he first time I ever ran a marathon, I thought that was it. I was done. Forever. I had gone as far as you could go. No need to run ever again. I had accomplished the epitome of running. 26.2 miles. Done.
Quickly afterwards, I learned about ultra marathons. No way. No how. Too far.
I put it out of my head, but the thought wouldn’t go away. Sure enough, a little more than a year later I found myself signing up for my first ultra marathon thinking, “what is wrong with me?”
It turned out to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it was also well worth it. If you’ve had the idea of an ultra rattling around in your brain for a while, here’s why you should finally pull the trigger and do it.
In a marathon, you just want to finish 26.2 miles. That’s it.
In an ultra, 26.2 is just the start. 26.2 is when the race begins. That’s what makes an ultra. Everything before that is just the warmup.
Do you remember your first marathon?
The first time I did mine, I wasn’t quite sure I would be able to cross that finish line and when I did, it was a mix of relief, disbelief, happiness and a strong desire to amputate my legs.
Running an ultra is like re-experiencing your first marathon all over again. You’re breaking through a whole new barrier – one that seems impossible – except this time with more miles and maybe a little more pain.
The ultra crowd isn’t really anything you would expect. Sure, there are the pros who zip along like nothing even affects them, but the vast majority are a hodgepodge of crazy people who relish getting up at 5am on a saturday to run a relatively unmarked route that you wouldn’t see unless you were looking out for it.
Unlike marathons, most ultras aren’t big events and even when they are, they’re so spread out that there’s not too much of a crowd. So you don’t get the benefit of the crowd to pull you through when the running gets rough.
Sometimes that sucks. You’ll find yourself spread out, with the closest runners 100 meters ahead or behind you. No pace groups. No markers. No big cheering crowds.
That can suck, but it’s also a cool opportunity. You begin to realize all over again that it comes down to you. It’s all in your head. How bad do you want it?
You get to ask yourself, “will you keep running even if no one is watching?
Most people think you’re absolutely crazy to even consider running an ultra. That in and of itself is a good reason to do one.
Accomplish something that most people (even experienced runners) are too scared to even consider.
Ever think about doing an ultra? You’re probably out of your mind – but you might be onto something.