Friday, June 27, 2008

Ultra Endurance

Every year in July, up to 90 people gather in Death Valley to run what is frequently described as the world's most difficult footrace, the Badwater Ultramarathon. If you're crazy enough to want to run this 135-mile race in 120+ degree heat, you can't just fill out a registration form and expect to be signed up. Potential participants must be veterans of ultra-endurance racing. Every applicant is scrutinized to see if he or she has what it takes to compete. And, if you do get in, the rules require that you bring a support crew with you to make sure you don't die somewhere along the way.

The notion of the ultra athleticism is something that I only recently became aware of. While "normal" running events like marathons get tons of media attention, many people have never heard of ultra marathons. I was at the local discount bookstore a few weeks ago when I came across a book called Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner. I bought the book and read it at every opportunity. I only put it down when I had to work, sleep, or run. Its author, Dean Karnazes, is apparently human, although one might argue that after reading about his exploits. This guy frequently runs 50-100 mile races, and has won Badwater. His most recent stunt was to complete 50 marathons in 50 states, in 50 consecutive days. The man has 6% body fat. Yup, I think he might be a cyborg.

My little 26.2 mile jaunt in October is chump change compared to what these athletes go through. The world of ultra endurance is so intriguing to me that I can't stop learning about it. I rented a documentary about Badwater called Running on the Sun, and was blown away. One runner had so many problems with his toenails that he just decided to get them surgically removed. Another runner started having hallucinations of other runners that weren't really there. I covered my eyes more than once. I also cried a lot (big shocker, I know).

The more I learn about these events, the more crazy and masochistic I think these people are- and the more I want to do an ultra marathon myself. For now, however, I'll have to settle for running 10 miles with my training group tomorrow. Hopefully my toenails and mental acumen will remain intact.


Mom Taxi Julie said...

I can't even just sit around in 90 degree weather without getting sick. It's amazing how people can do things like that.

SJ said...

I absolutely agree, Morgan. I find the ultra runners fascinating and I think maybe, someday I might think about training for one, but until then I'll have to settle on getting through my first marathon. Piece of cake!

Kristin said...

I read Ultramarathon Man a few months ago and I loved it! I wrote about my obsession with Dean Karnazes a couple of times - Food porn for runners and Separated at birth. (Dean Karnazes is much hotter on the cover of his book than he is in the picture on his blog, though.) If you like running memoirs you should also read The Extra Mile by Pam Reed (female winner of Badwater) and My Life on the Run by Bart Yasso (both ultra runners). I love the books but I have no desire to be out there in the desert with them!

Anonymous said...

Running with The Buffaloes

Very good running book, lots of inspiration inside for a runner!

Keep up the good work!