By Kayla Mazzer
Ultra running is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).
That’s a long way.
Ultra runners have been described as masochists, sadists, and crazy superhuman freaks. Their motives are often questioned. Why do ultra runners voluntarily put their body on the line?
To celebrate World Running Day we asked the Aussie Grit community why they love to run. Here are some of the answers:
“To me it’s adventure.
There can be something raw and innate about trail running. It’s us, stripped back. The sense of flight with nature surrounding us on all sides, our heart working hard to push blood around our body, our feet adjusting over the ground. It feels intuitive. Somehow right. The call of the wild.
There is no ball, there is no court, there is no referee or remote control, or dashboard display. Just earth and rocks and ferns… and sweat.
It’s the adventure of pushing yourself harder than you have ever done before. The adventure of seeing new places. Standing on the summit and looking down at the vista below. The adventure of exploring and conquering far off lands…” – @nzrunguy
“Ultra running gives space and time to communicate with more people along the way. Much more of a ‘we are in this together’ attitude than shorter races. I love a team effort.” – @aliyoungrun
“Running has opened up a world of adventure for me. There are places people will never see and because of the amazing running community you can run into or next to anyone and they will have a chat or share their running experiences simply because you’re part of that community. There are literally too many benefits to list in one message.” – Rowan Cassidy
“Running only my 2nd ever ultra (Lakeland 50) because it’s daunting and way outside my comfort zone.” – Jeff McCarthy
“It’s proving to myself I can still achieve. Running my first ultra in April through the hills of Adelaide hurt like hell, but gee I felt great mentally during the run and in the days after.” – Adam Astill
The overwhelming response was less about fitness and more to do with the mind.
It’s true. Problems always seem more manageable after a run. It’s well-known that endorphins create a feeling of euphoria.
“Psychologically, runners may experience euphoria, a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of discomfort or pain, and even a loss in sense of time while running,” says Jesse Pittsley, PhD, president of the American Society for Exercise Physiologists (WebMD).
Patients suffering a major depressive disorder reported a significant boost in mood after a 30 minute run and there are different theories as to why running impacts your mood so dramatically.
Some researchers suggest it is due to an increase in serotonin, others say it has protective effects on the brain due to sleep being regulated.
Ultra runners have proven to have more intrinsic motives. They run for personal goal achievement, for affiliation and for life meaning.
Proving to oneself that the body and the mind can undertake such a gargantuan physical feat, for many people is a boost in confidence and pride.
The spectacular scenery of the trails, the feeling of being connected to nature – that creates mindfulness and reduces stress hormone levels. Being outside in nature is good for us.
Regardless of why, it’s widely agreed that the positive affect on mood is immediate and tangible.
And so, we run.
And we love it.