When you run a one-hundred mile foot race, it is easy to think of yourself as some kind of superhuman. After all, you are voluntarily covering a distance on foot that a percentage of people very close to zero ever even attempt, much less succeed in accomplishing. A bloated feeling of strength, power and invincibility is not surprising, considering people in modern times are more entitled brats than hunters and gatherers. Unfortunately, running for periods of time this long does things to your mind that change your perception of reality – even to the point of hallucinations. It’s no surprise that our crew, pacers, and others might see us in a totally different light during a hundie. I would argue that there are way way more similarities between ultrarunners and newborns than there are between ultrarunners and your friendly neighborhood superhero.
1. Eating: Every time a crew is finally ready to relax, their hungry ultrarunner is begging for something to eat. It doesn’t matter if they just hammered down a burger, some fries, and an Ensure – they still want more. Even more like a newborn, they will fall asleep while eating, only to wake up begging for more. They will refuse food yet scream about how much they need to eat.
2. Barfing: Ultrarunners barf. A lot. They barf because they ate too much. They barf because they have empty stomachs. They barf because they ran too fast, or got too hot, or got winded, or the air got thin… etc. etc. Luckily for most crews, they feel it coming, warn you, and don’t barf on your shoulder like an actual newborn.
3. Sleeping: Where is the best place to take a nap at 3:48 am after 83 miles? Just like the newborn that will fall asleep eating, bathing, or being dressed, an ultraunner can (and will) fall sleep anywhere. Laying on the gravel, sitting at an aid station, laying on a concrete cistern, the back seat of Dave’s car – hell why bother stopping, just stumble along in your sleep.
4. Pooping: Another way that 100 mile zombie runners are like newborns is how they poop. It doesn’t matter if they are wearing a diaper or not. I have seen runners drop trow and leave steaming piles behind logs, off bridges (that might or might not have been me), directly on the trail itself (don’t be that guy) , and have even heard plenty of horror stories about runners not quite getting their compression shorts off before the “mud flood” comes. The point – just like a baby, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
5. Crying: Especially late in a 100, most ultrarunners will turn in to bawling babes. About everything. We cry because we are happy, hungry, hot, cold, tired, sad, and any other reason you can think of. I am pretty sure it is required that your crew chief carries a Costco size box of Kleenex after mile 80. Oh… and we DEFINITELY cry when we cross the finish line. More tears there than the hospital nursery before feeding time.
So there you have it. Hundred mile runners are very similar basically really tall newborns that wear expensive shoes. And just like newborns they grow and evolve eventually overcoming the massive challenges and obstacles of life every step along the way. Just try not to get mad at them if they cry and whine so much that your ears are bleed, puke in your car, or burn your sinuses with the most foul smells on the planet… they really can’t help it. It’s just part of growing up and getting to the finish line!