This post is part of Trail Runner's Blog Symposium which questions if there is too much of a media emphasis on Ultra trail running.
So, I've had some time to think about what it really means to have too much media emphasis on ultra distances. Part of my mind was against it, the other part was for it. This battle of the perceived good vs. evil has been continually raging in mind, even in times when I really didn't want to be thinking about running, which wasn't too often.
After several weeks of mind wrestling, here's the side that 'won':
This is freakin GREAT! I mean here I am a runner who loves to run trails. In the past I would be out running in the foothills of the Northern Wasatch Mountains and view the looming mountain tops above me and wonder if there was a way for me to run peak to peak? I would wounder if there were people who did this, and how could I become a part of that?
Twenty years ago, I had a co-worker who talked about running a 5o miler and running the Grand Canyon's rim-to-rim trail. I was mesmerized, interested, and someday thought I'd like to do something crazy like that.
Then ten years ago, I started really getting into long distance running. Of course the media shined on road races, so that was the shining star I chased. According to the media, the marathon was the 'ultimate' high one could possibly ever reach in running. So I followed that mecca of road running, and completed a couple of marathons. Yes it was great, but I wanted more. I wanted to see what my body was capable of and I wanted off the roads and in the mountains, however I didn't know what was available out there.
Slowly, ever so slowly the media started to tap into trail running life and the individuals who challenge themselves beyond human understanding. That mass amusement, perplexion, and confusion as to why someone would run 100 miles in the heat, across the mountain peaks, alone, and at night started to catch on. People wanted to know more, see more, find out more. As the masses began to get their whistles wet with various small interviews, roadless terrain, and pictures of 100 mile winners - they wanted to more.
Soon ultra icons started to receive sponsors, races started to receive an increase in cash prizes, therefore increasing the amount of advertisement. This advertisement helped soothe the increasing interest among the growing masses on the life of an ultra runner, their performance, and races they run. This increase in advertising was just like the perfect run, always leaving you wanting more, and luckily for me those sponsors spoon fed the masses like me with more information.
Through this increase in media awareness, I have been able to connect into the ultra distance world of trail running. I found that there were races just above me that have been going on for years! These weren't figments of imaginations, they were real, and they were being ran on the peaks above me.
This increase in ultra distances helped me realize that I needed to learn to be a more proficient runner. For example, last year I realized that, I needed to fix my gait and learn to run like a native. My first gait change I worked on for 6 months! I took 6 months changing from the road running 'heel strike' to the native 'mid-foot' strike. After 'perfecting' this mid-foot strike, I decided that I needed to follow through with this gait change. I went to a professional and had them analyze my gait. They found I had some hip and ankle weaknesses that over long distances would increase my possibility of injury. I received exercises to strengthen these weaknesses and also found the optimal foot turn over tempo for my body.
So, no I don't think that there is too much emphasis on ultra distances, because through this increase I have been able to locate the Wasatch 100, fix my gait with the help of Mountain Land Rehab, and become a better runner. Go ahead and keep on sponsoring the ultra gods, because I have peaks I want to run up and over.