my running over the years. But since I’ve taken up longer distances, let’s just say, she’s been more sceptical.
I have become fascinated by the ultra-distances and this question… Why would someone break their body and still want to carry on? The sceptics have a point and I’ve struggled with an answer. So, these thoughts are for you my love.
I’ve talked to many ultra-buddies about what motivates them. I really love these conversations, especially when having them on a distant trail somewhere (those times will return!). They are great ways to find out what makes a person tick. There’s definitely a thread amongst their thoughts in wanting to discover their potential. That’s often combined with an addiction to the high (a hangover from a misspent youth), love of the outdoors, a feeling of freedom or the pleasure of being with others, amongst other more nuanced things. If I look back at my own experience, I can honestly say it’s been about proving myself as capable. Childhood trauma, another common story.
Running, to a point, is rewarding. We know a lot about how it helps a person to develop physically and mentally. The simple step by step journey can lead to a person taking on other positive habits.
So why do ultrarunners seek out those really dark places that extend beyond those rewards. Why aren’t they content with the half or full marathon which is already a herculean feat? There is still the same elation at the end of a race whether it be 10k or 100miles. Why are they so selfish? Why do they want to run away from their loved ones for such long periods of time, hurt themselves and danger themselves so badly? This is where my wife, like other ‘sane’ people, wants and deserves an answer.
There is that point in an ultra when the lights go out. You are broken. You look at your watch and there is another 50 miles to go and the next stage is through the night. What is the point in carrying on, you’ve already proved yourself! But something is happening there. We sense it, we feel the connection to something deeper, something more profound.