When people ask this seemingly simple question, I'm often left without a response. There are the typical canned responses like, "I like the challenge", "I enjoy trail running/nature/pooping in the woods" or the ever-popular "Oprah ruined the marathon."
My reasons are a little more personal. We all have that little voice in our head that tells us to stop. It is the self-doubt or regulator that is ready to throw in the towel. Some would call it a self-preservation instinct. As a dedicated lazy ass, that voice wins out a lot. Do I get off the couch to put my beer bottle in the garage, or do I just leave it on the table? Ninety-nine percent of the time, I leave it on the table. When running, that voice is constantly reminding me how I could be doing something more relaxing.
Don't get me wrong- I love running. But the longer I run, the louder that voice becomes. I enjoy the inner turmoil of mustering the will to overcome that voice. I don't always have to silence it; the occasional ultra will do.
I also run ultras for the social scene. In every ultra I've participated in, the race directors, volunteers, fans, and other runners have been absolutely awesome! There is a sense of camaraderie that simply doesn't exist in other races. Maybe it's the mutual suffering. Maybe it has something to do with nature. Maybe we've all suffered a self-induced lobotomy from long runs. At any rate, the ultra crowd is filled with genuinely nice people that are willing to help each other reach the finish line.
Finally, I like doing stuff that most people believe is impossible. Running extremely long distances is one of those things. I like that only about 1-3% of all runners even attempt ultras. Of course, I'm a pretty crappy ultrarunner as I often finish in the back of the pack. I don't mind, though, the front-runners motivate me to continue to improve.
The decision to run ultras is ultimately a very personal decision. It is up to you to find your motivator. Having said that, each and every person reading this should have the capacity to run ultras. It's not as difficult as it may seem. If my unathletic, slow self can finish them, you surely have the ability. My goal with this blog series is to help you along that journey.
Okay, so you're seriously considering the idea. My advice at this point- COMMIT! Go to one of the many ultra calendar sites on the 'web (as a shameless plug, I recommend http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/ultrarunning.html.) Pick a race in your area. Depending on your experience level, it may be best to start with a 50k. If you're a complete running rookie, allow a good six months to train. If you are a veteran marathoner, you could probably do one next weekend. Print out the registration form or register online. Ninety percent of tackling ultras is mental, and a good first step is initiating the process. The rest will take care of itself.
If anyone does sign up for an ultra, share your news in the "comments" section!