The Finish Line
Updated: Aug 11
There was a time of my life when I was really into learning about ultra-marathons. If you thought a 26.1 mile marathon was long - ultra-marathons take it to a whole new level.
These races are strenuous, they take place in the middle of nature and are often over 50-100 miles long. In short, they were fascinating to me. Why would people sign up for this?! I had to know more.
I first learned that ultra-marathons existed in the book “Born to Run,” which dives into the world of a tribe of super athletes in Mexico called the Tarahumara.
The Tarahumara live in the high sierras and canyons in Mexico. They call themselves “Rarámuri,” which means “runniers on foot” or “those who run fast.” They are known for long-distance running up to 200 miles in a single session. It’s part of their way of life and how they communicate with nearby villages, get around and hunt.
And, by the way, they do it barefoot. What?!
From the account of their lives in this book, they seemed so free. It turns out they are not the only ones who enjoy running long distance.
There is a culture of runners around the world who consider themselves long distance runners. They compete in races that stretch their bodies to the limit, including running with broken limbs or in 100-degree heat.
It feels like the true race is to see how far their bodies can go – and they are determined to find the limit. During a time in every ultra-marathon, the runner will often hit a wall when their body is screaming at them to stop. But, they don’t. They keep going.
They defy their body and their body obeys. It keeps going.
Those that compete in ultra-marathons often talk about the race being a spiritual experience – one where they are truly one with themselves and the world.
It was this book that ignited my love for running.
The first race I participated in was the Disneyland 10K.
I signed up partly because of “Born to Run” and because I wrote a story about the Tinkerbell Half Marathon earlier in the year for work and I saw all these people cross the finish line with joy bursting forth like a geyser.
It was hard not to get emotional watching how happy and proud they were to have made it.
I wanted that feeling. So, I signed up for a race. Unfortunately, I also decided to go to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl the night before, and I only got four hours of sleep before the race. It was not the wisest decision.
Every inch of that 10k hurt, and it was late August. The pavement radiated the late summer heat. It felt like I was running through water.
I would speed up when we ran by the crowds and slow down when I thought no one was watching.
At last, I somehow made it to the finish line.
There were people cheering on all sides and I remember this ball of emotion bursting from my belly to my throat when I passed over that line. I had made it. I didn’t know if I would, but I did.
And, there was so much joy.
Part of why I find ultra-marathons so fascinating is because there is this whole culture of people who are committed to stretching themselves to the limit – to going beyond what both their mind and body think they can do.
In a lot of ways, running has become a spiritual discipline of sorts for me. It teaches me that I am capable of more than I think I am. That I can keep going when I don’t feel like it and my limbs and my mind nudge me to stop.
More often than not, that urge to give up is my body trying to hedge its bets and play it safe. When I keep going, I discover I have so much more to give.
It is easy for us to underestimate ourselves.
Ultramarathons are proof that we are not always the best judge of what we are capable of accomplishing.
In fact, we should not be in the judge’s seat at all. We should be on the runner’s path – feet on the dirt trail, running the race before us with every ounce of our strength.
The finish line will be worth it.