Last Updated on January 22, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP
“You’re running a 50K? HOW MANY DAYS IS THAT GOING TO TAKE YOU?” The question, posed by a gym member as we were wrapping up a group fitness class, was innocent enough. “What are your plans for this weekend?” she asked me with a smile. Forgetting where I was, I quickly and casually mentioned “Oh I’m racing a 50K”. As soon as the words slipped past my tongue, I braced myself for the reply. I certainly didn’t expect “how many days is that going to take you”, and had to stifle back a little laugh, before politely answering “just around a quarter of one single day, I imagine” to a group of wide, disbelieving eyes.
Once I became seriously immersed in the ultra running world, I suddenly found myself more often than not avoiding having conversations with non runners about what I do. It’s not because I don’t love the sport, this blog alone proves how much I truly do. It’s more that the sport of ultra running is often hard to explain, and ends up in an awkward conversation where people either a) don’t believe anyone can actually run that far b) just can’t possibly wrap their mind around the distance, and c) definitely don’t believe that I am capable of running that far. So it’s easier to simply stop at “yeah, I like to run.”
Inevitably , however, someone asks what your next race distance is, or “what’s the furthest you’ve ever run” and so you answer truthfully (103.2 miles, thanks for asking). Without fail, you will get one of these following classic responses:
10 Weird things people say to ultra runners when they find out you run ridiculously long distances…for fun:
1. Do you run that all at once?
That is the general goal. Granted, we do stop to tie our shoes, use the port-a-potties, and sit in folding chairs for a few minutes at a time contemplating our (potentially poor) life decisions. But there are time limits, course checkpoint cutoffs, and jobs requiring us to show up at work on Monday, that all demand we run these ridiculous distances all at once.
2. I only run when I’m being chased by something!
I know right? I only clean my closet when my husband starts giving me dirty looks. We all have our thing.
3. I don’t even like to drive that far.
We know you don’t. Here’s a fun fact: neither do we.
4. Do you get to sleep?
Sleeping during longer ultras, like a 100 or 200 mile race is definitely a personal preference. Some people will take a very short nap, maybe twenty minutes at max. Other’s will completely zonk out mentally, while somehow still moving forward on trail. Sleep walk/running, if you will. It totally counts as sleep if you don’t remember the last 15 minutes happening.
5. That’s neat. But have you run the Boston Marathon?
6. Do they let you stop and eat?
If they didn’t, rest assured that I would be the first one to quit and take up competitive pinochle. On the contrary, ultra running aid stations are notorious for being akin to the endless buffet of junk food at a Golden Corral. Macaroni and cheese? You know it. An assortment of brownies and cookies? Check and check. A chocolate fountain is a little harder to come by at an aid station, but I wouldn’t write it completely off.
7. What’s wrong with you?
GREAT question, and thank you for asking…and insinuating that there is, in fact, something wrong with me.
Just kidding, I agree. I’m still trying to figure it all out myself.
8. What does your husband/wife think?
He thinks I’m absolutely off my rocker. Fortunately, he kind of gets it.
9. Isn’t that bad for your knees?
Research shows that running isn’t as bad for our knees as the unfounded reputation leads many to believe. Further, the soft dirt of a trail that most ultras are run on is much more forgiving to joints than the constant pounding on asphalt. But I’m going to go ahead and wager that neither is as detrimental to our bodies as sleep deprivation, the effects on cardiac, kidney, and liver tissue after 24+ hours of constant exercise, or a diet consisting of copious amounts of processed carbs and caffeine.
10. So you must be a really good runner, do you win these things?
I’m flattered! But…no. I’m just an average Jane who enjoys the finer things in life, like the sickeningly sweet taste of Tailwind and suffering for a really, really long time.
What are some crazy things people have said to you when you mention ultra running? Share in a comment below!