There are a variety of questions we get asked when us Ultra-types talk about our infatuation with long(er) distance running. It is interesting, at best, when I mention to people that I run ultra-marathons. The first question is, "Oh, have you run Boston?" After giving them the simple, "No.. it's not long enough. Ultra's are longer than marathons, usually 50 or 100 miles in length" they'll stand there in a state of confusion and then at times ask again, "So you haven't run Boston?" This question alone is enough to drive me pretty crazy. Why Boston? What's the big friggin' deal about Boston? No.. I haven't run Boston.. but I've run a race with almost 17.5 times greater in elevation gain and 3.8 times longer in distance... No.. I have not run Boston and I'm not even interested in doing so.
Besides the Boston argument, there are a litany of other questions that typically get asked and most of which I have no problem in answering. Truth be told, I LOVE telling others about this sport I love. I love to educate people about the amazing instrument we own known as the Human Body and I love even more to talk about the Potential that lies within. What do we eat, what do we drink and when do we eat and drink it? Do we sleep? How many days does it take to run 100 miles? There really is no end to the various questions we can get asked. But there is one question I am asked often that I do not mind answering... but the reaction I get to my answer is what peeves me the most.
Do you run the whole thing?
I used to answer them with a simple, "No. Of course not." This is typically followed up by their response, "Oh.. I thought so" or they answer just "Oh." Oh? Oh? Why do they say it so. Unfortunately I cannot insert their tone of voice into these empty words, but when they say "Oh" it is said in such a loathing fashion that it really makes my skin curl. As if by saying "no" the accomplishment of running 100 miles is now only half of what it used to be some 5 minutes earlier. And then I have to explain... "We walk most of the uphills, run the downs and run the flats when we can." This is typically followed by another loath-full "oh" or maybe they'll spice things up a bit with an "I see." So in recent months when I am asked the question, "Do you run the whole thing?" I am quick to answer with, "If I told you NO, would it take away from the accomplishment of running 100 Miles in One Day?" They are very quick in this instance to reply with a hurried, "No no no, not at all.. just curious" at which point I once again break into my explanation of when we actually do run. I might add a "Do the math... 100 Miles in 24 Hours.. that's some 4.16 mph where the average human's brisk walking pace is 3.8 mph. So on average, we are indeed running or as some might argue.. Jogging at a decent clip."
A few days ago I read somewhere else on the internet a runner talking about this same questioning process. When he told someone he ran a 50 miler they were impressed and even responded, "Wow, and to think I had so much respect for Marathon Runners, unreal!" But as soon as the same runner told his friend that "that's nothin' I ran a 100 miler too." Their reaction was 100% different. They went from respecting and intrigued to completely silent and un-responsive to the rest of the conversation.. even walking away. While I'll never understand why people react this way, I can only hope in the future we can all be just a little more understanding (myself included).