A quiet country road nestled within trees, soft morning light, birds chirping and the swish, swish, swish of my feet as I glide down the shoulder on my meditative long run for the week. Everything is in sync, everything feels wonderful, I love running.
This is my dream … My reality is more like … a honking horn, a belch of exhaust fumes as I thud, thud, thud down Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, dodging meandering college students, darting in front of taxis, and praying they don’t accelerate. I’m cranky, squeezing my run into my busy life, and constantly doing a mental check-in with my legs to see how they’re doing (they’re fine, stop looking for problems, Lisa …). Everything feels forced, everything feels like a reach. Still, there are moments when I glide, when the noises shut out, and I have clear sidewalk ahead of me and I burst forward. I love running.
I read a book recently, “The Messengers” by Malcolm Anderson (Amazon affiliate link). He writes about people who have run over 100 marathons or ultramarathons. Anderson, himself, has logged about 45 and he finds these hardcore distance runners to be fascinating people. I know that they spend a lot more time running my dream run than I do running my usual run. I envy them.
If you are looking for a little running inspiration then you should definitely get this book. When I finished the last page, I practically threw down the book, laced on my sneakers, and sprinted out the door because I was so enthralled with this lifestyle. These people are happy, they are at peace, they travel to amazing places, and they have a blast doing it. They are part of a larger community that accepts—no, embraces—quirkiness, and they’ll all probably live until they’re 100 because they are so darned healthy.
I had the chance to speak with Anderson on the phone and, after I finished the call, I once again immediately laced up those sneakies and headed out the door. Here’s some of our conversation:
Why do people run so many marathons?
It’s the social as well as the physical movement. They keep meeting up with friends along the way and testing themselves. It’s still a long distance—you have to treat it with respect—but these runners feel like they’re part of a bigger extended family.
How many people have run over 100 marathons?
Hundreds. There’s the 100 Marathon Club of North America (different countries have their own 100 Marathon clubs), and the Marathon Maniacs out of Washington state have grown to 6,000 members in the last seven or eight years (minimum criteria to join is completing three marathons in three months).
How long does it take to run that many marathons?
There’s a wide spectrum really. Some runners will run five or ten a year and some will run nearly every week. They do light runs during the week and keep their legs marathon-ready for weekends. Some might take 10 to 20 years to reach their goal, others can do it in two years.
It must get expensive!
Well, you have to factor in the cost for sure. It’s $100 to $150 for many race registrations, although there are less expensive ones that don’t offer much for bells and whistles. But if it’s your passion, you find the money because it means so much to you. It’s a lot of hotel bills, but I know some people who camp out when they travel.
How does an ultra differ from a marathon? (An ultra is any distance longer than a traditional marathon.)
Marathons are getting crowded these days; a lot of people are doing them. Ultras are a lot quieter. Once you get out onto the trails, it’s a whole different world. You’re in nature and it’s quite brilliant and people gravitate towards that. Also, if you’ve done a few marathons, they’re not as challenging anymore and people are looking for a bigger challenge so they’re drawn to try one.
Tomorrow I’ll share Anderson’s tips for getting started towards running 100 marathons. He’s got some great ideas. :-)
Have you ever run a marathon? Would you consider running 100 of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts and definitely check out Anderson’s blog, RunPlaces.com.