Running through the delights of Hampstead Heath on a brisk autumn day transported me back to some of the races I've done. I could have been anywhere, I couldn't hear any traffic, there was no-one else around and all I could hear was the sound of my feet hitting the ground. At times like this my mind wanders and every now and then I have a moment of complete clarity about something. In this case it was about why I run ultra's. We all get a thrill when we see or do something that is out of the ordinary, a great concert puts a smile on our face and a buzz inside us for hours, a good film similarly so, watching someone score an impossible goal or run a world record leaves us feeling amazed and in awe of the athlete. This is why we are attracted to going to the concert or watching sport in the first place; that potential to see something incredible which will lift our spirits above the ordinary of every day life. It gives us a moment of escape as we are drawn into the game, race , concert or film. Why do we desire this escape in the first place? Are our lives that depressing that any chance we get we try and escape from it? I dont think so, I think it's just that our daily lives don't come with the extreme's of emotion that watching sport or entertainment can bring about. Obviously occasions like weddings or a new born baby are experiences that are unrivalled by anything but they are few and far between in our lives.
But it's at these extremes of emotions that most of us feel truly alive. On our wedding day we feel more love than at any other time in our lives, not just the love of our partner but the love of everyone who attends, at a funeral we also feel the intense love of a person departed or at the birth of a new born baby we are filled with joy for the parents and it fills us with hope of a wonderful life for the newborn. In between these occasions our normal lives dont have any of the same joy, love ,happiness, excitement as these occasions provide so we go seeking them elsewhere.
Unfortunately to bring about these extremes of emotions it almost always revolves around someone else - it's someone else scoring the goal, or running the world record and you can only experience them if your team is the one scoring the goal or if you actually enjoy the film. Sometimes our team will lose, our favourite athlete wont make it to the final or the tube will break down after the concert and all the positive emotions and feelings we experienced are frustrated away sitting on a tube . What if you could get that same feeling but it was you doing the something amazing rather than you being the observer. Then you would be in control of what happened, you wouldn't have to wait until your favourite band started a world tour, or the olympic games came around to get that buzz inside.
Ultramarathons give you that chance. Finishing something that to most people seems impossible gives me that same buzz of watching someone else do the impossible only a million times more intense. It heightens all of my emotions, both good and bad throughout the race. The pain of running for that long, the joy of realising the finish is near and the feeling of total and utter contentment and peace after finishing is something that is rarely felt in normal life. Ultra's also ask many questions of yourself - how bad do you want to finish? how much pain are you prepared to handle? how far are you prepared to push yourself? why dont you stop running and walk? .. no-one will know. Sometimes the answers to those can be not what you think or hope , other times they can suprise you in ways you never thought possible. Regardless of what the answers are you learn a little more about yourself.
Granted you cant do as many ultramarathons as you can watch games of football but every training session is a journey towards something incredible. So four, five, six days of the week you are doing something that will make the impossible a reality. Although the buzz after a training session is nowhere as intense as after a race, there is still a real feeling of well being and contentment after you've completed another session that will bring you to the achievement of finishing the race. For me thats one of the reasons why I love doing what I do.
And here is the rest of it.