You Don't Have to Run Ultra
It doesn’t take much time on the various running forums and Facebook groups to realize there are a lot of people out there who are capable of running really, really long distances. Ultra-running (running longer than a marathon distance) is becoming extremely popular. It’s to the point that one of the major running magazines published an article declaring the 100 mile run to be the new marathon.
It’s safe to say, ultra-running has reached mainstream popularity.
But here’s the deal. You don’t have to do it. More so, you don’t need to feel like less of a runner because you don’t run a certain distance. And even bigger? You don’t’ have to feel like less of a runner because you can’t run a certain distance at a certain pace.
So you… Yes. You. The one over there moping about your 31 minute 5k time. You trained hard. You did your best. So you missed your sub-30 goal. Why did you have that goal? What are you trying to prove, and to whom?
Yes. I dedicated a year of my life to running “stupid long.” And you know what I learned? You can have all the goals in the world, and if you don’t love what you’re doing, none of it matters. As I was in the peak of the training cycle for my 100-mile adventure, I started rolling around goals in the back of my head. Could I finish under 28 hours and get the special belt buckle? Could I finish under 24 hours and join the ranks of the super speedy mountain runners? Well, as it has a tendency to do, life kind of gave me a wakeup call. And it reset my expectations. I didn’t need goals. I loved what I was doing. I was looking forward to working with my crew and pacers. I was looking forward to just being part of the community that was going to gather to run up and down a couple of mountains for a day and a half. Straight.
I still needed to have some time expectations. This was so my crew could be where I needed them as I was going to be there. But, as happens, even those basic expectations were useless once the clock was ticking. (I set a new 50-mile PR during the race. That wasn’t part of the plan…)
And then the circus that is a 100-mile race died down. Life went back to mostly normal. My running friends were all excited about their upcoming races and their upcoming goals. But nearly all of them started phrasing things differently. More than once I heard, “But you wouldn’t be interested in joining us because it’s just a 5k on pavement.” Or even, “I know that’s not much to someone who just finished 100 miles…”
Let me dispel something right now. I still enjoy a good 5k. Yes, pavement has never been my favorite. But if it’s a good race with good people, I’m enjoying myself.
And then there’s the demon of comparison. Yes. I ran 100 miles. No. I don’t expect you to do that. In fact, if you ask me, I’ll likely try to talk you out of it. Own your goals. Own your accomplishments. Maybe you just ran your first mile without walking. Be proud of that. Wave that flag. Celebrate as you see fit. Maybe you just finished your first marathon, or set a PR at some distance. Again, that’s yours. YOU did that. Be proud. Believe me when I say “You did a good job.” Because you did. You did what YOU could do. I’m proud of you for putting forth the effort. I’m proud of you for training. I’m proud of you for showing up. I’m proud of you for just looking in the mirror and thinking, “I can be better.”
If you are doing what you can do and giving it your best, who is anyone else to judge? What does anyone else’s accomplishments matter? You do you, and be the best you possible. I’ll help you as I can. I’ll certainly help you celebrate.
4/17/2016 08:51:07 am
Thank you for those great words of wisdom.
4/17/2016 08:58:07 am
Very encouraging words. Thank you for sharing.
4/17/2016 12:31:49 pm
Thank you for taking the time to share such wise thoughts. I too have gotten caught up in "what if" and "how fast", and I eventually forgot why I starting running in the first place all those years ago. I ran because it felt good. That was it. Simple. So now I try to remember that each time I head out....just enjoy it!
Thank you for this article! I read an article the other day on a running site talking about how running a marathon at an 11min/mile pace isn't running a marathon. There were a lot of disheartened people posting in the comment section. Why people try to discourage people from their sport whatever it may be is beyond me. Thank you again for your words of encouragement.
5/29/2016 05:42:51 am
Great thoughts, Matthew. Our goal is to discover a love of life which can be done in many ways and for people of all abilities.
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