An alternate heading for this piece could be Why I Love Ultras: and Why it’s Ok if You Don’t.
I consider the start of my journey as a runner to be a little over five years ago. I ran before that, but for fitness not passion, and very inconsistently. I run because I love it, and because it makes me happy. However, I still want to continue to grow into a stronger runner. Easy markers for runners to use to identify strength are distance and speed. Unfortunately it is easy to use that as a point of comparison as well. Though running is an individual sport, community is a huge part of it. It’s easy to look at other runners and think, “She’s stronger than me because she runs faster,” and “She’s stronger than me because she can run farther.”
I fell in love with running the first time that I hit the trails. I joined the Mud Babes on a Monday night (something that was way out of my comfort zone not knowing anyone there), and ran an easy pace through the rain, mud, and dark. I was hooked. It had never quite clicked before. Prior to trail running I thought I would just like to be able to run a 5k. I would feel like I was in better shape, check that off of my list, and move on. Once I found trail running I wanted to stay out there all day. I’ve always loved hiking and being outside. I don’t know why, but it had never occurred to me that “You can RUN ON THESE!!”
The trail community is filled with ultrarunners, so it’s no surprise that there were several in the Mud Babes group. The longer distances immediately appealed to me, though I knew it was going to take time for my body to catch up with my mind. That whole patience thing is really difficult, but each time I built up to a new distance, I was hooked.
We all have a favorite distance, our Goldilock’s distance. Often that will shift over time based on how our personal strengths, goals, and mentality changes. I’m still pretty green as far as ultrarunning goes, but I am completely in love with the distances involved. I love the training involved in ultrarunning. I think you really have to, it’s time consuming and necessary to keep from hurting yourself. Each race presents its own set of challenges that alters the training, and I really like that. Maybe the race requires more hill work, or technical practice, or added power-hiking. Race day is all about problem solving, mental strength, and getting to spend an entire day outside doing something that I love. I’m sure that a time will come when I need a break, and those Goldlilock’s miles will drop down; and I hope that I’m smart enough to take it when the time comes.
There’s a Krissy Moehl quote: “I’d like to say that if you hang around me long enough, I’ll get you to run an ultra…Once you have tried the challenge of running on the trails and fallen in love with the trees whipping by, the incredible views you are able to gain in a morning run, and the laughs you have shared in the middle of no where with fellow ultrarunners, there really is no going back; you are personally inspired.” I’d like to think that this applies to me, in the sense of getting people to run on trails. Though at times, “She’s stronger than me because she runs faster,” and “She’s stronger than me because she can run farther” can help us to push ourselves, I don’t want to see it push people away from the miles they love most. Each distance presents its own training needs and challenges. People can think I’m joking when I say I don’t like 5k’s because of how hard they are. It’s not because they’re short and easy. I’m not. It is a really hard distance for me to feel successful at. I’m not good at pushing myself in the way that distance asks.
Our Mud Babes group has a lot of strong runners of all ditances. We’re a very diverse group. However, ultrarunners can be really loud. I am pretty much always excited about running! I like to talk about it, but at times need to broaden my scope. We’ve grown a lot over the last few years. I’m grateful for how many new runners I’ve seen on the trails with us, and I hope our little trail family helps them to enjoy this sport, and whatever miles come to them.