Monday, March 30, 2009

The desire to run long

It occurred to me during this morning's run that lately all I do is give blow-by-blows of my training. On this day and at this time, I ran this many miles, etc. Somehow, I've fallen out of writing about running as a life experience and passion, and why it holds so much meaning. As a writer and passionate runner, I should aspire to do far more than just write blow-by-blows on this blog; I should use my writing and love of running to inspire others to participate in a sport that has been so good to me.

I've met enough people in life to know that there are those who run because it's who they are and those who would prefer a root canal to so much as a 10-minute jog. Those who run are greatly outnumbered by those who don't. And of the relatively small number who run, you have many different types, of which the most common are the 10-minute-per-mile recreational jogger, the 5K and 10K racer, the charity runner, the 30-mile-per-week runner who does it for fitness, and the one-and-done marathoner--each of whom partakes in their own worthy pursuit.

A very small number of runners go for specific time goals and/or compete--locally, regionally or even nationally and internationally. Only a small percentage of runners fit into this category. And there's another small percentage who just like to run really, really far, whether it's on roads, trails, mountains, etc. This latter group gravitates toward ultramarathons, which certainly aren't for every runner.

I think of myself as a runner who likes to go really, really far--meaning I'm first and foremost an ultrarunner (who every spring and fall tries to run what I consider for myself to be a fast marathon, though this spring I may forgo a fast marathon). The more I think about myself as a runner, the more I realize that the desire to go out really far has always been with me.

As a kid, I'd get on my bike and ride for hours all over town and beyond, seeing new places. The adventure of a long bike ride and the exploration it brought were intoxicating and reason enough to look forward to my summer vacations (which back then were three months vs. today's shortened summer vacations). I loved hiking for hours through the wooded areas surrounding our neighborhood. Around the age of 15 or 16, I finally ran the 5 miles around the lake where my grandmother lived and loved every second of it (though it kicked my butt). I remember being on the treadmill at the gym 6 or 7 years ago and getting up to 7 miles and being so proud of how far I'd gone. I remember bonking on my first 16-miler in the spring of 2004 and feeling such exhilaration in knowing I'd stretched my limits at the time. I will never forget crossing the finish line of my first marathon in the fall of 2004, or running the last 20 miles of my first 100-miler in the summer of 2007. Today, running in a 100-mile race at least once a year is one of life's greatest highlights. Maybe this fall I'll explore some more by trying the North Coast 24-Hour Run here in Cleveland (assuming I survive the Mohican 100 :) ). And then maybe I'll finally go on a multi-day journey run.

The desire to go long in my running--and in life--has always been with me. I'm sure it's always been with you, too. It's like this intense fire that keeps burning and only gets stronger. The farther you go, the farther you want to keep going. Only when you can see a great distance behind you and a great distance before you do you realize that life is just one big long run. And you keep going.


  1. I understand that need to explore. During the summer vacation, a group of friends would get on our bikes in the morning, and set out heading no where in particular, just a general direction, and rode all day.

  2. Frank: That's exactly what I loved doing...and still do when I have the time. Do kids these days even do that kind of stuff anymore...or maybe they do all their "exploring" using Wii. -- Wyatt

  3. Awesome post, Wyatt! That's what I've been waiting for - keep 'em coming!

    I still remember the first time I ran 5 miles - I was so impressed with myself. (I was 15)

    And I totally love exploring on my bike - I still do it to this day...sometimes I think I'll be a kid forever!