If I can stress one virtue every trail runner should possess in their arsenal of weapons, it’s the punch of patience. Something I’ve often struggled with over the years. Too often I get caught up in the moment, forget what it’s all about, ignore the signs and then it all comes crashing down.
Author Errol Jones
When you do what we do, it sounds so easy. “I just need to cover a little more than three miles an hour.” Three miles an hour and just a little more, how hard can that be? It sounds so simplistic, so easy. Until you’re the one who has to accomplish it in the midst of a 100-mile event, then it becomes that monumental task.
In an April 2009 issue of the magazine Runners World, there was an article titled “Flight of the Bumble Bee” where I was referenced in the story and deemed the “Patron Saint of Pacers.” I’d given some advice to a woman who I’d find out later was a columnist for the sports rag.
When I first started running ultras, I was looking to extend the joy I received from running the roads, but without the crush of the urban environment. I saw a photo on the office wall of the director of a sports care center that I had office space in. He was standing in running shorts and a singlet on top of a snow-covered mountain peak. I asked where that was.
Running gave me purpose when other aspects of life gave me cause for concern. Ultrarunning in particular gave me a true sense of community. Some of the friendships I made road running remain steadfast to this day, but there was never the community that I’ve always felt and experienced since transitioning to the trails and ultrarunnning in 1980.
Do everything that you humanly can to get up on the game before you take on the course. Recently, I participated in a very popular 50k, and as one would expect, the usual accolades, comments and a few complaints came rolling in after the fact. One guy emailed that he’d showed up for the race 24 hours after the fact, thinking that the race was that morning. When he came to the realization that he’d had the wrong date, he decided to make the best of the very sobering awakening and he ran the course anyway, unassisted.
I’m not an avid reader of poetry, but the words in this Dylan Thomas poem have always resonated with me, and I think they express what I’ve done and what I continue to attempt to do in my ultrarunning. At various times over the years, my best friend has admonished me about my approach to my running and racing, and has pointed out an old adage: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If that bears fruit, then I guess most, if not all, ultrarunners are insane, or damn close to it.
It’s universally understood that there’s nothing easy about running and racing ultra distances. The mastery the headspace is more important to cultivate than the training miles that we put in in pursuit of ultra glory. If we come up short, we sometimes think that had we trained more, or harder, then maybe our outcome might have been better, when what really mattered was our mental and psychological approach to the task.
With the ever-increasing interest in the sport of ultrarunning has come an explosion of prospective entrants for certain races. This popularity has race directors resorting to lotteries, wait lists and other measures, in some cases just short of asking entrants for their firstborn for entry into their events.