For some people, running is a therapy. Its no-nonsense approach needing you no fancy equipment whatsoever. A pair of running shoes with some clothes on and you’re good to go. Some would be happy if they could do 10 kilometres two to three times a week and some would settle for five kilometres. Some of the others wouldn’t even count the distance as they’d only view running as one of the recreational activities they can afford to squeeze in what has been a busy life generally.
The aforementioned paragraph would dedicate especially to general runners a.k.a most of us. To think that there are people out there who are crazy enough to run 50, 100, even 200 kilometres was just absolute bonkers. To decipher the reasons triggering people to do ultra-marathons, Running Malaysia asked a few prominent ultra-marathoners and the following are the reasons why they did (and are still doing) this unthinkable feat.
Coincidentally, most of the ultra-runners out there are experienced runners. They might have spent quite some years behind them doing short distance running or marathons. It is safe to state that the usual age range would start from early to mid-30s. These are the runners that have been loyal to their day jobs and found themselves stagnated without achieving anything remarkable down the line.
They might have been 15 years away from finishing high school and even a decade from graduating universities – these are the example of important life achievements. Thus by doing ultra-marathon, these runners perceive the outstanding distance they’re clocking as some fresh fulfilments for them.
2. Inspiring others
The stereotype behind inspiration is rather amusing; people do think that it’s for artists or only people whose jobs and interests have got a big relationship with creativity. It’s not. Everyone needs some glimpses of inspiration for them to be able to overturn their worries or even get their alarmingly declining life back on track. And if you’re being honest to yourself from a neutral point of view, you would be impressed if someone you know or anyone you might not know, have just completed a 150 kilometres run in the scorching heat of Sahara.
It is not the runs and distances alone. Next, you’ll begin to wonder how they get the willpower. You’ll also be impressed with the meticulous preparation they did months and months before the actual run and their utmost bravery in embracing it. Ultra-marathoners will first and foremost be happy with their attempts to run extra distances and to know they are inspiring a lot of people by doing that, they will, of course, be showered with some sense of accomplishments in themselves.
3. Seeing the world
Of course you can travel the world to see what’s there on the other side of the globe but bear in mind that ultra-marathoners often travel to the most exotic of places in the world. The tournaments often held in the most unpredictable places and that should be another solid reason why people run ultra-marathons.
For example, the highly anticipated Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) offers the chance for participants to experience a very challenging yet picturesque alpine through Switzerland, France, and Italy. Locally, The Magnificent Merapoh Trail (TMMT) is considered one of the elite trail runs in the region. Boasting four categories ranging from 35km to 100km, runners will have the chance to see the national heritage area in Taman Negara Pahang. There are rivers and caves along the way as well as rare species of flora and fauna to be seen here.
Another very impressive course attracting more and more Malaysian runners to participate is Morocco’s Marathon de Sables. Reaching its 33rd edition this year, the run is rather unique as it is self-sufficient. It means that runners have to carry all their equipment and food on their own over the six days course. A lot of ultra-marathon are held at places you wouldn’t think of visiting… Let alone running!
4. Race Preparation
Running an ultra-marathon is not those few days you spend on the course till you reach the finishing line. It is months of hard work and preparation. Ultra-marathoners are left with no choice but to be very tactically adaptable in order to successfully run the outrageous distance in an ultra-marathon. There is absolutely no way for them to run successfully if they don’t take the preparations seriously.
Indeed, these runners will be challenged both mentally and physically during the run but it is during the preparation where the excitement will start to build-up for them. In the preparatory stage, they’ll often research the course, the tactics on which point do they control the pace and which turns would be perfect for them to attack with steadier strides.
Ultramarathoners would go as detail as pointing out the points where they need to eat or drink so that they could concentrate on getting to the finishing line. They’d also look over to finessing the whole run by having the map pictured in their head in case anything happens. The lengthy but worthy preparations are what keeps ultra-marathoners in love with the run.
5. Knowing self-limitation
A lot of times, self-limitation is being put in the same bracket with self-awareness. It means that if you know yourself well enough, you would know where your limitation is. You know exactly what is your mind’s capabilities, when exactly do you need to press the stop button or in ultra-marathoners’ case, can they do this? When you have a doubt over whether or not you can do it but you’re doing it anyway, that is when your limitation is being tested.
It proves that ultra-marathoners are not doing it blindly; just for the sake of running. It is a mission. A mission that needs big sacrifices from both the body and the mind and if they can’t quite pull it off, they could tell themselves that they have tried and more importantly, by now they already know their limitation. Going forward, they’re aware of their own ability and would wholly understand themselves better.
This is the kind of knowledge and understanding that you wouldn’t know if you don’t test yourself hard enough. There are many ways to test yourself in pursuit to know your limits but these ultra-marathoners chose to run 100km in the scorching heat of Sahara or braving the freezing Swiss Alps for hours and hours to know theirs.