MISSING SUPPORT

Some people think we are “crazy” but I think we are just passionate!  It’s true that running Ultra marathon distances are beyond most people’s comprehension of doing and it leaves them completely unable to relate.  We, on the other hand, like to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.  This is where life begins for us!

As with most huge achievements or experiences, we want to share our accomplishments and tell others.  All too often this is met with reactions of disbelief, an obvious inability to truly comprehend or the look of “you’re not right in the head,” leaving us with little support or validation from them.  We return from an event and can feel both happy and let down, and don’t know where to turn for encouragement. For many, even family members and spouses offer no support or understanding for our “craziness”.  Some are even met with hostile behavior towards them from those they are closest to, and the lack of support can be very difficult to navigate.  There are a few things we can do to ease our way through this circumstance and find personal satisfaction.

From my experience we need to go into these events knowing that our accomplishments won’t be understood by most of our friends and family.  If you participate in these endurance events for the purpose of impressing your non-running family and friends, you’re probably doing it for the wrong reason and will be let down by their response.  Some faced with the question of “why do you do it,” answer with “if you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.” To keep from explaining things that others just can’t comprehend, we try to avoid those conversations.  Others of us will avoid conversations with their non-running friends altogether. We can’t hold it against them but it’s often more helpful to not talk about it with those non-accepting friends and family members. There is another family we have in the community of ultra runners who will completely get it, and we should seek those relationships out for our support.

Plan a period of recovery where you continue to get out on the trails or roads that you enjoy, even if you are only hiking or walking.  Your love and commitment to what you enjoy doing can help fill the void that is often not filled by friends or family closest to you.  The only thing that gets us through the long, painful journey of an ultra distance run comes from deep inside us.  Likewise, the only one that can bring us back to our passion when others don’t support us emotionally, comes from within ourselves.  We can’t expect others to understand and we need to anticipate this empty space we will have.

HELP YOURSELF

While it becomes hard to share with others, it’s often very helpful to write things out for ourselves.  Taking a little time to write down your experience and thoughts, either in a race report format or just journaling thoughts can be helpful.  This gives us a chance to relive the race with some detail, record things we might do differently next time, and help take in the whole experience. Others can help us on our journey to achieving our goals, but we are the only ones who truly experience it!  Stay focused on your goals and review your accomplishments often.  Keeping your goals updated and fresh.

Be verbally thankful to those who do support you.  Family members and friends often do support us even though they don’t “get it”.  We need to be proactive in thanking them for their support, whether it’s a spouse who financially supports our efforts, or takes care of things at home so we can do our thing.  Offering our gratitude to them for the level of support they do give can go a long way.  Ultra running is often a selfish sport as it requires lots of time to train, and while we might not receive verbal support, we might receive it in other ways that are equally as important. For some of our friends and family, support can be a process so remember to be grateful for the little things along the journey.

Published April 2017

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Join The Family

Taking your running to the next level is tough, but you’ll never feel alone along the way

All sports seem to have a certain camaraderie that goes with them.  Often teammates share a love for their sport or seem to be part of a brotherhood.  In ultra running, the community that runners share seems to go much deeper, way beyond sharing a love for the sport.  There’s an immediate connection with others and you just know “these are my people.”  There seems to be a draw for many runners when they decide to cross over to the ultra distances and experience the community that awaits them.

So what is it about this ultra running community? I’ve found in my experience some unique things that make up the bond in this group of runners.

Understanding

If you are a distance runner, marathon or longer, you’ve probably been asked by friends and family why you do it.  Many ultra runners are even considered “crazy” by most who just can’t understand their desire or drive.  Within the community of ultra runners, there’s no need to explain why we put ourselves through such long distance runs, pain and suffering.  We don’t have to put into words our drive or motivation, we just quietly run alongside one another on the same journey.  There’s no questions to answer as to why.  Our fellow ultra runners are our safe family of acceptance and give us a sense of belonging.

Encouragement

Short distance races are all about the win, that first place trophy, while longer endurance races are about the finish.  The reward to the ultra runner is the accomplishment of completing the race. In the ultra distance races even the faster runners encourage, give high-fives and cheer on all the other runners.  When ultra runners pass on the trail they look at each other and say “good job” and offer words of encouragement no matter what pace they are moving.

It’s a supportive community where at times the slowest or last place runner has the largest crowd cheering them on as they cross the finish line.  It’s this unusual level of encouragement that greets all levels of ultra runners and truly makes you feel part of the ultra community.

Support

In ultra distances of 50 miles, 100K or 100 miles the runners get help from others.  Crew and pacers are used by runners to support them during these race.  Sometimes supportive family members help, but mostly its other ultra runners step in and help one another.  For some runners it’s a large group that helps get them to the finish line.  They often sacrifice days of their time to help one another accomplish their goals and races.  While on the course if a runner is hurt or needs even the smallest item, from a Band-Aid to food, a fellow ultra runner will stop and offer help or personal items from their own pack to aid another runner.  It’s a community that helps each other cross the finish line.

The ultra running community is a group that encourages, supports and takes care of its own.  Run a race or two and you might find yourself saying, “these are my people.”

 

Published November 2016

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