The sport of the ultra-marathon has made itself known. And, now, just as with all other sports, the field has changed. The sport has attracted more “elite” runners. The runners who are seemingly built for running ultra-distances at ultra fast paces. The right bodies and minds are showing themselves as the perfect ultra-marathoner. As this happens, those left still loving the sport, with the seemingly wrong bodies and minds are left standing.
Right before the San Diego 50 miler in January of this year, I read an article from a large competitive coaching organization that essentially proclaimed the “old” ultra-running mentality is being erased. No longer would ultra marathons be these wildly adventurous feats of super-human determination. The elites have created a stage that makes the sport seem easier than others have claimed. Like everyone can do these things. And, only very special people can be good at it. That’s really kind of fucked up. While I do appreciate the performance of the elite folks, being elite or the feats of such is not a focus of mine. And, I love me the elite females, especially. They are inspiring as not only ultra-runner leaders, but their feats off the trails are equally grandiose. But, more impressive to me are the stories of people who have battled cancer or lost limbs or of mom’s and dad’s and grandma’s and grandpa’s who are just average folks running crazy hard races.
Average folks who run 50 mile or 100 mile races - doesn’t really seem “average”, right?? And, they do these more than a few times. They run these things for years.
It’s the 73 year old guy, Clem from the Bay Area, who tries to beat his 75 year old friend in local races. Or, the 21 year old ex-student of one of my friends, Nick, who was in a gang most of his teens and turned his life around running his first 50k. Not so average if you ask me. The ultra-marathon truly is a sport for everyone. It’s a sport that gives back in ways that other sports just can’t. Humans relentlessly pushing themselves by their own will are not average.
Everyone who runs these is a super-human performing adventurous feats. Discrediting those who can’t be elite really is not fair. While I appreciate the sentiment of that article, I’m going to keep trying to get close to the top field. Because, I believe that I can still do it. As old as I am and as not elite as I am.
So, to you all, I run alongside you with a shared smile, a shared tear, shared joy. The elites wouldn’t be anything without us.