Author Cory Reese
It is difficult to explain to a non-runner what it’s like to run an ultramarathon. How can you possibly put into words the excitement, the highs, the lows, the torture and the triumph of such an audacious pursuit? Here’s my attempt to explain the stages of running an ultramarathon by using something everyone can understand: cartoon characters.
I have run ultras in the mountains. I have run ultras in the deserts. I have run looped-course ultras. I have run an ultra across Death Valley. I have run solo ultras. But there was one glaring omission from my previous running resume: an ultramarathon with the opportunity to eat ice cream sixteen times per mile.
There’s something about standing on the side of the highway in Iceland hitchhiking with your wife that has a way of bringing you together. We stood there in the kind of storm where at any moment it will literally start raining cats and dogs.
I once heard someone say that two horses pulling together can pull more than the sum of the two horses pulling separately. I found the idea intriguing and went to the internet to see if this was true (because of course everything on the Internet is true). It turns out that this is a real thing!
“I think I might throw up,” I heard Shacky mutter during the steep climb. My friends Vanessa and Shacky and I managed to make it to the top of Gooseberry Mesa without anyone throwing up (or dying). The climb to the top of the mesa ascended more than 1,500 feet in less than a mile, early in the Zion 100.
I am a member of a special club. You pay the membership dues with grit, tenacity, stubbornness and courage. The members of my club understand each other on an unspoken level. We feel each other’s pain. We relish each other’s accomplishments. We know each other’s struggles. This club is called the Back-of-the-Packers.
I circled the high school track, loop after loop, hour after hour, mile after mile. For 100 miles, to be exact. It was July in southern Utah, where summer temperatures feel like you’re standing on the sun. The high was 107 degrees. I tried to think of some profound response when people asked why I was running 100 miles around a track in July. The best I could come up with was “Well, it seemed like a unique challenge. And I had some glazed donuts I needed to burn off.”