Sunday, July 20, 2014

GUEST POST: Dare to Redefine your Limits - How I found Ultra Running

Meet my friend Kat from SmushTush.  She has done one 50 mile race and two 100 mile races and is running the mountainous Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler (in Tahoe of course) next weekend (probably by the time you read this!). Not to mention, running Boston and you can read her recap of Boston here.  If you haven't checked out her blog (even though I have told you to a MILLION times), you can read all her awesome posts HERE.  While I am on vacation, she has agreed to guest post for me!

It seems that nearly every day I am asked why I run ultramarathons (typically defined as any race distance longer than 26.2 miles).  Nearly every person that inquires does so with a quizzical look, as if they cannot fathom why anyone would willingly choose to push so far.  To me, the decision to run long distances was simple.  So simple, it wasn't even a decision, it was a realization that such a group of runners existed, a community of like-minded people that don't question the lifestyle that is ultrarunning.

Incidentally, when I was asked to actually compose the answer to this question as a guest post for my dear friend Smitha, I spent many hours (while running of course) pondering the answer.  Why?  How?  When?  Over countless miles the last few weeks, I outlined my reasons, and subsequently, took a voyage back to my childhood where it all began.

How did I become an ultra runner?

The overall resounding answer is that I have an addictive personality.  I'm constantly looking for my “fix”, and since I can remember, my biggest addiction has been running:  Aimless, heart-pounding, endorphin-loaded, running.  In Elementary School I can recall literally running out the door with no plan except to hear the sound of my own footsteps hitting the street and to seek the “fix” that several miles indefinitely brings.  No GPS.  Cotton clothing.  Athletic shoes from the sale rack of the one local department store in our tiny town.  Perhaps it was my method of dealing with the emotions of my parent's ballistic divorce at the age of 10.  No, looking back, I am certain that is how I learned to cope.  And I continued to fulfill this addiction through the years, on the High School track team and later in college on dark, early morning runs with my Air Force comrades.  Running is an addiction, and like any dependance, it takes more of the substance to feel satisfied.  Unlike other addictions however, I do not view running as a vice, it is who I am.  And so I continue to run further, to find different methods of obtaining that “runner's high”.  Ultrarunning provides me with a limitless supply of endorphins, all while being surrounded by a community of runners seeking a similar sensation.

Second, I thrive on putting myself in unknown situations.  I exist for challenge and a change in routine.  I feel a genuine need to be different.  I took French in High School simply because everyone else took Spanish.  I joined the military on a whim just to get out and explore new locations and meet people.  I've driven over five hours to enjoy a concert all by myself.  I dropped everything and moved to the East Coast for a third college degree just to see if I could do it.  And thus, I seek out the most technical trails to climb, the smallest and loneliest of races to enter, the longest distances to tackle.  I think every person who loves ultrarunning would agree; we all have a love for the obscure and this bonds our community even more.

Often I read about people complaining that they, “have to do a long run this weekend”.  I can attest that I have never felt that dread before.  I truly am excited for every single opportunity I have to run.  In fact, if a daily run is less than 10 miles I feel a bit disappointed, like I haven't yet finished.  I am not saying that I always feel 100% on every run; of course I have off days, but I am proclaiming that I truly am in love with running and with moving my body; with pushing my body and mind further than I can even imagine.  That in fact IS what moves me.  Never have I questioned why I do this; the thought that running further than a traditional marathon has never seemed strange or silly or stupid.  It has always seemed like something I should just do, and moreover, something that I had to do, like brushing my teeth or stopping my car at a stop sign.  Not an option, just my mindset.

Ultra running is a spiritual experience.  I look forward to the mental breakdowns and total physical defeat that is inevitable with running a 100 mile race.  There truly is no better feeling than to hit your absolute lowest of moments only to rise above it in the triumph of a finish.  It is a feeling that most people will never experience, as most people haven't even attempted to understand their true limits.  Instead, I choose to live my life by dancing along the confines of my limits, to frequently redefine them, and in turn I continuously discover who I truly am.  Again, the ultrarunning community is filled with equally passionate people seeking to experience the thrill that is this one life we are given.  And after we have experienced the mind-blowing sensation of finishing a 100 mile race, the high is so incredibly beautiful, we seek it again and again.  Because of course, we are all addicts.  

SD Mom again: Whoa!  I want to say that I am inspired to do an Ultra.  While I may not be ready to do an ultra, Kat has truly inspired me, not just with this post, but many many other times to just keep running!  To enjoy the days I LOVE it and to keep chasing the love on the days I don't.

So what do you think?  Will you try an Ultra?

As always, I wish you Happy Feet,
SD Mom (& Kat)


  1. Awesome guest post! Super inspiring! I love the ultra distances and I'm trying to decide when to sign up for a 50 miler!

    1. I can't wait to read your re cap when you do! :-)

  2. That is amazing that you've never dreaded a long run. You truly are addicted, haha! Very inspiring. Great guest blog post!

  3. I'm typing this already knowing the outcome of kat's TRT 100. I was already up at 3am when I got an FB comment from her saying she got in 67! Still kicking ass! I'm not sure if she'll read this comment, but I have a handful of things to tell her (and you guys)

    1. her smile is infectious even at 3am =)

    2. her husband is a saint. On our run, she said she's kinda selfish and likes that her husband doesn't run. Shhhhh.

    3. speaking about our run, (again not knowing if she sees this) she said, "are you hurting". I said, "No..." She said, "oh, must be just your gait then"...Ok, truth be told, I was dealing with a sore knee that day. But nothing was going to stop me from running with supermom. So I lied....eeeeek

    4. (still on our run)...there was a snake on the path that she jumped over. And we kept running. I didn't tell her (coming from AZ and dealing with rattles), I'm deadly afraid of snakes...deadly. For the next mile after seeing the snake, garmin had us at 7:30's lol...

    5. And speaking of 7:30's, she got me to run a mile it wasn't a race

    6. after talking to her about ultrarunning, I quickly hooked up with a local ultra runner (michelle) and in November, will be crewing for her and her husband. My first intro to ultra.

    She's a uniquely gifted and (yet) humble person. I firmly believe that you can be judged by the people who you call your friends. I'm glad I get to call (smitha and) Kat my friends! Stay blessed Stay fierce

    1. You are such a great motivator! Thanks for being my friend!