Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why on EARTH would you want to do THAT?

This is a question I've gotten a few times, and more than ever now that I've set my sights on my longest running distance yet: the 50k (31.25 miles).  I must admit, a few years ago I never thought I'd ever want to go that far, let alone actually sign up for an Ultramarathon. So, I try not to get too eye-rolly and annoyed when people just don't get it. Instead, I usually sort of dodge the "WHY on EARTH?" question with some cheeky reply ("Why not?") and move on to another topic.

Truthfully, there are so many reasons why I do what I do, at this point in my running journey it would feel bizarre not to run. Its awkward when people look at me like I'm loony, requesting a short & sweet answer to the question,

"What on Earth would make an otherwise (sort of) sane person want to run over 31 miles?"

Other people seem to find it mildly obnoxious when I list all of my (quite sane) reasons for aspiring to be an Ultra-Marathoner. I've learned that trying to briefly explain myself to a non-runner mid-conversation is not exactly productive. So, I'm gonna jot my answer down for future reference. That way, the next time someone gives me that "Huh?!" look, I'll just smile and send them right over to this cute little blog. Or, I'll come here myself on tough days when I need a reminder: This is why you run.

Man, this is gonna be super helpful.

Why am I a trail runner?

- I don't want to grow up.
Out on the trail,  I'm able leave the everyday stresses of adulthood, motherhood and wife-hood (is that a word?) behind, diving into my morning run head-first. Whether I'm climbing up a muddy hill, bounding over a small stream or flying across a rickety wooden bridge, for a brief period I get to take a break from being a grown-up. Inevitably, I'm a better grown-up for the rest of the day after my morning date with the dirt. Always.

Quick break to practice my wrestling poses.

-Its FREE. Sort of.
Running is probably one of the least expensive hobbies out there. All you need is a pair of sneakers, a good bra, a positive attitude and a sense of humor. However, if you're like me and love the competition and camaraderie of racing, that will kick up your bill a little (that race swag isn't free). Oh, and running shoes can be a little pricy, but that's about it. Long story short, running will always be less expensive, more fun and healthier than, say, a shopping hobby.

I like food.
I really, really like to eat. Maybe its because I grew up with two older brothers who could put away enough grub to make a sumo wrestler queasy, or maybe its just a genetic gift. Who knows. The point is: I. Love. Food. I also despise diets, calorie-counting and food-policing in any form. Running (a lot) allows me to eat pretty much whatever I want within reason. We tend to eat pretty healthy most of the time, but everybody needs a little greasy, cheesy, ridiculously delicious pizza once in a while. I've been the same size for a few years now, while eating enough coconut shrimp, cheese pizza and French fries to feed a few football teams.

Oh, snap. Now I'm hungry.

-I love beer.
I usually don't drink that much beer. I'm more of a Pinot Noir kinda gal most days. But, on the tail end of a 20-miler, there's nothing better than an ice cold beer in the shower. The harder the run, the better that frosty brewski tastes. YUM.

Frosty mugs after the Odyssey Trail 13.1, Douthat State Park VA 2013

-I like my peers.
Trail runners are cool. And usually nicer than average people. Sorry, average people.

- I love my body.
Trail running has changed my body in a lot of ways. Motherhood has also made some stuff move around (or droop, as the case my be). I'm now in my 30's (that was quick!). Surprisingly, I love and appreciate my body more now than at any other time in my life. This body has given me a daughter, taken me on countless adventures, completed dozens of races and put up with more than its fair share of alcohol intake. Its not perfect, but its mine and I'm proud to be in my own skin. Oh, and my husband really likes my legs. I'll take it.

-Baby Steps.
When you're starting out for a 20-mile run, you cannot think about mile 18. Or 19. Definitely not 20. The only way to get through a long run in one piece (and hopefully with a smile on your face), is to take it one mile at a time. One tiny goal at a time. Undoubtedly, during the course of a 20+-miler, there will be highs and lows, tough spots and breakthroughs. The beauty of the long run is in every milestone and every goal achieved, no matter how small. Celebrate each one. For me, this practice has transferred to every part of my life. I'm more patient, less anxious and more likely to acknowledge every small victory along the way. As the parent of a 3-year old, this definitely comes in handy.

-I love a good adventure.
My playground, Northbank Trail
Trail running can be pretty unpredictable. You never know what you're gonna come across out there on Mother Nature's turf. I've crossed paths with plenty of deer, squirrels, beavers, turtles, snakes, turkeys, birds and other critters. The wildlife I've seen while out running could rival almost any birdwatcher or (eeek!) hunter. Trail running. Its like hunting, with less killing and more exercise.

Adventure awaits where the cars can't go.
-It hurts so good.
I crave that all-over exhausted/invigorated feeling that comes with long-distance running. Its not pain, its not discomfort, its just complete and total exhaustion. In the best possible way.

-Finish line MAGIC.
If you've ever participated in a race of any distance, you know the magic of a finish line. Whether you're at the Monument Avenue 10k with 50,000 of your closest friends, or at the Willis River 50k with only a few hearty spectators, the finish line feels pretty dang good. And usually worth every mile.
Finish Line, Instant Classic Marathon 2014

"So, I get the trail running part, but why such long distances? What are you, crazy?"

 I've actually been asked that question before, word for word.

In short, running is good, trail running is awesome, and trail running for miles and miles and Running is healthy for your mind, body and spirit. When you crank up the mileage and time spent out on the trails, those feel-good benefits are amplified, blossoming into a feeling that I can only describe as pure JOY.

Oh, and I also am a little bit crazy.