Ras Vaughan's Unsupported, Sextuple-Rim-to-Rim - Page 2
Do you have any upcoming projects or plans? You announced the R2R2Rx3 just a couple of days before it started. Should we expect more surprises?
I was a bit secretive about the Grand Canyon project because I knew it would be a prestigious achievement and I really thought it was low-hanging fruit. It think there are a LOT of people who could have done it both faster and in better style, so I didn’t want to shoot my mouth off ahead of time and give someone the opportunity to scoop me. But it will be fun to see those people come forward and show what can be done with the Triple Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. It can probably be done in the 48-hour range under the right weather conditions.
This season I’m fascinated with projects in the 130-mile range. That’s an intriguing distance, and pleasantly non-standard. I’ve already blabbed most of my projects for this year on my Altra Ambassadors profile page. A lot of what I’m doing this year is multiple loops. Running a trail two or three or four times in a go is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in a trail and its ecology. It’s big enough, intense enough and takes long enough that you get to experience living a portion of your life on that trail. You get to orbit through as a cog in the diurnal and nocturnal machinery of the wild.
But 10 years from now I think people will look back on what I’m doing with a resounding “meh,” if not a “hurr durr.” I think it’s all well within what’s predictable and humanly possible. My self-promotional machinations aside, I wouldn’t expect to even be a footnote to the conversation. I tend to overthink things a bit. It’s probably better for everyone if I just shut up and run.
You have a blog, a podcast and an Altra ambassadorship.
Yes, I am an Altra Ambassador, although a few of us like to spell it “AmBadAssador”.
OK, you’re an AmBadAssador, and you refer to yourself as UltraPedestrian. How would you describe your “brand” identity, and what would your logo look like?
UltraPedestrian is it. That term sums it up so wonderfully for me because it’s all encompassing as far as forms and methods of motion go, and it’s a lot easier to say than run-walk-hike-jog-trek-and-occasionally-sit-for-a-few-minutes as a description of what Kathy and I do. And that blend is what I enjoy and what fascinates me. Bipedal locomotion. Hominid movement. It’s the very thing that distinguishes us from all the other mammals.
For a logo I’m toying with the idea of a silhouette of a pair of running Sasquatches on a red, gold and green field. But I’m uncertain as to whether Kathy would find it flattering to be depicted as a lady Sasquatch, so it might be back to the drawing board.
I think lady Sasquatches are hot, but everyone’s taste is different. Somewhere you said that “Slower running is better running.” Why so?
My philosophy of running/adventuring/bipedalism is to use the most efficient, enjoyable and sustainable form of movement for reaching the specific goal in those specific environs.
I occasionally do put up a respectable time. The first of my two loops on the Wonderland Trail last year would have been an FKT only a few years ago, for example.
But for me it comes down to fast running not being sustainable running. Just like Nascar driving is not sustainable driving. A competitive runner may have only one or two goal races for the year, and they train and run according to that goal: putting up one or two outstanding performances a year. But I think most runners would rather run well a hundred times a year. From my experience, slower running correlates with fewer injuries and faster recovery, and is optimal for fat-based fueling versus carbohydrate-centric fueling.
And enjoying running is key to it being sustainable. Our brains have receptors specifically designed to make running enjoyable, thus providing positive reinforcement, which begets more running.
But I am not against fast running. I don’t think it’s wrong. I am as impressed and inspired by and in awe of the elite runners as anyone else, and I respect and admire them. What I take issue with is a culture that worships speed as the only standard by which to judge achievement. It’s time for Trail Culture to democratize running.
You have dreadlocks, write and sing in a Reggae band and run in red, yellow and green. What does Rasta have to do with running?
For me they are inextricably linked. The very language and imagery of Rastafari are rife with unrelenting foot travel. Life itself is referred to as a "trod." Growing dreadlocks as an action of spiritual livication is called "carrying locks." "Forward Ever, Backwards Never" is not only a fundamental ideal in the Rasta worldview, but also a simple, apt and penetrating ultrarunning mantra.
I am a Rasta Person and a runner, and each aspect permeates the other. Living Rastafari is my high aim in life, and that applies to my running as well as other facets of my life. It’s funny because in the trail-running scene people see me with my locks down and have that impression of me, but that’s not normally how you would see me. In a city or around town or traveling I usually have my locks coiled on top of my head and sealed in a turban. But the weight of it is too much when I am running.
My hair is heavy and can be uncomfortable and awkward. It wouldn’t be worth it if it were just a cool hairdo. But my locks are a literal outgrowth of my spirituality. In the 1963 Coral Gardens Massacre untold numbers of Rastafari People were murdered and buried in the jungle by the Jamaican army for being outwardly identifiable as Rastafari. I know elders who survived that time and carried their locks at the risk of their very lives, so it is easy, and an honor, for me to carry my locks through a small amount of inconvenience and sweat.
So you’re a spiritual guru, ultrarunner, Reggae singer, blogger, pod-caster, father and husband. A lot of people don’t know that you also lived off the grid with your wife and daughter in a small cabin for years before moving into your present place. Do you ever ask yourself, “What else does a man have to do to get a reality show these days?”
Oh, man, that’s funny. Although, if you think about it, “Healthy people consistently achieving their goals,” isn’t exactly the recipe for reality-TV gold. I don’t think Kathy and I would generate enough drama to carry a typical reality-format show. But if a show like that could be used to encourage people to push a little beyond their comfort zones and see past their perceived limitations into the infinities of possibility, then sign me up.
Thanks so much for answering my questions. It probably won’t have as big of a cultural impact as The UltraPedestrian Life™ reality show would, but hopefully this interview will introduce a few folks to your ongoing project and inspire them to try some things that they previously thought were impossible.
Ras is a blogger and podcaster with his wife Kathy at UltraPedestrian.com. The full account of his sextuple-Rim-to-Rim run can be found here. The music of Jahson Ites is available from www.sickdonkeyrecords.com and on iTunes.
Tim Mathis is a runner in the Seattle area, and blogs at alittlerunny.blogspot.com. His music is occasionally available at karaoke bars on Friday nights in Seattle’s International District.