Last week a co-worker asked me why ultra marathons, as opposed to “regular marathons.”
“They have way better snacks,” I said. It’s kind of funny that’s the first thing I thought of. “Instead of just Gatorade and GU, they have Oreos and soup and grilled cheese at the aid stations.”
“Also, it’s a really great vibe. Everyone is so nice and it’s not too competitive. You don’t feel bad about having to walk or being slow. People are just out here like, ‘we are all doing this!'”
On Friday I had breakfast with several running friends and everyone agreed, it is a much more laid back atmosphere. Even the elite runners who win stick around to drink beer and cheer on everyone else coming in. “You would never see that at a road race,” one of my friends commented.
Saturday during my long run I decided to make a list of reasons why I run ultras (in addition to the aforementioned amazing aid station food).
- Being in nature. This is probably the number one reason that I love ultras. They are normally on trails, and the scenery is beautiful. Of course you don’t want to spend too much time looking at the scenery because you need to be on the lookout for roots, AKA toe catchers. Which brings me to:
- Focusing on the present. Because of the changing landscape and conditions, you have to really focus on what you are doing. If your mind strays to that issue at work or the housework that needs doing, you are liable to find yourself flat on your face. The only other time I have similar “forced presence” is when I am riding my motorcycle. For that reason I don’t listen to music while I’m on the trails.
- No need to worry about being run over by a car. Seriously, it seems like every time I run on the road there are distracted drivers a little too close for comfort. Even though I often run a little ways into the field along the shoulder I still worry that someone texting and driving is going to take me out.
- Better for your body. It is crazy, my legs hurt much more after 10 miles on the road than 26.2 on the trail. When trail running, you use different muscles and the softer ground doesn’t beat up your feet as much.
- Laid-back vibe. The race that really got me hooked on trails last year was the T-Rex. I loved the old school hand made signs and prize drawing at the end.
- Sense of community. There is nothing like spending hours running/hiking with someone to get to know them. This was most clear to me at the winter challenge 50K earlier this year.
- Because I can. I will likely never be a fast runner. But I can go far. I love just spending hours out there chugging away. I have not yet met my limit. Had I not had the stomach issues at the double marathon, I’m confident that I would have finished.
- Physical health. See the photo at the beginning of this post. I never want to get back to looking like the image on the right.
- Mental health. Last year I went through a period of depression, and ultra running helped me find my grounding. I was able to work out a lot of things on the trails. Turns out this is quite common. For more information check out the awesome organization Still I Run.
So now that you know the why, on to the what the training looks like!
The Weekly Wrap
Monday: 20 minutes strength training
Tuesday: 15 minutes core workout, 3 miles hill work (ladders)
Wednesday: 20 minutes strength workout, 3 miles recovery run
Thursday: 15 minutes core workout, 6 miles with surges
Friday: rest day
Saturday: 17 mile easy run
Sunday: 6 miles on tired legs
For more fitness inspiration be sure to check out these running link ups: The Weekly Wrap hosted by hosted by HoHo Runs and Wendy from Taking the Long Way Home and Tuesdays on the Run with Patty, Erika, and Marcia!