If you have any interest or curiosity at all about ultra marathons you’ll want to head over to Deadspin for Sarah Barker’s interview with ultra runner Timothy Olson, who recently completed the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run. The article is headlined, “ Why Ultra Running Is The Funniest Sport In The World .”
Here are a few choice paragraphs, but I highly recommend reading it all:
I not only felt crappy, but was bummed that I felt crappy, throwing up everything I ate. Negative calories—it’s really hard to turn that around during a race. I was pretty weak when I got to Ouray. My quads were shot so I sat down but there were so many cameras around, I just wanted to get out of there, so I walked/shuffled on. It took me 90 minutes to go a mile-and-a-half. It was at about 13,000 feet and I couldn’t catch my breath. It felt like my lungs were locking up. I must have wandered onto some private property because I fell onto this pile of garbage. There was a foam pad on top of the garbage that had been there for about a year and every animal in the neighborhood had peed on it but I thought it was the most comfortable thing. My goal was to relax and let my lungs relax, so I just laid there. I had no clue what to do and I was dealing with my ego—I had put all this effort into it, really dedicated the whole year to this race, about ten people had passed me and it was really sucking. I was planning on dropping. I could walk 1-½ miles back to the aid station and drop.
…We had one headlamp between me and the pacer, it was getting dark and we had a 13,000-foot climb ahead of us. That’s when we saw lightning, but I really wanted to get to that next aid station—I knew I’d see my wife there. As we got up to the pass, the lightning was striking so close—right around my head—I dropped down on all fours. I forgot about racing and switched to just wanting to live.
…At any moment, I can stop and call it a day. The fact that I could have dropped out at Grouse Gulch, having that option, actually made it easier to keep going. The fact that I choose to do this … I don’t know whether that makes it harder or easier to suffer, but it makes it funnier. I laughed after I barfed every time. I paid money for this, this is my career and I’m laying on a pile of garbage, vomiting! Life is very funny. I’m always intrigued by what might happen if I do this or that. I put myself into these situations and when it gets bad I just have to laugh at myself. I find ultra running the funniest sport in the world. I smile a lot and laugh, doing that well.