21 December 2012

How To Be An Ultrarunner

Before the first idiot scoots excitedly to the edge of his Aeron chair and amazes us with his power of observation that you merely need to run one step further than a marathon to be an ultrarunner, I'll point out that being an ultrarunner is much more than simply running 26.3 miles.  It's a culture, and a humorous culture at that.  There's the terminology, the clothing, the technical gear, the shoes, the realization that you're slow as a banana slug, the failing marriage (and/or relationship), the addictive personality, the disdain for humanity (or the pseudo dark aloofness for humanity that you saw in a James Dean poster image once, that you now covet while sitting at a grey conference table during Friday afternoon meetings in your going-nowhere job).  You look through the running magazines and lust after the 23 year old men and women with glowing, elastic skin and flowing black hair.  You're 40, pasty, a little chubby and have ear hair that would scare a child.  But you transcend your reality through ultrarunning because it's going to be your culture.  You will be in the tribe (whether the tribe has a say in it or not).

You've run a marathon and maybe even broke 4 hours once, so why not give longer distances a shot?  I mean, the cut off times in ultras are more lenient than a stoned 10th grade sociology teacher.  You could actually place in your age group, since most ultra events have more age group categories than participants; it's like a little kids' birthday party - everyone goes home with a treat.  Then you can finally start balancing out that stupid medal rack you bought that has the Dunkin Donuts Suffolk County 6k 3rd place age group medal dangling from one end.  Sadly, as you'll learn, many ultras retain the "old school" mindset, which is just another way to say they're cheap bastards who think flour on the ground is an acceptable finish line and a jug of water next to the trail is an aid station.  The only way you'll take anything good home from those races is by grabbing a slower competitor's finish line bag before he finishes.  Of course, the upside of these cheap ass races is that, well, they're usually cheap.  Per mile the cost is often about 1/5 that of a boring 5k in your town (if you're bad at math like most Americans, that means a $30 5k equates to just $90-$100 for a 50 mile race).

Ultrarunning is so much more than simply running the events.  There are huge numbers of people who run ultras but are cluelessly outside of the culture of the tribe, ostracized like a greasy pimple faced kid at a school pep rally.  So, how do you wedge yourself into the grimy, sinewy circle of ultrarunning?
Throw that shit right in the garbage.  (dude might want to look into a refund for his community college graphic arts degree)

Before you even run a step go to your bedroom with a garbage bag and throw away every t-shirt (and/or cheap road running hat) from every event shorter than a marathon that you've ever saved.  You don't want to be caught dead in a Whirlaway 10k shirt (well, maybe hang onto that one, since it gives a little street cred [look it up] but don't wear it).  The only way it's cool showing up to an ultra run in a short distance shirt is if you're the fastest one of the group (not likely).  Next, pitch all your road running shoes.  This is critical if you're one of those hypochondriacs who wears super heavy motion control shoes with more posting support than the Bay Bridge and resemble white bricks.  And, God help us, if you use $200 orthopedic inserts, wrap those up in newspaper (so even the garbage man doesn't see them) and toss them out.  The goal here is to completely scrape everything having to do with road running from your existence, a cleansing, if you will (which you damn well better).

Resemblance a coincidence or a metaphor (running, weakness, collapsing, support, support group...)

If you're feeling rather naked and exposed after stripping away all remnants of your road running life, good.  Minimalism (or at least the proclamation that you are in fact minimalist) is one of the cornerstones of your ultrarunning foundation (visage).  Don't fret, shortly, you'll be wearing and using more gear in ultrarunning than a Navy Seal Diver who golfs on the weekends.  We'll get to that later.

While you're at it, erase the history on your web browser and wipe letsrun.com from your memory.  The forum is loaded with the upper echelon of mediocrity in the road running world.  And, like most groups who feel a sense of inferiority, they find and pick on groups they deem lessor than themselves.  It's like the stone-dumb hillbilly whities in the South who have ingrained racist hatred for black folks.  They think they've found an inferior group, so they automatically hate them in the hope that it will raise their own sad social status (but I digress... wildly).  Letsrun seems to feel that ultrarunning is where slow road runners go to die.  Granted, paces are obviously slower in many ultras.  You're running 40 times further and over mountains. 

Ultrarunners, of course, counter this attack with uplifting quotes and sayings, albeit sometimes barbs and "witty" (intended strength of quotes around "witty" are off the charts and cannot be measured on the Long-Scale of sarcasm) comebacks.  Some of the more common gems:

"So, you ran a marathon?  How cute." - This is an attempt to belittle road marathon runners, even though they may likely run marathons in 2:30, nearly twice as fast as your plodding ass.

"It never always gets worse." - Yes.  Yes it does in fact get worse.  Right up until you cross the finish line of a 100 miler, each step is a new definition of pain.  Don't kid yourself.

"Any idiot can run a marathon.  It takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultramarathon." - A faint attempt to illustrate and acknowledge ultrarunners have humor and self deprecation.  It's still saying ultras are superior.

I'll leave you to ponder Part 1 of How To Be An Ultrarunner while I fight off death threats and trolling sludge from Letsrun.com

In Part 2 of How To Be An Ultrarunner we will take a look at the dichotomy of minimalistic footwear matched with $900 of gear and attire, pride in otherwise personal hygiene, relieving oneself, and body parts falling off.  And so much more (if I think of anything).