Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Ultrarun?

A friend of mine, Greg, on DailyMile had some interesting questions that I thought it worthwhile to answer here.

Without fanfare, here we go:

(1) What motivates you to run 50 miles and beyond?
I like the challenge of trying to do something for which there is a real possibility of not succeeding. It has so far been somewhat nerve-wracking to toe the line at all these events, knowing it is going to hurt, and hurt deep. Finishing them brings immense satisfaction and has pushed back the boundaries of what I think I'm capable of. Before I did these I had no idea that I could overcome such discomfort and force myself to keep moving. It hasn't stopped being a challenge and now I want to keep experiencing that feeling of succeeding at something that is extraordinarily difficult.

(2) How do you know when your ultrarunning pursuits are bordering on becoming dangerous and no longer fit into the realm of a healthy, sane lifestyle?
So far this hasn't been a problem. I think, though that you have to regularly assess, like any pastime, the impact it is having on your relationships and if that impact is worth it. The same applies if you are regularly injuring yourself.

(3) What have you learned from ultrarunning that is invaluable and could not have been garnered otherwise?
I've learned that I am capable of far more physically than I thought. I can also take a lot more crap in my normal life. I haven't learned any insightful existential stuff, but suffering can be fun and rewarding. On the other hand, I have learned that after 80 miles I have very poor control of what language I use, and I'm really glad my grandma doesn't show up to watch me run.

(4) What the heck are you trying to prove, if anything, and does your ego need the validation?
I'm just trying to prove to myself that I can do these things, and still have fun at them. I don't think you could last long at this if you were trying to prove something to someone else. This would be an awful lot of suffering to stoke the ego. I do get some small satisfaction, though, of doing things most people wouldn't, and it is fun wearing a big buckle around at times.

So, I hope that helps Greg out a bit, and if anyone else wants to throw their two cents in, feel free.


  1. Awesome post!

    As Matt P. once said, "If you have to ask why, you wouldn't understand the answer."

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Adam. I am fascinated by suffering-- how we deal with it and how much we can endure. We certainly can't avoid difficulty in our lives and we can learn a lot by going past our comfort zones. Human potential is incredible and it's one thing to read about the adventures and explorations of others, but it's so much more rewarding to test our own limits. I'm curious about the unknown and that's one of the biggest reasons I want to keep pushing myself through running long distances.

  3. Great post, Adam. You're definitely an inspiration for me.