Why I’m Doing This – my Ultra “Manifesto”

I started running ultra distances a couple of years ago – and it changed my life.  I’m hoping that maybe it can change yours, too.

1931018_1048563288045_4212_nI’ve always been a runner, starting from the time I joined my 6th grade cross country team, through high school, college, and then during the years I spent in the Army.   I’ve never been super fast, but I had pretty good endurance and it never really felt like hard work.  I could always just go do it.  Pretty lucky, right?

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-11-26-43-pmI followed the same well-worn path a lot of runners do – a 5k “fun run” turns into a 10k and before you know it you’re training for a marathon.   I liked the marathon at first – the distance seemed impressive and the training was enough to burn off whatever I was eating during the week.  Plus, I could use the race itself as an excuse to go see a fun new location somewhere.  I went to Paris, Honolulu, and Boston and ran through those cities.
screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-11-21-47-pmBut as the finisher medals started piling up, the marathon training started feeling more like drudgery than something I actually enjoyed.   On weekends I dreaded the long runs and I always felt burned out during the week.  I would miss training days (sometimes purposely) and then try to make up mileage out of guilt.  I wanted to be faster – not to get a race PR, mind you.  But just to get the training over more quickly.  As you probably know, when you’re grinding out miles, you’re not having fun.

I was trying to psych myself up to start training for the Dallas marathon when a co-worker suggested trying a 50-miler.  You’d think as burned out as I was that I would’ve laughed it off.  Twice the distance?  You must be joking.  But after reading about the ultra community I realized that this was the type of “soulful” running I was longing for.

Ultra training seemed like getting back to basics – slowing down, paying attention to your body, being more connected with the environment around you.  I listed to guys like Anton Krupicka and Scott Jurek talking about the bigger purpose of running – and I found their philosophies filling the void I had in my running life.

After a handful of 50s, I just completed my first 100-miler – the Vermont 100.   It was a humbling experience.  I finished, but it required nearly everything I had in the tank, physically and mentally.  I realize now that I honestly had no idea what I was doing  out there.   It was a miracle that I got it done.  The 100 is such a monster distance, with so many things that can go wrong over the course of 24+ hours, that it demands respect.

As such, after nearly 40 years of amateurish running, two things are happening.  First, I’m finally getting serious about running.  Second, I love running again.
Now that I’m finally learning what works (and what doesn’t) and why,  I’ll try to keep track of it here.  I’m rethinking everything: training, eating, hydration, gear, physiology, psychology.  And I hope that the stuff that I’m learning can help you on your own ultra-running journey.  Enjoy!

Author: troy figgins

Ultra-runner, ketogenic enthusiast, experiment of one. Like you, I'm just an ordinary person trying to figure out how to do extraordinary things.

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