As the old candy bar jingle goes so does my persona as an ultra runner. When talking amongst other ultra runners I’m quite normal, perhaps slightly on the “wuss” side. Sub-marathon runners consider me to be a little over the top as they wait for me to come to my senses and return to “normal” distance running. And to non-runners I’m as lunatic fringe as you can get.
This disparity hit home a couple weeks ago when I was helping my wife get ready for the start of her 12-hour race at the Black Mountain Monster. As all of the ultra freaks/runners congregated prior to the start, I heard them asking one another whether they were doing “just” the 12-hour race or the “full” 24 hours. Just 12 hours of running, really? I’ve heard this comparison before, especially at the Mount Mitchell Challenge where the Black Mountain Marathon, which takes place alongside the 40-miler, is considered the “fun run”. Nowhere but in the ultra world would a marathon distance be considered a fun run.
The fact that distances are so relative from one runner to the next was never more apparent than last weekend. I hung around for one of Anne’s twenty-two 5k laps then I went home and did yard work. Then I went to a beer festival. Then I had dinner and chilled out at home for a couple hours. Then I made my way back to watch her last few 5k laps. That is quite a long day for any runner. Upon returning I still overheard more banter from ultra runners about how running the shorter distance of 12 hours was perfect training for upcoming longer distances!
I’m quite used to the differences in how my running is viewed by others. Some get it and some do not. For those who don’t understand, I don’t feel like I owe any explanation, nor could I put it into words if I tried. I usually spend more time pleading my case for rest to other ultra runners who are always asking, what event is next? This usually coincides with some epic run for me that I have just completed.
Speaking of which, a couple of weeks ago I finished the 65 mile Pitchell Challenge for the second time. My crew this time was a good friend who has never born witness to anything longer than a marathon. He was awesome help throughout my journey and was quite excited as he waited for me on the summit of Mt. Mitchell and eagerly described my accomplishment to a group of tourists.
Later he told me that my 65-mile run didn’t seem to make any sense to those tourists. Apparently these folks thought that the hundred-yard hike from the parking lot to the tower was epic enough. I told my friend, welcome to my world — I’m an ultra nut.