Guest Post by: Katara Hause
Now, I get it!
Why does he do it? How can he do it? He’s running how far? All at one time? You mean people really do that? And it’s for FUN? Is he crazy?
These are just some of the questions we get repeatedly asked when my husband or I mention one of his upcoming ultra marathons. My pat answers are usually, “I have no idea,” “He loves it and lives for it,” “50K, 50 miles, 100K or 100 miles,” “Yes, all at one time, without stopping,” Yes, yes they do,” and “Yes, yes he is!”
That last answer, which usually garners a laugh, isn’t as clear as it used to be. Before this past weekend and our experiences at the Barkley Fall Classic, it was much easier for me to dismiss my husband’s desire to be part of this tribe, as crazy, fanatical, and even manic.
But now, I think I get it. Let’s get one thing straight, I will NEVER understand the willingness to push my body to its absolute limits just for the sake of seeing what will happen; any voluntary activity that causes me to vomit, go potty in the woods, get stung by a swarm of yellow jackets, overheat, or literally tear my skin from the bone will NOT be on my to-do list! With that being said, I almost felt like the actual running of this race was secondary to the camaraderie, compassion, and celebration of the human spirit.
The difficulty of this course and the obstacles it presents (both planned and unplanned) completely levels the playing field. No singular athlete had a competitive advantage over the other. Age, experience, fitness level…none of that mattered. Determination, heart, and sheer will to continue moving forward were the difference makers.
Obviously, I didn’t run this race. And, truth be told, I didn’t even get to participate in as many check points and aid stations as usual, due to the structure of the race and complexity of the terrain. But ultimately, that didn’t make a bit of difference. What I observed during that weekend changed me. It changed my opinion of the running community and allowed me to see all the gifts and wonders of this sport through an open, unfiltered lens.
Competitors became friends. Strangers shared supplies. Secrets and helpful tips were revealed openly. Egos were destroyed as souls were bared. Favorites faltered. Underdogs triumphed. Dreams were both crushed and realized. Hands were held. Hugs were doled out. Minutes, sometimes hours, were counted in joint anticipation.
The humanity I witnessed first-hand last weekend is only a fraction of that which the participants beheld. The kindness, generosity, and humility on display by this community was both astonishing and incredibly refreshing. And this is why he runs.
Though it may have started out as a solitary, self-betterment hobby; a way to stay sane amidst the madness and unpredictability of our daily existence, running has grown into a purposeful, community-driven, life-affirming renewal of all the things that are good and right in the world. His involvement allows him to see himself and others as their most basic, vulnerable selves; and at that core lies the way were meant to be: civilized, respectful, considerate, honorable, modest, and helpful; finding happiness through the success of others, building up instead of tearing down, learning from shared experiences.
What began as a distraction from the everyday toils and tribulations has become a necessary reminder that at the crux of our existence is goodness and a truth that only those brave enough to search for will ever find. There is a light borne of this knowledge and I saw it shining in the eyes of everyone I encountered last weekend; whether they were triumphantly crossing the finish line or already planning to avenge their disappointment, whether they were running the course or watching from the sidelines, whether they were nursing injuries or just bruised egos. The light was bright and powerful and all-encompassing.
This is why he runs. His faith in humanity is restored. And so is mine.