I’ve been asked a number of times if I am going to try for the ultra marathon this year. The short answer is no. The long answer, however, is more complicated. I have moments where it’s tempting, especially when my stubbornness flares up and I want to prove that I can do it, but ultimately I’ve decided not to pursue the ultra this year, or probably any year.
What makes this difficult is that I believe I am capable of running a 50 km ultra. I can do long and slow. I am capable of incredible fitness and endurance. I can be dedicated to training plans. I can refocus my personal training on getting me ready for distance running. And yet when I say I’m not going to run an ultra, it feels more like I’m saying I don’t think I’m capable. For all the reasons I just noted, that’s just not true. What is true is this: I don’t think it’s worth it for me to run an ultra.
Running has never been my true love. Running has always been my fitness-builder, one of the ways I clear my head, a way to take my workouts outside, and a way to move faster and cover more ground. I love running for these outcomes, but I don’t identify with running the way other “real” runners I know identify with running. Running keeps me fit for my real true love: hiking.
Being on the trail is my thing, but I don’t need to run trails. I move quickly even when I’m not trail running. I can still easily cover 40 km a day on trails without running. Anyway, I am really too clumsy and skittish to trail run the types of hiking trails I really love. I’ve always figured there’s a 90% chance I could die by falling off a mountain just by sheer clumsiness. I think those odds would increase to a solid 98% if I were to try running on more technical trails. Aside from the speed factor, the real allure of hiking has always been an inexplicable connection with the grandeur of nature and the absolute beauty of what I encounter.
Last year, my goal of running an ultra caused an injury from which I’m still recovering and which kept me from hiking in any real way for an entire season. I sat on the sidelines and, while I certainly found other things to fill my time, my spirit undoubtedly suffered. It’s not worth it to me to lose another season doing what I really love (hiking), just to put a check mark next to ‘ran an ultra’. I’m getting back to my true love this year. I’m going to get myself ready for a season on the trail, hiking as far and as high as I can. I’m going to start knocking my bucket list hikes off my list one by one.
So no, I’m not going to run an ultra this year, but I promise you it’s not because I can’t.