by Jarod Contreras
Long hours with sweat in my eyes, salt on my lips and the pain of the run have taught me a lot. As a high schooler in a town where “running” means a few laps or a track meet every now and then, I have found that it’s hard for people to understand why I love running. Most people hate it or see it only as a way to lose weight.
Ultrarunning has opened up doors that I never knew were there to open. I’ve learned to push myself and to go past what I think is discomfort. The way I used to look at the world and at life was not fulfilling; it didn’t hold anything for me. For example, on weekends I used to sleep in until 10:30 and watch TV. Now I spend my weekends seeking big mileage and adventure.
This sport is one of the few where everyone is accepted and supported. The people who surround me on a day-to-day basis at school and in life don’t support and accept me. They think of me as crazy or weird. My real friends are runners, and I like it that way. I think it’s because of the bonds that you make with someone out on the trails. You share pain, happiness, fun, adventure, suffering and above all, the desire to push and keep on pushing.
The person I have bonded with the most, and who opened this world to me, is my father. He has been trail running for years. Only recently, within the past year, did I get into it. Through our many runs together, we have developed a stronger relationship than I think we would have without running. And I’m very grateful for it.
The lessons I have learned through ultrarunning translate into daily life as well. I have learned dedication by having to run every day and get up in the morning at a certain time. I have learned planning by carefully determining routes and mileages. I have also learned to manage pain and discomfort by pushing past what I thought I was capable of.
And finally, I have found in ultrarunning— both as a sport and as a way of life— happiness.