Five Ways Running An Ultra Marathon Will Change You Forever

©istockphoto/millsrymer

There are run­ners in this world, and then there are ultra run­ners. They are not the same. At all. Ultra­run­ners take their cho­sen sport to a dif­fer­ent exis­tence altogether—a plane the grand major­i­ty of humans nev­er even con­sid­er. In this way, ultra run­ners are unique.

They are not bet­ter than any­one else. They are not crazy. But they are def­i­nite­ly different.

Per­haps what is most spe­cial about the world of ultra run­ners is that all are wel­come. If, at any point in your life, you get that curi­ous itch to try an ultra­ma­rathon and see what it’s all about, know that you can do it—but also know you’ll nev­er be the same, in the best of ways.

Con­fi­dence
You’ll notice a con­fi­dence boost before you even run the race—just sign­ing up for it required a sig­nif­i­cant amount of for­ti­tude. After you’ve com­plet­ed it, how­ev­er, you’ll notice increased con­fi­dence in many oth­er aspects of your life as well, as the thought process of, “Well, if I can run 31, 50, etc. miles, I can prob­a­bly do just about any­thing…” sets in. In that sense, it’s kind of like child­birth. Not many things can claim that.

Raised Bar
Your goals will nev­er be the same. Know­ing what you’re capa­ble of, you will nev­er again be sat­is­fied with min­i­mal efforts and mediocrity—from your­self or oth­ers. This may put some peo­ple off in your life, but don’t let that get you down; just remem­ber that most put-downs stem from jealousy.

Iden­ti­ty
Regard­less of the many oth­er ways you iden­ti­fy your­self, peo­ple who dis­cov­er you’ve run an ultra (whether it’s one or a hun­dred races) will for­ev­er see you as ‘that hard­core run­ner’. But hey, there are cer­tain­ly worse things you could be called, right?

Addic­tion
Few run­ners run just one ultra. The train­ing is gru­el­ing, the race is extreme in pret­ty much every way you can imag­ine, and finishing…well, that’s damn mag­i­cal. That feel­ing of finishing—a mix­ture of pride, jubi­lance, and relief—is intox­i­cat­ing. Most of us spend the rest of our lives chas­ing it, find­ing it once in a while at the end of a 31, 50, or 100-mile trek.

Respect
Life presents us with many oppor­tu­ni­ties to earn respect from oth­ers, but the oppor­tu­ni­ties to earn your own respect are the most notable—completing an ultra­ma­rathon is one of those oppor­tu­ni­ties. It’s impos­si­ble to cross that fin­ish line and not think of your body dif­fer­ent­ly. What it just accom­plished is awe­some, in the truest def­i­n­i­tion of the word. You will think twice before ever putting your­self down, pick­ing on your own flaws, or not tak­ing prop­er care of your­self again. Endur­ing an ultra­ma­rathon requires your mind and body to find one anoth­er, make­up from any past or present trans­gres­sions, and work togeth­er to a degree that dai­ly liv­ing (unfor­tu­nate­ly) does not require. Once you expe­ri­ence what this sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship can accom­plish, you’re high­ly unlike­ly to return to unhealthy habits that work against it.

Ultra­run­ning may sound like a hell­ish expe­ri­ence, or just a sim­ple exam­ple of crazi­ness, to those who have not expe­ri­enced it. Per­haps ultra run­ners allow these mis­con­cep­tions to con­tin­ue because we appre­ci­ate the pro­tec­tion and pri­va­cy it offers the sport. The only way to under­stand is to try, and whether you’re will­ing to do that is up to you. If you are con­sid­er­ing dab­bling your toe into the ultra run­ning community—you can’t say you weren’t warned—know that you will be wel­comed, chal­lenged, encour­aged, and for­ev­er changed. Are you ready?