Saturday, December 17, 2011

What Lies Beyond 26.2?

Tidewater Striders Logo
Yesterday, we volunteered with the Tidewater Striders at the Seashore Nature Trail 50K. We worked at the finish line taking off timing chips and working the timing machine as runners crossed the finish. It was a neat experience despite the cold temperature. We joined the Tidewater Striders a few weeks ago. They host and participate in a variety of races throughout the year. I learned today that they host a spring distance series with group runs of increasing distances in preparation for the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon and Half Marathon. J&A Racing, the same company who runs the Surf 'n' Santa 10 Miler, puts on the Shamrock race. It's pretty cool how all the various running groups in this area work with each other to bring awesome races to this area.

Hampton Roads Runners Logo
At today's race, I also met some runners from the Hampton Roads Runners. They have a great system of calendars and group runs of all levels to offer their members. Some of them ran today's race and some of them volunteered at the finish line and throughout the course. I've seen their banner at some of the previous races and met one of their organizers when I ran the 4th of July race at the Mt. Trashmore YMCA. They're a very cool group of runners. After spending some frosty hours with them today at the finish line (and having a lot of time to comment on all the Brooks shoes that crossed it), I came home and joined their group as well. Between the two groups, I'm sure I'll have a race schedule that's as full as I want it to be. One of the great things about the Hampton Road Runners too is that their event calendar is subscribable (might have made up that word) in iCal, so I don't have to go searching for events.

I was definitely inspired today by seeing the finishers of this ultramarathon. A 50K is a little over 31 miles. After a post-race discussion in the car with Christy on the way to the ultramarathon after party, I came to my own realization that in running, we limit ourselves by calling races certain things. 26.2 miles is a marathon. People who are oblivious to running might call any number of races or distances "a marathon" out of a lack of knowledge. It remains true that a marathon is 26.2 miles, 26 miles 385 yards, or 42.2 kilometers depending on your unit of measure preference. Of the standard races, it is the longest. For the more well-versed in running, we know that an ultramarathon is any distance greater than a marathon. In theory, that could be 27 miles, 50K, 50 miles, 100K, 100 miles, or 135 miles like the Badwater Ultramarathon.

So...many people run marathons every year. For some, it's the pinnacle of running. I, myself, have not run a distance longer than the marathon. It is my plan to break that barrier in 2012. But people who may have run a marathon will say, "Why would I want to run longer than 26.2 miles? Anything longer than that is ridiculous." Well, what made you want to run 26.2 miles in the first place? 26 miles 385 yards is a ridiculous distance for any human being to run. For that matter, it's a ridiculous distance for any being to run. What if "the marathon" was 30 miles? There are many stories, legends, and accounts of why 26.2 is the marathon distance. Regardless of how it came to be, that's the agreed upon distance. But what if those stories ultimately led to a 30 mile standard distance? Then people would say, "Why would I want to run longer than 30 miles? Anything longer than that is ridiculous." I think that because the term "ultramarathon" is a range of roughly 26.21 - ∞, people can't make it concrete enough in their heads and thus label it as "a ridiculous distance". In my opinion, 26.2 miles is equally ridiculous, but since the number is tangible, measurable, and unchangeable, people view it as doable.

So, 2011 is almost over. We have thirteen days left. In 2012, let's not put a mental limit on what we can do. Sure...we've got to start somewhere. Get up and run that 1 mile fun run. Lace up and PR in that hometown 5K. But give a longer race a try if you haven't yet. Join the ranks of the half marathoners or the half marathon relay. Cross the line of a 26.2 mile race. But don't stop there. Conquer your own ultramarathon...whatever that might be.


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