So I’ve just run my first 100 miler, the GSER100. A gruelling 173 km with 11,000m+ of accumulative ascent and 10,000m+ accumulative descent across the rugged Victorian Alps. Upon finishing in 45:41:12 I was hospitalised with rhabdomyolysis, a condition that occurs when your muscles break down quickly, enters your bloodstream and then has the potential to overwork and block your kidneys which can cause kidney damage and/or potential death. 5 days previous I completed the Marysville 50km, 3 weeks prior to that the GOW100s and 1 month prior to that The Surf Coast Century 100km. I was on a role and was enjoying myself even though I was suffering. However after being taken to hospital after my first 100 miler the all to prevalent question of why became stronger and stronger. I didn’t only ask myself this question but was noticing others ask me it over and over again. By family, by fiends and by nurses and doctors. Why do you do that to yourself? What are you trying to prove? Your going to ruin your knees, my mental health even got questioned. Those who ask why should’t even bother asking, if you have to ask you don’t understand. Sure I can list off a thousand surface level reasons. For example it could be to say I’ve ran 100km or 100 miles, it could be the shiny belt buckle or medal, keeping fit, getting away from the stress of work and life. These why’s can go on and on however the real reason why is something much deeper, it’s hard to verbalise, it’s a feeling and no I’m talking about that runners high or endorphin rush it’s something else. Here in this article I’m going to attempt to verbalise this feeling or combination of feelings that for me is the bare bones answer of why.
Finding suffering in a world of comfort, growing up in todays society were all made to believe that happiness comes from comfort, a big soft bed, a giant T.V, air conditioners, heaters, easy to obtain delicious food and that forever appealing concept of retirement. We’re all brought up believing that true happiness comes from being comfortable, something I’ve discovered is this is not true. I’ve been there, 100% comfortable and you know what it got me, depression and anxiety. It wasn’t until I stated getting out of my comfort zone that I started to improve my mental happiness and stability. Sure at times I was stressed, scared and uncomfortable but overall as a whole I had become more satisfied and happier. I started to remove limits I put on myself just by accepting that at times being uncomfortable is necessary not just to improve ourselves and remove boundaries but also to appreciate our comforts more. For example when I trekked Kokoda, a difficult hiking track in Papua New Guinea. I had no shower, no T.V, no delicous meals, no family, no people I knew, I was by myself with a couple of unknown locals in the middle of the hot and humid jungle trekking steep, difficult terrain for 12+ hours a day. This experience made me appreciate my family and my living conditions so much more, when I arrived back in Australia I was so much more grateful for what I had. As a result I was happier with what I had and where I was. Also suffering in those conditions and then getting out of those conditions gave me a new confidence and stripped away limits I placed upon myself, it made me believe I was capable of more. This suffering is part of the reason why, when it comes to ultramarathons. It enriches your life in such a short timeframe, it removes boundaries, gives you new found confidence and a greater sense of self belief and achievement. After every ultramarathon I feel like I’ve levelled up, found something new about myself, proved that I’m so much more capable that what I once thought. As a result I love myself more which in turn has helped me love and appreciate others much more, such as my family. I feel I can and want to give back because I myself feel more comfortable in my own skin. This happens simply from pushing myself and being in the pain locker whilst running an ultramarathon.
The ultra running community, theres something about the ultra running community that is very unique. The positivity and feeling that everyone is on the same playing field wether you’re at the back of the pack or at the front. Everyone genuinely seems to want the best for everyone. Theres something about shared suffering that brings people together and whilst running an ultramarathon everyone suffers and this can create strong bonds in the matter of hours. Everyone is nervous at the start of the race, not just because it’s a race but because everyone knows that it’s going to hurt and this brings out everyones true personalities in their purest forms, bringing us all together. I’ve only ran four ultras but feel I’ve made lifelong friendships with some people I’ve only been in the presence of for 3 or so hours!
Discovering and experiencing the beauty of nature, ultramarathons can bring you to the most beautiful places on earth. Places you probably wouldn’t of even known about if you didn’t sign up for that particular race. From the mountains, to the forrest, to the desert and the sea theres ultramarathons everywhere and each one has it’s own unique environment. An added bonus of this is your usually running 50km+ so you’re also experiencing a large chunk of the area in a small timeframe, getting the most out of the experience.
As I said up top it’s hard to verbalise exactly why we run, to me it’s more of a spiritual thing and being spiritual it’s difficult to put into words. However I hope that I’ve done a half descent job of explaining why some of us run in a relatively short article. I could go on and on and talk philosophy, but at that point it becomes to hard for me explain what my brain is feeling so I hope this article will suffice.