The Unbreakable Runner

UnbreakableI recently ran twenty miles. This was a scheduled run in my marathon training for the 2013 New Orleans Marathon.

Twenty miles still feels like a huge distance to me and perhaps it always will. But I’m curious . . . do ultramarathoners look at 20 miles as a mere warm up? What’s 20 miles if you’re running 100!?

I finished my run strong and happy but tired. I can’t fathom running another 80 miles. Yet thousands of people (many who are older than me) run 100 mile races every year around the world.

One such race is the Western States 100 which starts at Squaw Valley Ski Area, Lake Tahoe, California and crosses mountains and canyons eventually ending in Auburn, California 100 miles later. Runners must make it in 30 hours or less.

I just watched a documentary called Unbreakable: The Western States 100. In 2010 the competition was particularly fierce. The four runners contending for first place were as follows:

  1. Anton Kupricka of Boulder, CO – 2 time Leadville 100 winner
  2. Jeff Roes of Juneau, AK – undefeated in every ultramarathon he entered
  3. Hal Koerner of Ashland, OR – the defending 2 time Western States champ
  4. Killian Jornet of Spain – a young mountain runner and 2 time winner of Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc

The movie gives you a front row seat to this historic race with all of its joy and suffering.

Spoiler Alert: Jeff Roes came back from a 15 minute deficit to overtake Anton Kupricka in the last 10 miles and win first place. He set a new course record of 15:07:04!

You also get lots of biographical information in this movie. I felt that the producers did a good job of capturing the everyday lives of these runners and the rugged mountain trails that make them so unbreakable.

Here is the movie trailer

I find myself drawing inspiration from ultra-runners. To me they epitomize the transcendence that running can bring to one’s life. I am learning that it takes a spiritual person to run an ultra. You can’t run 100 miles on just leg power.

Many ultra runners talk about the pure essence of running. By this they mean -the pleasure that running itself brings. They don’t use running as a means to an end like losing weight or winning fortune and fame. They love to feel the wind in their hair and connect with creation in the most natural way. Their biggest secret might be that they simply love to run. Their training requires 150-200 miles a week.

Don’t get me wrong. Ultra runners might run for pure essence but they are also very competitive, as this movie will show you. Therefore, running has entertainment value like other sports. You don’t have to be an ultra runner yourself to enjoy this movie.

I suspect that I’ll be following the news from future Western States 100s and keeping up with who’s who in ultra-running.

The people in this movie are “unbreakable” because of their determination to do the seemingly impossible. They have proven what the human spirit can do. And I have taken notice.

Twenty miles might be hard at my current level of fitness but I am determined to push beyond my comfort zone. For the simple joy of running farther.

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