My New Hobby: Ultrarunning

Actually, my new hobby is reading about ultrarunning and ultra racing. I am in no way interested in running 50+ miles. I once ran five miles and discovered that was enough.

Ultrarunning is technically defined as any event that goes beyond a marathon. There are races that exceed 100 miles, like Badwater, and many of these races bring with them their own set of psychological torments in addition to the obvious physical ones.

I got sucked into my first book on ultrarunning, Finding Ultra, because it seemed like an interesting story. It was about a middle-aged man who transformed his life, and his health, through the sport of ultrarunning. Right now, I’m halfway through my second book about ultarunning – Eat and Run, which is also about a man that gets heavily involved in the sport of ultrarunning.

Even if you are not a runner (I used to be, but my right knee decided to be quitter), or even if you just run short distances (that was me!), these books are amazing for several reasons.

First, they are incredible testaments to what the human body can achieve. Ultrarunners push their bodies to their perceived limits and then go further.

Second, they are inspiring. People get hurt in these books. They get hurt when they are racing, and they get hurt when they are training, and yet they still find a way to keep going. Last night, in reading Eat and Run, the author was talking about different injuries people acquired while racing and how they still finished. Finishing the race – unless it’s going to result in permenant injury – is important to the people who do these races. It reminded me of how often we come to yoga class no matter what.  I’ve come to class with cracked ribs, strained muscles, a sinus infection (ok – that’s pretty minor), migraines, bruises all over my body (at once), and once I came when I thought I had entered a safe zone from having a stomach virus (I was wrong. The yoga found what was left of the bug and dragged it out of me in during class.).  I am not alone. I know others come with their own sets of injuries and issues.

Third, the people who participate in ultrarunning have to learn how to deal with the mental torments. Through reading these books, I am seeing more and more how our mind gets in our way. We get in our own way, and in doing so we limit what we can achieve. In the case of these books, the limits are often physical – how well one does in a race – but we all have stories about how our mind can limit us in other ways too.  In Eat and Run, the author talks about how he learned to drown out the negative thoughts in his head. He learned how to recognize them, acknowledge them, and move past them. Isn’t that something we can all benefit from?

Finally, both books discuss the role of nutrition. Both runners became vegetarians and eventually vegans. They discuss their diet openly and what it has done for them as well as the struggles they experienced along the way.

These ultrarunners also keep getting back up when they get knocked down. One of the issues I am having with Eat and Run is that the author does make it clear that there are races he did not finish. However, he focuses (so far – I’m at the halfway point) on only the races that he finished AND excelled at. Even in the races he won, he faced huge physical and mental obstacles that he had to overcome. However, I would have loved to have heard about the races he dropped out of. The ones he didn’t finish.

We’ve all been there, right?

We’ve all had something in our lives – likely more than once – that we dropped out of, right?

Sometimes we don’t do all the postures in class (which is not the same as leaving the room and not coming back). Sometimes we back out of committments. Things get hard. We doubt ourselves. And sometimes our doubts get the best of us.

However, what matters is that we get back up and get back in. I saw this in both the runners I read about. They might be down and out for a minute, and hour, or a day, but they get back in. They keep moving forward.

They also let their training feed their lives and their lives feed their training. What I mean by this is that they work to have their training and their lives outside of training connect together in as seamless a way as possible. No, this isn’t perfect. It’s always a work in progress. But it’s helped me start to be more mindful about how my life shapes my practice and how my practice shapes my life. We can try to separate them (Now I’m at yoga. Now I’m at work.), but any such separation we create will be artifical.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: My (almost) Vegan Dinner « My Bikram Yoga Life

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