A confluence of events knocked me out on Sunday. Holed up in a dark bedroom, my body and mind needed a rest day. No workout. No work. Nothing except rest and time to reflect on a busy week and a weekend filled with tracking and volunteering at the Beast of Burden 100 miler and 24 hour Ultra Marathon.
And to be honest, I’m still in awe.
Being around ultra runners is one thing. Being around ultra runners who are trying to run for 24 hours, or 100 miles, in cold, snow, slush and dark along the Erie Canal Towpath, well, that’s another story.
People ask the question, “why?” They wonder what exactly has happened in a person’s life that drives them to run so far, so long and in all kinds of brutal weather conditions. (Then again, get the right group of people and they’ll ask the same questions about running a 5K. In some ways, it’s only a matter of degree.)
And while it seems implausible on one end, the basic answer is always the same: They love to run.
Sure, there are other personal motivations which can be universal. Charlotte Vasarhelyi, a 34-year old ultra runner from Ontario, said she loves ultra running because she loves being out in nature and she loves pushing herself to see just how far she can. She loves the challenge and loves dealing with the unexpected.
Then there was 18-year old Vincent Donner from Middleport. His mother, sister and cousin drove from aid station to aid station to give him support (and likely ease their own minds a bit). His mother had mentioned that he’s a pretty quiet kid, but at packet pickup around other runners, he was in his element. He just loves to run, she told the group of volunteers at the Middleport Fire Hall — the turnaround on the 24.14 mile course. He runs along the canal every day, all year long.
Donner won the 24-hour race, covering 100 miles in 22 hours, 50 minutes and 41 seconds. He ran the entire race without a pacer. Without any music. Just a kid and his thoughts. Just someone who faced doubt in the middle of the night, but with just the right encouragement, continued on to do something few thought he would be able to achieve.
That might be the only “why” that really matters.
As a race volunteer, I got the chance to see several of the 100-mile runners. Stationed with my mother (who has learned to appreciate the wackiness of endurance athletes even if she sometimes wonders about my own safety, health and sanity) our task was simple. We helped get the runners whatever they needed in the aid station. We rang cowbells. We cheered. Mostly we laughed a lot.
It reminded me how lucky I’ve been to find a community that’s supportive and entertaining.
And how I’m the only one who can call my goals, whatever they may in any area of my life, crazy.
Then again, who decided that “crazy” is a bad thing?
(For results from the Beast of Burden visit the page at Score-This!!!)