This morning, I read a rather click-baity article about the kinds of questions that runners hate answering. Honestly, I don’t know why I clicked it — blame it on lack of coffee in my blood stream. A common theme in the article is the obsession with the marathon. When are you running your first marathon? Are you training for Boston? The writer then goes on to say that she is perfectly happy with her 5ks and 10ks.
I’m also tired of the marathon obsession, but from the other end of the spectrum. The marathon distance isn’t the pinnacle of a runner’s career. You can run further. Your legs don’t magically stop working after 42.2km.
The following quote from Christopher McDougall’s Born to run gives us a nice glimpse into the mindset of an ultra runner. This tiny section is one of my favorite parts in the book.
“So why not marathons?” I asked Jenn when I called to interview her about the Young Guns. “Do you think you could qualify for the Olympic Trials?”
“Dude, seriously,” she’d said. “The qualifying standard is 2:48. Anyone can make it.” Jenn could run a sub-three-hour marathon while wearing a string bikini and chugging a beer at mile 23-and she would, just five days after running a 50-mile trail race in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“But then what?” Jenn went on. “I hate all this hype about the marathon. Where’s the mystery? I know a girl who’s training for the Trials, and she’s got every single workout planned for the next three years! She’s doing speedwork on the track like, every other day. I couldn’t take it, man. I was supposed to run with her once at six in the morning, and I called her up at two a.m. to tell her I was shitfaced on margaritas and puh-robably not gonna make it.”
Jenn didn’t have a coach or a training program; she didn’t even own a watch. She just rolled out of bed every morning, downed a veggie burger, and ran as far and as fast as she felt like, which usually turned out to be about twenty miles. Then she hopped on the skateboard she’d bought instead of a parking pass and kicked off to class at Old Dominion, where she’d recently dropped back into school and was making straight As.