The slippery slope to ultra running

Subtitle: How to turn your best friend into an ultra runner and mostly likely get them to hate you forever and blame you for all their misfortunes in life.

I would guess that nearly everyone who is running ultra marathons today, can blame their current condition on someone else. I doubt many people with no running connections at all wake up one morning and decide to run an ultra, and for those of you who did that, there are help centres you can call.

Let us walk through a purely hypothetical scenario which outlines how one person could possibly get sucked into a sport where pain, distress, and weeping are all expected and encouraged during both training and racing. For the sake of anonymity, we will simply call the other individual “Father.” Let’s imagine that he is in his 50’s and has a son in his 20’s, obviously no relation at all to my familial status ten years ago.

Me: “How exciting, Father! I have always wanted to run a race. A 5km sounds like a long distance. Won’t I get tired?”

Me: “Oh! Five kilometres is shorter than five miles. Great! This sounds like it will be quite fun! And they even give you a metal at the end. I would love to have one of those shiny pieces of pride to wear around my neck the following week at work.”

Several months later

Me: “I don’t know, Father, are you sure? A half-marathon has the word “marathon” in it. That cannot be healthy.”

Me: “So, you are saying that it is the same feeling, just for a longer time? I am not sure how that works, I remember being fairly sore after the last time I ran with you. But…this one offers a high performance wicking running shirt!”

The following year

Me: “I know that the half-marathon was not as bad as I was expecting, but it was still painful and I remember fairly clearly saying that I would never run something like this with you again, regardless of what I got at the finish line.”

Me: “Yes, I know that this is different, but adding mileage to the race does not seem to be a good way of relieving the horrors of training and racing. It is a marathon, and I have seen what marathoners look like.”

Me: “Again, Father, I appreciate your wisdom and maturity, but please be more clear regarding this phrase you keep repeating, “every mile after thirteen is the same”. It seems like there is something missing in your logic…But they offer prizes you say?”

A year and a half later

Me: “Father, I am not sure this would be considered a wise decision. It seems to me that forty miles around an island with no shade or water in the blazing Mexican sun might be hazardous to one’s health. Also, the vow that I took to never again sign up for a race with you, was ratified and signed at the finish line of the last race…”

Me: “I agree with you that this is not an official race, which causes me more distress. I specifically remember watching a news special about people getting lost in the jungle and surviving on insects and leaves. Also, I would like to draw your attention to all the reality TV shows featuring islands and crazy people.”

Christmas season

Me: “Thank you Father for the new case to hold my medals, but it appears that it has three empty spaces. Could it be possible that you have forgotten that I threw my running shoes in the trash bin after my last race with you? Yes, that incident took place as you helped me hobble out of the emergency room. Those small details seem to fade in our memories fairly quickly, don’t they?”

Me: “You say that they have a neat medal at that race? I suppose I could think about it…”


Me: “Yes Father, it would involve running through the night, but I know you could do it. Remember, every mile after thirteen is the same…”

First published on RunUltra