runningusa.org, 467,000 runners finished a marathon in the US in 2009 and the ING NY City Marathon had the most finishers in the world at 43,660.
Back to my original question – are we crazy if we run long distances? If you lived several hundred years ago, you would not think that putting forth physical effort for 4-10 hours is that strange. Farmers were in the fields plowing, sowing, and harvesting from sun-up to sun-down. Hard, physical labor like running an ultramarathon. Our world has become so automated and our lives so easy compared to our ancestors’ that we have forgotten what our bodies are capable of.
When I started running over 20 years ago, I had shin and knee pain, but enjoyed being outdoors. I loathed gym workouts, but had to cross train until my bones, joints, and muscle became strong enough for me to run regularly. I slowly kept building my mileage until I could really enjoy long runs through the countryside. I never gave up.
Tarahumara Indian who grew up as a kid running every day, you are going to have pain until your body strengthens. You must be patient, take it slowly, cross train, walk, and never give up. (My next post will address running and our knees.)
I enjoy running very long distances, but not on a treadmill, not on the same route every day, and not on a track or short loop. I vary my 5-7 mile route and have several longer routes of 15-20 miles that incorporate trails, mountains, and rural scenery. I could not run far if I ran the same course through my neighborhood daily. I also seek out organized runs on beautiful courses for motivation.
(We're just getting started on the Tahoe Rim Trail)
I will admit that running 100 miles is extreme and I don’t recommend it. Marathons and 50K trail runs are more manageable. However, are ultramarathoners really lunatics, or have humans become soft because of our modern, automated, convenient world? To learn more about why we run, see my post, Why We Run. See you on the trail (even you with the shin splints).
More on why we run:
Why We Run Marathons, Money CNN
Why We Run Ultras, Steve Clark
The Evolution of Running in Humans: Why We Are Meant to Run, Peter Larson