Grateful for the Journey

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Could it be that our strong hearts keep us filled with gratitude? A recent study by U.C. Davis showed that ultrarunners on average, are a healthy bunch of folks. With the median age in the study being just above 40, there were very low occurring instances of high blood pressure, stroke and cancer. Those statistics translate to fewer hours of sick time used at work and lower medical bills, but also mean we have less ailments than most. Something to be grateful for, no doubt.

Maybe this gratuitous nature of ours is due to the fact that running long is also good for our brain. Elite ultrarunners Rob Krar and Nicki Kimball have opened up publicly about how running has helped them manage bouts of depression. Both have endured debilitating periods of severe depression in their lives, and ultrarunning has played a huge part in helping them cope with the struggles they’ve faced. Rob recently documented his struggles in a short film by Joel Wolpert, Depressions: A Few Moments From 30 miles in the Canyon. He explains how ultrarunning has helped him cope with episodes of depression by managing the pain – similar to the end of a long ultra, “I embrace the pain that I’m feeling physically and mentally. I love that experience at the end of a race, and I am very appreciative of it.”

Cascade Crest 100 veteran runner and volunteer Mark Greenberg loads his truck with aid station supplies. Photo courtesy of Cascade Crest 100.

Cascade Crest 100 veteran runner and volunteer Mark Greenberg loads his truck with aid station supplies. Photo courtesy of Cascade Crest 100.

Many times, the gratitude extends beyond the runners. Ask a volunteer at any ultramarathon, and it’s likely they have received accolades for their efforts from the runners themselves. Given that ultra marathons last for hours – volunteers have their work cut out for them. But ultrarunners are not ones to let those efforts of being out there all day – and sometimes all night, go unnoticed. The thank yous and smiles we give are sincere. We are truly appreciative of volunteers for giving their time so we can safely run our race. Unique non-profit organizations like The Ultra Medical Team make it their mission to “enhance medical care at endurance events around the world.” Teams such as these make our events much safer, especially in severe weather conditions when runners are more likely to experience a variety of traumatic conditions. Whether volunteering at a medical tent, aid station or a finish line, our gratitude for race volunteers goes beyond words.

Ultrarunners have a special appreciation for the trails that cannot be overlooked. Running on dirt – whether among the trees, on the tops of ridges, across grasslands or deep in the canyons – makes us grateful for the ability to do what we love, and run where we run. It’s quite possibly a combination of health and our outlook on life that makes us such a thankful crowd, but one thing is for sure – the journey we travel just for an opportunity to cross the finish line is a great one.

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About Author

Amy Clark is the Editor of UltraRunning Magazine. She began her career at a small advertising agency in Bend, Oregon, where she enjoyed the fast pace and creative environment. For over 15 years, lunch hour runs were a ritual. Amy also joined the board of the local running club, became a race director and finished her first ultra. She has completed over 35 marathons and ultras combined, and continues to run long distances while encouraging both kids and adults to ignite their own passion for running.

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