Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ultra Running – Does it make you a better person?

From a health perspective I can’t imagine anyone would argue that running, and indeed running ultra distances doesn’t lower your BMI (trying to be politically correct – but let’s face it you don’t see many ultra runners in XL clothing).  But this doesn’t necessarily make you a better person.


It comes down to how you measure “betterness”.  The thing is I’ve never met an ultra runner I didn’t like.  There have been a few who talk too much and probably more who don’t talk enough such is the nature of the sport. The thing is that they all are pretty balanced people and never judgemental.  It’s one of the few sports where the person who finishes at the back gets as much adulation from the crowd as the person who finishes first. In my mind they deserve more kudos having had the mental fortitude to be out there longer than the rest of us.


The requirements of training for and ultra are ones of dedication and discipline unless you are truly gifted.  These characteristics show a personality of someone who has a drive to achieve something and are prepared to put in the work to get there.  They are the characteristics of someone who wants to find out their limits and perhaps to push them out a little further. All of which I think are admirable and in my mind are fundamental to the definition of bettering yourself.


In the course of training for an ultra you will invariably be spending many hours alone. This gives you time to reflect and gain a perspective on any matters that are on your mind which could otherwise have caused unnecessary stress and negativity. I personally use my longer runs to problem solve, or to clear my head when having to deal with frustration. Whilst out running I can get a big picture perspective on whatever it is on my mind, and then focus on what really matters without the distractions of other thought or external factors.  I guess this is when you get “in the zone” where you are effectively running on auto-pilot.


Being alone for long periods of time you also have to become comfortable with yourself, and hence be more comfortable with others. I find myself more tolerant and calm when I’m running regularly.


So I’d say that all of those who attempt what is for them a super human challenge are indeed super humans. If everyone on the planet took the time to indulge in regular exercise, the world would be a better place.


I’ll leave with an excerpt from an article about a competitor fundraising in this year’s Badwater Ultramarathon:


Dr Finnell says he'll have a lot of time to reflect during the race and when he hits rough patches he'll draw strength from the goals of the kids and the organization. "These kids have experienced situations most of us couldn't even dream about. They've had failures, defeats and heartache and when they come into our program we ask them to try one more time." Finnell says like them, he'll be giving the race his best shot, and regardless of the outcome he'll be better for the experience.


Happy Running


Andy


“The greatest pleasure in life is doing the things people say we cannot do” – Walter Bagehot

Sunrise over Noosa this morning from the top of Mount Tinbeerwah
Today’s Training – which took in Sunrise across Noosa