Leggo My Ego: Knowing When to Call It a Day

Leggo My Ego

It’s doubtful that many of you would consider running 75 miles in less than a day a failure.  And, I’m not sure I consider it one myself.  But, as I sit here licking the wounds of not finishing this weekend’s 100 mile ultra, I can’t help but think about one word.  Ego.  You see, I was thrilled to be included with some running legends in an article recently in the Commercial Appeal that talked about 100 mile ultra marathons and the growth of the sport.  As always, there was one opinionated commenter who made it clear that anyone who would undertake such a ridiculously long endeavor was driven solely by ego.  I’ll admit it has stuck with me.  I’m not someone who considers myself to be exceptionally egotistical.  But, I thought about it during the Mark Twain 100, my third ‘hundred miler’ in a little over a year.  I frankly decided that ego isn’t such a bad thing.  I was running well and felt great.  I was 30-something miles into the race and it was raining steadily.  I love running.  I love running in the rain.  I love running all day and night.  My ego and I were having fun.

Jump forward a few hours and 30 or so miles.  It was still raining.  It was getting dark.  The rocks were rockier.  The roots were rootier.  The dirt was mud.  It was pitch dark.  I was completely alone. My clothes were wet.  My ego and I were battling it out.  My body and my mind were having an old fashioned, ego-driven duel.  My ankles had turned so many times on loose rocks I lost count.  I was chaffed in all the wrong places.  I was puking.  So, I finished the 3rd lap for a total of 75 miles in a little over 18 hours.  I was toast.  Ego, ego, where art thou?

Fact is, I made the smart decision.  My rational side told my egotistical side to sit this one out.  And, as much as it wasn’t officially a check in the “Win” category, in some ways it was.  I believe that on good days and bad days there’s something to be learned that you can take with you for the next time.  Bruised ego and all, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things I’ve learned so far running ultras.  I look forward to adding to the list for many years to come.

10. After 50 miles I absolutely can not do simple math or remember more than a handful of words to any given song.
9.   Being around other ultra runners can somehow convince you that running that far is completely normal.
8.   The further you run the less you care about who sees you squatting to pee.
7.   The further you run the harder it is to squat to pee.
6.   Odds are good at least one person has wiped their nose (or worse) with the same hand that just dipped into the little bowl of m&m’s on the aid station table.
5.   Chaffing sucks.
4.  Some of the best people in the world are trail-runners.
3.  It doesn’t matter to other people how fast or far you can run if you’re not nice.  You’re just an ass.
2.  I never felt closer to God than when I’m all alone on a trail for hours.
1. No race or achievement will ever compare to the joy of being piled on the couch snuggling with my kids.

And, honorable mention….Ego, kept in check, is a remarkable tool.



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One Response to “Leggo My Ego: Knowing When to Call It a Day”

  1. Terri Clarke says:

    Emily, I have ‘only’ done 50K’s. I’m thinking about the reporter’s opinion and I have to disagree. Running long, I think, is about letting go of your ego, letting go of the restrictions we place on ourselves, opening up and letting ourselves move into discomfort and learning that going beyond whatever our comfort zone is, frees us. I think we all have places in our lives that are restricted, that hold us back, sometimes self-imposed and sometimes imposed by life itself, perhaps physical handicaps, perhaps life situations from which we cannot in good conscience remove ourselves. If we are a runner we are moving somewhere new, we are trying to move ourselves beyond our self-imposed limits and that is growth, not ego. To realize that in this particular run you needed to stop was simply a wise choice in order to be able to run another day. You ROCKED it!!!


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