Why I Want to Run an Ultra in the Next Year

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The other day someone asked me why I want to run an ultra next year when I could instead focus on getting better at shorter distances first.

Wouldn’t that be a better plan? Wouldn’t it make me stronger when I finally do run an ultra?

It’s a fair question. The short answer is that yes, I am sure getting stronger at shorter distances before tackling an ultra would be a good plan. But I don’t want to do that which is why I am not!

Running is something I do for fun. I view speedwork as a necessary evil. I like getting progressively faster just as much as the next average runner, but it doesn’t give me the same thrill as marking off a new longest distance.

Getting to the 14-mile and 15-mile marks in my long runs this July has been such a great personal experience for me. I just LOVE settling in for a long run.

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I don’t mind if a run takes me two or three hours. (The marathon will certainly take me much longer than 3 hours).

On Saturday when I was finishing my first 15-miler I thought about adding on another mile just to see what it would be like. I’m not saying that to brag about what a strong runner I am (because I’m not), I’m just telling you what was going through my mind.

The long run inspires and motivates me. That’s why I want to keep moving up in distance.

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I cringe a bit inside on speedwork days. I sometimes struggle getting out the door for an easy 4-miler, but I rarely ever have trouble lacing up for a long run.

The long run feels worth my time.

I am sure plenty of people feel that way about distances anywhere from 1 mile to the 5K and all the way on up. As runners we’re all inspired and motivated by different things.

My coach recently decided that she wanted to go back to focusing on the 5K instead of the marathon. I love that she knows which distance she is passionate about.

That’s how I think I’ll feel about ultras. I want to run a 50K and a 50-miler because … I want to. It’s really as simple as that.

If I thought I could ever make the time cutoff for a 100-miler I would do it.

It’s helpful that distance running really suits my life. I don’t have kids and Adam is super supportive of my running time. I like running alone; I rarely ever feel bored on a long run. I’m a daydreamer and can easily get lost in my thoughts for miles.

The words tempo and fartlek are annoying to me (total necessary evils), but the word ultramarathon just sounds like such a good idea! I mean I really like running, why not run for a long time?

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Yes, I am sure becoming a stronger runner at shorter distances would be a solid plan. I would probably improve my time at those distances and that would help my overall future ultra training.

It’s very possible that all these ideas about ultrarunning are easy to have when the longest I’ve ever run is 15 miles… it’s possible that I’ll never run an ultra.

But for now, 50 miles is the plan.

What distance do you love the most? 

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25 Comments

  1. July 22, 2014 / 12:43 pm

    my boyfriend thinks I’m crazy hahaha I want to do an ultra too. something about saying “I ran a 50-miler” just seems so awesome and why not? haha

    • July 22, 2014 / 4:48 pm

      Exactly, why not?

      Well, actually there are a million reasons for why someone wouldn’t want to, huh? 😀

  2. July 22, 2014 / 1:48 pm

    Hi! I’m a new reader, and I just stumbled on to this post, and I love it! I feel the same way. I LOVE long runs, once I hit 3 hours, I can’t explain it, there’s just some mental feeling that is amazing! I haven’t run any ultras, and I periodically think “maybe I should train to get faster at 5k and then work back up”, but I just can’t take that much time off from my beloved long runs. 🙂 It’s nice to read this and be reminded that “because I want to” is a good reason.

    • July 22, 2014 / 4:50 pm

      Hi Amy! I know exactly how you feel. I’ve thought quite a bit about backing down and focusing on the half marathon for a while, but I have the rest of my life to do that! Right now I don’t want to put off my dream of running an ultra because I think I would regret it if I did. I’m so glad you’re on the same journey too!

  3. July 22, 2014 / 1:57 pm

    Whatever floats your boat, I am sure we will all be supportive of you! I did not want to get faster until after I had completed a few marathons all at relatively the same pace. So I started focusing on halves and then went back to the marathon. Now I am back at focusing on halves. It is all a big cycle and I am sure one day you want want to return to shorter, faster distances but anything that keeps your running is great!

    • July 22, 2014 / 4:52 pm

      That makes a lot of sense! I know I’ll want to circle back around some day. I do have specific goals in mind for the half marathon that I know I want to check off the list at some point!

  4. cheryl
    July 22, 2014 / 3:48 pm

    I get it! After completing a 32 miler you could not wipe the smile off my face for at least a week! A local theater is playing 100/Head Heart/Feet (about ultra running) on Thursday–I can’t wait!
    A good run calms my soul!
    I skipped the marathon distance (now I am trying it), when people ask why, I didn’t have a good answer, except “why not?” I think ultimately the longer distance seemed less intense to me–just going for a long run, to see if I can…

    • July 22, 2014 / 4:55 pm

      Yes! You hit the nail on the head!

      I think longer distances seem less intense and therefore we have to put less pressure on ourselves. I don’t perform well under pressure 🙂

      I have not heard of that movie, but I just looked it up. I don’t think it’s playing down here, you’ll have to let me know how it is!!

  5. July 22, 2014 / 6:03 pm

    People are so weird for asking this. Like, why would you want to do ANYTHING? Because you do! I think it’s awesome that you love your long runs and feel stronger the farther you go!

    • July 23, 2014 / 11:02 am

      I thought it was kind of weird too! But then again, people wonder why we want to run for fun at all 😀

  6. July 22, 2014 / 6:11 pm

    I totally get it! You love running and you just want to run more. More power to you! There are no rules that say you have to be able to run X time at X distance before you run farther. Let your feet follow your heart! Keep running strong!

  7. July 22, 2014 / 6:57 pm

    We all have our goals and dreams. I think your aspiration of running an ultra is very commendable. Personally, I could not imagine running beyond the marathon distance, but I also am ready to do an Ironman which has it’s own challenges. My favorite distance is the half marathon because it’s a good work out and I can still do other things the rest of the day. A marathon is the most rewarding experience to me, but definitely takes an extra oomph! 🙂

    • July 23, 2014 / 11:06 am

      Personally, I could not imagine doing an Ironman! I am really glad that you want to do one though because I love following along with your tri training!

      With ultrarunning I think it helps that I’m not a fast runner to begin with, and that I dislike speedwork so much. It makes the idea of running far seem enjoyable because speed will be the least of my worries in the middle of an ultra 😀

  8. July 22, 2014 / 7:46 pm

    Well, you know that I haven’t been successful at my 50 mile attempt (2 tries, 2 failures) but I still want to do a 50 and maybe even a 100 – like you it is just something I want to do so I totally get your reasoning!!!

    • July 23, 2014 / 11:07 am

      You WILL do a 50, Kim. I know it. You’re one of the most determined, strong people I “know.”

      I really think you should sign up for the Chicago 50 😀

  9. July 22, 2014 / 9:15 pm

    I know a lot of people like you. Their main love is the loooooooong, long run. I myself enjoy many distances and speeds, but there is nothing like getting in the groove of a good long run. 🙂

    • July 23, 2014 / 11:08 am

      It’s so true! I want to be you! You ran a 50 like NBD. I hope I am a strong enough runner to do that at some point!

  10. July 23, 2014 / 12:29 am

    Love it! I like long distances too and never feel like I get my groove until I’m past mile 4-5….I like 5Ks but they take a lot out of me because of how fast they are. Right now, I see myself potentially doing a 50k and maaaaybe a 50 miler but I’d have to convince my husband for that one lol!

    • July 23, 2014 / 11:09 am

      Same here! Once I get around the 5 mile mark I start to really feel settled in and comfortable.

      I hope you do a 50-miler! 😀 After doing r2r2r it should be a breeze for you!

  11. July 23, 2014 / 9:19 am

    “The other day someone asked me why I want to run an ultra next year when I could instead focus on getting better at shorter distances first.”

    I notice this a lot among the running community: people seem to think that their personal preferences apply to anyone. Running is a highly individualized sport and there are many different directions you can go with it (so to speak); unfortunately some people can’t wrap their minds around the fact that other runners do running differently than they do.

    I think it’s great that you want to run an ultra, and there’s no law that says you have to “get good at” shorter distances first. Besides, it’s not like there’s some magic number of short distances races you can run before you’re suddenly ready for an ultra, you know? You just gotta go after what you want.

    I like longer distances too. But I don’t know if I’d ever do an ultra. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I think I’ll stay with marathons and below for now and see how I feel later 🙂

    • July 24, 2014 / 8:22 am

      Good point! There really is no magical number of races or even a pace that will make me ready for an ultra. As with most things in running, I think tackling the distance will be 90% mindset.

      Running really is the most individualized sport. I loved playing volleyball on a team when I was younger, but I love that running is all mine! 🙂

      Maybe someday you will want to run an ultra! 😀 50K is really not that much further than 26.2! haha

  12. July 23, 2014 / 11:31 am

    I can see benefits to both sides. Getting faster at shorter distances will make you stronger runner when you do up the distance, but increasing your distance can also help improve your shorter races. Or at least it did for me. When I trained for my first half marathon, I took 5 minutes off of my 5k PR without really trying. So really I think doing what you love is the best choice.

    I wish I had it figured out like you do. I like racing shorter distances but I would also like to try an ultra someday too. I haven’t figured out what my focus is going to for 2015…

    • July 24, 2014 / 8:23 am

      You’re so right! I really think just by training for this marathon that I’m going to PR in the 5K and half marathon this fall. I can see my training translating into faster speeds on shorter runs already.

      Maybe 2015 will be the year of the ultra for you too 😀

  13. July 24, 2014 / 9:06 am

    When I was reading You, Only Faster- Greg McMillan describes different kind of runners and you fit the long distance monster to a T 🙂 Some folks are speed focused, some are a combo. I do like shorter runs at times, so I can really push. I like the fatigued happy feeling you get from that , but I do love running for the long haul too 🙂