Run Gently Out There


We’ve reached a time when ultra run­ning is actu­al­ly a phrase peo­ple rec­og­nize. They may not know the pre­cise def­i­n­i­tion of it, but at least they’ve heard of it and know that it involves ‘run­ning real­ly far’.  John More­lock is one small rea­son for that.

Run­ning ultras long before marathons had real­ly caught on with the gen­er­al pub­lic, More­lock record­ed his thoughts and expe­ri­ences ultra run­ning in his 30+ year career writ­ing a reg­u­lar arti­cle for Ultra Run­ner Mag­a­zine called “Run Gen­tly Out There”. His 2013 book, Run Gen­tly Out There: Tri­als, Trails, and Tribu­la­tions of Run­ning Ultra­ma­rathons, is a col­lab­o­ra­tion of his best or favorite arti­cles from all those years.

I’m the first to admit that, despite being active in the ultra run­ning com­mu­ni­ty for a few years now, I’ve nev­er read one of Morelock’s blogs. It doesn’t mat­ter. Three or so pages into his book, I felt like a kid lis­ten­ing to my dad tell me amaz­ing sto­ries of his trav­els on foot through var­i­ous forests and paths. Morelock’s con­ver­sa­tion­al tone, humil­i­ty, and humor drew me in. He lacks the tra­di­tion­al self-pro­mot­ing tone many gurus adopt and shares his fail­ures as read­i­ly as his suc­cess­es, which inevitably hits home to any­one who has attempt­ed train­ing for dis­tances of a marathon and longer. We all have good runs, bad runs, ugly runs, pen­sive runs, and ‘death march­es’ as More­lock dubbed them. More­lock shares, through good humor, his expe­ri­ences with them all.

In one exam­ple, More­lock described a new race that he and his wife par­tic­i­pat­ed in togeth­er. He writes that he fin­ished “first (over­all), set the course record, and beat my wife sound­ly. She, on the oth­er hand, came in dead last—even need­ing assis­tance at the Ham­ma Ham­ma Riv­er cross­ing.” Where­as, his wife described the same race say­ing, “I fin­ished sec­ond over­all. He came in next to last.”  In real­i­ty, they were the only two in the race. The ‘assis­tance’ Morelock’s wife received was a pig­gy­back ride from him across a riv­er she was too short to cross safe­ly solo.

More­lock also exem­pli­fies the stereo­type of the old school ultra run­ners. He’s cer­tain­ly a bit ‘odd’ by tra­di­tion­al stan­dards, but that is what makes him intrigu­ing and like­able. He describes his runs in hours rather than miles, fre­quent­ly runs with his wife (also an ultra run­ner), and writes almost as much about the scenery as his actu­al­ly run­ning. It’s clear that More­lock runs because he loves it; noth­ing more, noth­ing less.

Being a col­lab­o­ra­tion of short arti­cles, rather than a book with a sin­gle plot to fol­low, Run Gen­tly is easy to put down and pick up mul­ti­ple times through­out the day or week. I read it in my garage while ped­dling on the bike train­er, lying in bed before sleep, and in 5‑minute incre­ments between moth­er­ing, appoint­ments, and phone calls.  Each time I reached the end of an arti­cle, I’d tell myself, “Okay, time to put the book away,” but then steal a glimpse at the title of the fol­low­ing arti­cle and inevitably give in, “Okay, just ONE more….”

In a time when it’s scar­i­ly easy to get sucked into the Inter­net and not come up for air for hours, it’s tru­ly a high com­pli­ment when some­one prefers a book to the screen. Run Gen­tly cre­at­ed this desire with­in me. It not only remind­ed me of why books have endured so many gen­er­a­tions, but the mes­sage with­in the book remind­ed me that life is grand, unique, unpre­dictable, and incred­i­bly reward­ing – so get out there and live the hell out of it.

By: Audra Run­dle