A for effort.

Something magical happens when you start to find yourself in with the ultra running crowd. For one, you’ll never meet a more accepting group of people, and secondly, the ultra running community spends all its time building people up and not tearing them down. It doesn’t matter if you race at a break neck speed and finish first, are found somewhere in the sea of people finishing in the middle, cross the line to cheers and applause towards the back, or don’t cross the line at all; you are still an amazing individual soul who deserves recognition for the effort that you’ve put in.

I’m no expert, but I have entered a 100km race and then proceeded to do no training in the lead up to it. I clearly wasn’t setting myself up for a  PB, and subsequently said toodaloo to the course after 57km – but what I did find was that even though I didn’t cross the finish line, the people around me were so proud of what I did, that to me it didn’t matter. I had people who genuinely thought that what I did was freaking amazing & in today’s society you don’t often get that for what would be deemed a failure. Just to be clear I never thought I was a failure for pulling the pin when I did, so no need to flood this post with comments saying ‘you’re not a failure’, ‘you’re amazing’ etc etc. There’s a fabulous quote that says ‘I had no plans to be this awesome when I woke up, but shit happens’. I live by that. The point I’m making is that effort gets rewarded in the ultra running community. You don’t get an A for effort in many other places.

As you become more involved in the ultra running community, you hear things that others don’t. In the midst of conversation, someone mentions a race somewhere that piques your interest, and you immediately add it to your mental to-do list. Your running friends become your most conversationally inappropriate friends;

“What’s that, your groin is chafed? Here borrow my body glide – just make sure you wipe it clean afterwards”.

” Ah your poor nipples; here’s some tape”.

“Hey you, behind the bush, you ok? Yep, just got the runs”.

” Dude put those toes away; seriously, get some Canestan”.

Not only do you develop friendships that you never thought possible, and have conversations that you never thought would be necessary, your entire life becomes running orientated. A good view only becomes amazing if you’ve followed a trail to get there; a car is no longer a justifiable form of transport; and spending hours trawling the internet for an event that will undoubtedly cause you suffering becomes a daily occurrence. Suddenly your holiday destinations are based upon Instagram searches of places with epic trails to run, or a place that will, by complete coincidence, be hosting an ultra running event at the very same time. Your family and friends no longer bat an eyelid when you say you’re going on holidays to run a 50km ultra; in fact they sometimes don’t even ask anymore. Your running gear becomes completely appropriate travel wear, and your most precious item in your bag is your running pack &/or body glide. Every holiday memory becomes linked with a running event, to the point that specific spots can induce a reminder of feelings and emotions (or just the reminder that you pee’d there, cried there, or stopped to deal with chafe there).

There’s also that one moment that every runner knows; it’s that moment when you sign up for a new event. Whether it’s a wait by the computer so you don’t miss out because there a literally thousands of other people doing the same, or finding a little known event and hitting the register now button, there is always that feeling of excitement at finding an event that serves 1 of 3 purposes.

  1. It happens to fit perfectly into your training schedule.
  2. It happens to be in a place you’ve always wanted to go & the scenery looks amazing.
  3. A bunch of friends are going and they said it’d be a good idea (the most common).

NB: I think there should be a box on the annual tax return for ultra runners, and we should be able to tick it and claim our race/travel expenses.

Life becomes different when you start to think about it in 50km, 100km or 200km chunks. Your life goals no longer revolve around money (unless it is to earn enough to pay for a race entry); the idea of kids torments you because on the one hand people say they’re cute, but on the other hand they could seriously derail your life goal of travelling the world running; and a house mortgage is now seen as ‘I wonder how many races could I enter with that amount of money?’. Somehow, in the space of a very short period of time, the idea of taking your car, a tent, and probably a few pairs of shoes seems like a totally legitimate way of living out your years on earth.

I’m happy to take one for the team here and test this life goal out for a few weeks. I’ll report back on my findings in due course.