Blog Subtitle

Reverse-engineering the Ultramarathon

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Power of a Crazy Idea

This guy has finished four ultramarathon races (so far)...

... because this guy believed that he could.

(Note: an 'ultramarathon' is a race of longer than the standard marathon
distance of 26.2 miles. Many 'ultras' are run on rugged mountain trails.)

One of the regrets I have about this blog is that I didn't start it at the beginning of the story. I started it for several reasons: to create a record for myself to look back on; as a place to share race reports with friends and family, and with other ultrarunners (a common practice in the ultrarunning community); but also as a way to maybe inspire somebody else to chase big dreams.

I really was a fat, out of shape guy who woke up one day and decided that wasn't who I wanted to be anymore. I really had almost accepted that my life was just going to be downhill, physically. There are a lot of people out there who may be thinking that way and I wanted to say to them (should they find this little corner of the Internet), "It doesn't have to be that way!"

But I know what it is like to be that person and to look at the amazing things that other people can do and think, "I could never do that." I know how easy it is to look at fit, healthy people and just assume that they've always been that way, that they never faced the challenges that you face - that it's always been easy for them. Starting this blog as I did - at my first ultramarathon - caters to that kind of thinking.

I can say I started where you are just five years ago, but will you really believe me?

Today I was poking around on an older computer and happened to find the second image above. It was taken at my first official trail race - the 2010 Highland Forest 1-2-3 on May 29th of that year. Just look at that fat boy plodding down the trail - and appreciate that this was three years into my long slow transformation from couch potato to ultrarunner!

I thought I was pretty hot stuff then. That was ten months after I decided that I wanted to run an ultra. I'd been running a shorter course of about eight miles at Highland Forest pretty regularly, and thought I would try tackling two loops of the race that year (a total distance of twenty miles). I ran it on a recently-sprained right ankle wearing an ankle brace. I 'bonked' pretty hard about three miles into the second loop and had to walk most of the last seven miles, finishing second from last - ahead of just one other very gutsy runner who far outweighed me. After the race I had to take an ice bath to try to relieve the pain in my legs, and it was most of a week before I could run again.

I wish I could find a decent picture of me at my heaviest. You know how it is though when you're overweight. You avoid cameras. You wear baggy clothes. You don't save the pictures that show you at your worst. The best I could do was the two photos below, taken on a family vacation in California back in the summer of 2007:

Even these were taken more than a year after I started dieting and working out with weights. When I started, I weighed about 40 pounds more than what you see here.

My purpose in sharing this is not to show you how amazing I am, but rather to show you how amazing you can be.

Some of you out there do have personal challenges that are greater than any I had, I recognize that and in no way mean to minimize them. But I believe that many more of you are just like me, and you need only one thing to take you from where you are now to where you'd really rather be: the power of a crazy idea - a crazy idea that begins with the words, "I can..."

It was crazy for me to think that I could run an ultramarathon! But when I made that crazy idea my dream it gave me all the power I needed to do what I needed to do to get there. Find your crazy idea - and don't be afraid to dream big. If others tell you you're crazy, just say, "Yep" and keep going. It may take a long time. You will face discouragement along the way. Hold onto that crazy idea and never let it go until you get there!

Life is waiting for you, and all it takes to live it is the power of a crazy idea.


  1. Great post - thanks for sharing!

  2. I'm right there with you. I once was 100 pounds heavier than I am. I was a smoker and an indulger in all things bad.
    Now, I have finished numerous 50k's, a 50M, an 100k, and will be running my first 100M in April.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope you're able to motivate.