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Moldy Camelbaks, mud-stained shoes and the endless questions about why someone would ever choose to run for hours on end
Photo by Flickr user NickP // Creative Commons
1. It’s dirty.
You have to use the bathroom in the trails or, if you’re unfortunate enough to do an ultra in the street, on the side of the road. Your Camelbak will never be clean, no matter what kind of bleach or organic cleaning product you use. You will eat with your hands. If it’s raining, your calves and butt will look exactly like the trail. Whatever color your shoes are now, forget it, because they’ll soon be brown.
2. Your feet will look like aliens.
No pedicure can save them. They will be calloused and blistered and your skin will never grow back the same way again. Your feet will swell and shrink. You will lose your toenails. First the pinky, and then, depending on the length of your race, every single one.
3. It’s expensive.
You’ll have to find a way to cover your grocery bill, which grows every time you move up to a new training bracket. You’ll have to buy a new wardrobe once your clothes stop fitting. You’ll need to buy rain gear and snow gear and first-aid kits, and then you have to pay for the race. You have to buy trail shoes. Then you have to buy new shoes after yours wear out.
4. You have to travel.
Where do you live? There’s a better ultramarathon two hours away. If you don’t live near the mountains or the hills, there’s no option except in the next time zone. The race goes from the fifth to the sixth and then you have to drive and acclimate and meet new people. You have to take pictures. Sometimes you’ll have to learn a new language. Then you have to run in a new language. Impossible.
5. Planning your social and running calendar becomes a science project.
It’s easier to get new friends who train, or just stop having friends.
Nobody knows what an ultra is and then once they do know, they don’t understand why you’re doing it. They sometimes don’t know what kilometers are and then you have to convert. They’ve never seen a hydration pack before. You have to explain how to eat while running, and you must defend your food choices. They don’t know what calories mean in an ultra.
7. It’s unhealthy.
It is absolutely impossible and preposterous for someone to run 100 miles in a day without stopping. It has NEVER been done before. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You will be crippled. Ask your doctor. Your knees will lock up forever. The last step you ever take will be across the finish line and then you are DONE. People don’t even like driving 100 miles! Don’t do it. You’ll probably die.
8. It’s too hot.
It’s also too cold. It’s also too windy and rainy and it might snow. Ice? It’s everywhere. You’ll get a sunburn. Sometimes it hails here. What if it rains?
9. You will spend way too much time with yourself.
You are not that interesting. You will probably be bored after two miles. The songs you have stuck in your head? You will hate them by the end of the race. There is no scenery to look at. The lakes that you pass will be ugly. The ocean is so loud. As for the mountains—you think you’ll have fun running for 17 hours in the mountains? Anyway, you’re going to be in so much pain you won’t be able to think. Nobody is going to talk to you; after all, it’s a race.
10. Somehow, you have to get in the best shape of your life.
You have to train in the morning and do your yoga at night and swim to keep your hips together and do push-ups. You have to run up stairs and up hills; you have to run them forwards and backwards to work all of your muscle groups. If you don’t have defined abs, you have to get them. At the end of the race when you’re skinnier and older, you won’t be able to walk and you’ll realize with mixed emotions that you’re in the worst shape of your life. Then you have to rest for days. Good luck.
Kristyn Bacon is a freelance writer, with a focus on creative fiction and sports writing. She is an ultramarathon runner as well as a competitive and adventure cyclist living in Berlin, Germany.