In America, an exploding trend in recent years has been the emergence of extreme races. Running the gamut from actual ultra endurance races, such as The Barkley Marathons (a race which only 10 people have ever finished in its near 40-year existence) to fun and gimmicky team-based races, such as RAGNAR (in which a team of 12 runs from one city to another — for instance, 196 miles from Madison to Chicago), a plethora of races have emerged for runners of all types.
Each of these races has something unique to offer, and each can change your view — should you be willing to participate. Here at Lifehack, we have compiled a list of the ways these races change the participants. Trust us, it’s usually for the better.
You transform your life in order to participate in some of them.
Last October, I traveled from Chicago to Louisville to support a close friend as he competed in the Iron Man Triathlon. For me, it was an amazing experience of reconnecting with a friend who I had lost touch with. For him, it was the culmination of years of hard work — all of which was spurred by the admission of his girlfriend of three years that she had been cheating on him. This was part of his journey of recovering from that devastating admission.
During the race, he was in constant motion for 13 hours straight. That he ran the marathon section of the race faster than most people complete the Chicago Marathon itself wasn’t the point. The point was trying to get better in whatever way possible.
You learn each of your team members’ styles and journeys.
Races like RAGNAR, in which each member of a team of 12 takes three legs of a 200-mile journey, or Tough Mudder, a 10-mile, dirty obstacle course slog, cannot be completed alone. Both require relying on team members, regardless of their style. So, if you’re a sprinter who takes down miles at a sub-seven-minute pace and your teammate is someone who just plods along at a pace approaching double that, you have to learn that whatever way the job gets done and the distance gets conquered is absolutely fine, as long as it gets done.
You spend a ton of time alone with your thoughts.
Regardless of your need to rely on team members in some of these races, the vast majority of time spent participating in them is spent entirely alone, with your body on autopilot and your mind wandering.
While running, you might think of new ways to approach an old problem, you might tell yourself stories, you might have an epiphany about making a major life change. The common thread is that, regardless of what crosses your mind while running these extreme races, those thoughts purely come from you and nothing else, in a way that is not explainable to non-runners.
You see and hear some amazing stories of accomplishment.
Have you ever seen someone in a wheelchair fly through the finish line at the end of a 200-mile race, the crowd gathered around the finish line, flipping the switch from supportive mob to wild frenzy as they see the finisher approaching?
Have you ever been in the middle of nowhere, jogging on some backcountry road, only to slow down and chat with a middle-aged woman, your competitor in every sense, to find out that she is part of a team of middle-aged women who decided at age 50 to participate in as many of these extreme events as possible?
Have you ever seen a service member, fully dressed in the fatigues of the Army or Marines or Air Force or whatever, come across the finish line of a marathon while carrying a devastatingly heavy military rucksack, and wondered if he’s running for his own sense of accomplishment or if he’s running for, with, or from the ghosts of his friends who didn’t make it home?
These stories, these visuals, happen every day in these crazy races, and if you haven’t seen any of them yet, you are missing out. They will motivate you, inspire you, change you in ways that you would never expect.
Featured photo credit: Rev Dills/Flickr via flickr.com