An ultramarathon is a long continuous run/walk usually 50 miles or more. Some events are for a duration of time and others are as long as 135 miles in 133 degree heat in the middle of summer through Death Valley aka the Badwater Ultramarathon.
I have never done an ultramarathon before but I have always been intrigued by the preparation and mental aspects of really long (well, really, really long) distance event like this. If you are like me, you are probably asking yourself; Are all these people just crazy or do they really enjoy this stuff? How can you possibly prepare for such an undertaking? What does it take? Why on earth would somebody want to go through that kind of pain?
I get the same questions when it relates to marathons or triathlons but I guess to some degree I like pain. I find the most monumental goals are achieved with some pain. After running a marathon your perspective of things you once perceived as hard, pale in comparison and life seems even more manageable. At least for me, those are some of the reasons I do triathlons among others like learning self-discipline, discovering what I can do and pushing my limits. I believe many humans have a need to be one-with-nature and for me there is no better way to do that than with a pair of running shoes. I imagine some of these same reasons could be why ultramarathon participants do it. They want to see if they can. They like to push their limits.
I really loved exploring this book about the 2003 Badwater event because I am facinated by the detailed aspects of preparing for a race an analyzing what you might encounter and how you can best prepare yourself for it like how Bill Locktons’ training approach included studying heat illness text. Smart. The book also talked about the experiences of Dean Karnazes and Chris Bergland which is always interesting. I also loved to learn how the Race Director was very particular about what applications were accepted into the race. He knew that not everyone could do this type of challenge without some ultra experience etc…
Another story that I really liked in the book was about Pam Reed. She seemed to have to prove herself and abilities once again when doubts about her previous years Badwater Ultramarathon victory (finishing 1st overall) were questioned. I can understand the feeling of having a target on your back.
One thing I really learned about the book was how valuable the crew is to the runner. Without a good crew the runner simply couldn’t do it. To many participants the Badwater event is like life “You plan, you set goals, you prepare, but it is never quite like you planned because it is not all in your control. The true test of fitness, both physical and mental, is to adjust to how things unfold and to make the best of what you get.” So true.
At this point in my life I can’t imagine setting aside the time it would take to train for such a monumental event however I can’t say for sure that I won’t do it. Never say never. Maybe just maybe (and that is a big MAYBE), before my life is over, I may take a stab at earning the “coveted finishers belt buckle.”
Yes another great addition to any athletes’ library. Get your own copy of the book
Coach Lora Erickson
To learn more about the event check out this video clip: