Over the last two years, twelve 100 mile races have popped up in Utah (or so close it might as well be in Utah). You can run a 100 mile race every month from February to October (with two in March, April, and September). Granted, Utah has some spectacular areas to run in from beautiful desert slot canyons to the high alpine trails.
Ultra running is an interesting sport. Even during a good race where everything goes as planned, there is usually some suffering and difficulty. Going 100 miles on foot within 24-36 hours is hard and race directors like to make it harder by throwing in mountains. But runners don’t shy away from the harder races, they just look at it as another challenge.
My most prized finishes are the ones where I suffered the most, which generally means my finish time was not the best, but I earned every step along the way. Finishing a difficult race, makes the next challenge feel more doable. When you have been out there with your quads shot and vomiting, you can draw on that experience and build yourself up to face other challenges.
Embrace the suck. Sure everyone who doesn’t run ultras thinks you’re crazy when you say, “I had an amazing weekend running 100 miles while nauseous, dizzy, disoriented, vomiting, and burned to a crisp,” but who cares?
I don’t think ultrarunners like to suffer. We are not masochists. I don’t sign up for a race wondering how much I will suffer. I sign up for the challenge, “What am I made of?” is the question in my mind. The suffering brings us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us, about others who suffer and have persevered. It’s about truly living life.
It’s just that, the sunrise never looked more beautiful than when I spent the night in the ninth circle of hell.
With the number of races popping up all over the place, I have to assume that more and more people are accepting the challenge of the 100-mile distance. I think this is a great thing because I don’t think there is a better way to teach respect and appreciation for what you have in your life.