Jes Woods Magazine

Why Go Long??

I didn’t always run long, that’s for sure. I was a triple jumper and sprinter from middle school through college and we jumpers can be a lazy bunch. I hated running and thought of it as a form of punishment. We were sometimes forced to run a mile before practice if we were caught arriving late and I would grumble every step of the way. “But I’m going to be too tired for my jumping drills,” I’d complain.

Fast forward to today and I find myself training for my third 100 miler.

Unlike Drake, I did not go 0 to 100 real quick. I think I transitioned to ultra running at the same pace as an ultra marathon itself. Out of college and living in NYC, I couldn't find a triple jump around the city club, so I dabbled in spin classes, Bikram yoga, I joined various gyms, but I just couldn't find that special something that excited me enough to keep me engaged and motivated. Others seemed to have it all figured out though. My best friend was a serious runner (and still is) and I was her #1 spectator. I remember cheering her on in the NYC Half Marathon and thinking a distance like that was so far out of my realm of possibility.

Everyone looked like they were having so much fun though. I wanted to run through Times Square. I wanted the fancy foil blanket at the finish. And I wanted to be able to run with my best friend.

So I started running with Lululemon's run club. They were kind (and free) and patient enough to stick with me through barely 2 miles, then 3, then 4... I ran my first 10k with them. My first half marathon with them. And finally my first marathon and now my best friend was cheering ME on! My lips were blue at the finish line, muscles hurt that I didn't even know I had, but I loved it. I was a runner (again).

I may have been a fast sprinter and jumper, but I was NOT a fast marathoner. I tried a handful, became a bit frustrated, and decided I should put these big, powerful, yet slow and steady legs to good use.

If I couldn't run faster than everyone else, I was going to run farther than everyone else.

I didn't even know the world of ultra running existed until I read the book 'Born To Run'. And I didn't even know the book 'Born To Run' existed until I stumbled upon it at the bookstore (Spring of 2012?) distracted from my intended mission of purchasing Hal Higdon's classic training book 'Marathon'.

Game changer.

I don't know how you can read that book and NOT be inspired and moved to push your body to the limit.

That book, coupled with volunteering at The Greater New York 100, changed my entire outlook on running. If you want to see dogged persistence seeking achievement at the outer edges, pace or crew someone the last 20 miles of their 100 miler. Things get dark and twisty from 80 miles onward, but watching someone defy all logic and common sense and personal limitations excited something deep within me. I could do this.

If I can't run as fast as everyone else, I am going to push my body farther than everyone else.

Above and beyond getting my competitive mojo back, I genuinely find ultra running fun. The community is a bit smaller, but so close and welcoming (and quirky too). No one thinks any less of you if you run 50 miles in 7 hours or 12. 50 miles is 50 miles and you're a rock star for completing it. Oh, and there's always beer at the finish line. That helps.

Maybe I'm a masochist and find pleasure in the pain and the struggle. Or maybe I simply enjoy the community and friendships and incessant display of the boundless human spirit. It's probably a mix of all of those things and that's why I run long.