Are You Crazy Enough to Be an Ultra Runner?

A lighthearted list to discover your inner drive

A decade ago, if you lived outside the ultrarunning hotbed of the Western United States, you’d be hard-pressed to find an ultramarathon close enough to run and even harder pressed to find someone to train for it with you. Not anymore. Today ultramarathons are as commonplace as 5Ks (OK, not quite but sometimes it sure seems that way). Just how many of your non-running friends have heard of the Barkley Ultramarathon? Our guess is quite a few.

So, you’re thinking of joining the bandwagon and hopping on the ultrarunning train. How do you know if you’re ready, (cough) crazy enough, to do one? Well, just answer yes to two or more items on our list below and, well, you’ll know.

1. Pain is a form of pleasure made better the longer it lasts.

Feeling every muscle in your body straining to keep moving after five hours sounds like a lot of fun. Much more fun in fact than a quick track workout. Bonus points for next-day soreness.

2. You have short-term memory loss.

Despite feeling exhausted, dehydrated and miserable after a long, hard run last weekend when you swore to your significant other that you would never (ever!) do that again, this week, you recall the final miles fondly and burst out with enthusiasm as you plan your next route.

3. A run just isn’t tough enough if you don’t have trouble walking (or doing regular tasks) the next day.

In your mind, a race should leave you wrecked. You know you’ve run your best when you need help sitting on the toilet and getting in the shower.

4. You refuse to travel to a race unless the race itself lasts longer than the travel.

This could mean you limit yourself to racing 50-plus miles but, hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

5. Trucker hats are a crucial piece of any running kit.

Not sure this needs more explanation.

6. Your friends talk about how “passionate” you are.

... But they’re really just dancing around the fact that you obsessively tackle everything you do.

7. You’ll run 100 miles and be happy to take home little more than a rock for your efforts.

Don’t get into ultras expecting elaborate age-group prizes. Sometimes, scraped knees and black toenails are the best prizes of all. Plus, battle wounds show off your grit.

Full disclosure: This post was written by an ultrarunner.

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