going the distance: ultramarathons
posted: May 7, 2012
People who run marathons are incredibly fit, incredibly inspiring and, well, simply incredible. People who run ultramarathons are all of the above with the (and we mean this is the best way possible) addition of incredibly crazy. We asked ultramarathoner and SoHo store ambassador, Tom Cripps, a few questions about going the distance.
an interview with an ultramarathoner
what do you run for?
It continually evolves for me. Sometimes I love the solitude. Sometimes I love the company. Sometimes I love the grit. Sometimes I love nothing about the run at all! There’s nothing like getting out of the city, hitting a trail and tearing up a dirt path. I don’t meditate but I guess you could liken it to that. For me, running is a release, an adventure and a killer workout too.
what exactly is an ultra?
Depends on who you ask, really. The actual definition is anything further than a marathon… so if you jog to the beer station after running a marathon, you could say you ran an ultra (and congratulations on that extra effort too!). Some people say it’s got to be a race that’s at least 50 miles. I think the best definition is 50k (about 32 miles) or more. There’s a lot that goes on between mile 26.2 and mile 32 and I think the mentality for most runners switches from speed to survival around here.
what inspired you to go the extra distance?
Like a lot of people, I did the ‘I want to run a marathon’ thing. Then I ran one. For two weeks after, I promised myself I would never do it again. After while I started to miss the commitment and the feeling of accomplishment. Then, I read the book (Born to Run – Christopher McDougall). I had no idea humans could even run much further than a marathon let alone 135 miles in the middle of Death Valley in the heat of summer. I was just so intrigued I had to try it myself. I am still as intrigued today as much as I have ever been.
let’s talk logistics – do you run the whole time? how do you eat? hydrate? go to the bathroom?
I have never actually run 50 miles non-stop – I have run 32 non-stop but that was around Manhattan so it was pretty flat.
Eating can be a chore for me as after a certain amount of mileage not everything wants to stay down. Hydration is really important too and getting the sodium levels right is pretty critical. There is an ultra golden rule that if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated so I try to take a good sip of water every 10 minutes or so. As for bathroom, I guess men are like dogs. The world is our potential urinal. As for women, there seems to be more logistics involved but the concept is exactly the same.
running an ultra feels like the ultimate goal – how do you push yourself beyond that?
One of the goals I’m working on is to run an ultra marathon on all seven continents. I love to travel as much as I love to run, so this should save me some time and give me plenty of ammunition to bore people with when I’m old.
rumour has it you’re headed to china for a race soon?
In a few weeks I’m running The North Face 100km in China to raise money for LearnToLive. It’s a cause focused on providing sustainable healthcare and resources to areas in North Sulawesi (Indonesia) where there is absolutely zero history of any healthcare. The organization sends health workers and engineers to North Sulawesi for one month on an annual basis to diagnose, treat and educate these communities. This is kind of an intangible benefit but I also believe this experience provides these workers with a unique perspective that will simply make them better at what they do.