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Ultrarunning: Embrace the Nectar


“Finally after descending Boyle’s Bump, I was back on the fire road and on my way to my first 100 km and FINISH with a time of 14:40:00. I was 45th/111 that finished (147 started the day).” – Excerpt from my Bandera 100 km Race Report

Why do these words within my race report feel so hollow to me?

The finish. The result. Is this not what we are all after? I am not so sure.

The brief set of words almost felt like an insult to the day-long experience.

Word Count

Written word is one form of limited expression we use to try to communicate an experience or thought. So I took a look at my race report and the words within it.

Total word count for the entire race report: 2766

Total word count for the result description: 37

The result description accounted for a mere 1.3% of the total report.

I think this 1.3% accounts for a pretty accurate assessment of its value for the duration of this ultra trail running event. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% grateful for the finish but the juicy nectar, the drip down your chin kind of stuff, was in the 98.7% prior to the finish. The experience. The journey.

You can even step outside of the race and reflect on the months and hours preparing for an ultra running event. The running, weights, core work, stretching, massage, mental preparation, cross-training, tweak management, etc, etc, etc.  Yes, the journey.

What Are We After?

The belt buckles, PRs, finish times, awards, are all things to be grateful for when we receive them, but they will come and go. In a world (friends, family, outside observers) where results are often all that matter, we can be challenged to see through this illusionary concept.

Beyond the small talk, I feel we are really yearning for the experience, the journey. When we truly talk or reflect on a particular ultra event, we talk about the challenges, the beauty, the personal breakthroughs, and various other moments of personal experience during the event. The result is more often a mere side note.

Maybe when I wrote and re-read my result description, I gave it a proper position of personal importance but felt some kind of confusion with this realization. Not completely sure. But damn, what an experience!

Embrace the nectar, the 98.7%. The 1.3% will take care of itself.

What is your personal relationship with ‘the journey’ and ‘results’?

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

(Photo – Courtesy of Eastop)

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

9 Responses to “Ultrarunning: Embrace the Nectar”

  1. on 19 Jan 2010 at 10:17 pm Patton

    I kept thinking about this quote from Victor Frankl during the race. He was referring to man’s pursuit for happiness, but for me this was interchangeable for running.

    “Don’t aim at success-the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue….as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.”

    At Bandera I focused soley on effort. I was going to run as hard as I could, as long as I could and hopefully not be taken away on a stretcher. I didn’t memorize splits, distances, or even run with my trusty Garmin. My goal was to be present, positive, breathe and glide. Those things I could control.

    The journey you can, and should control. Results are a tool to measure time, not experience.

  2. on 19 Jan 2010 at 10:46 pm Derek

    Great post, it says so much about the journey. It’s making new friends, experiencing life and what it throws your way, enjoying the moment when those runs are so good and knowing the bad run will be history when you are done. I’m looking forward to RR, not to finish the race and get a belt buckle, but for the hours that I will be out on the trail. The interaction with fellow runners, the volunteers at the aid stations. I may not finish, but I will have a smile on my face and enjoying every minute of it.

  3. on 20 Jan 2010 at 8:49 am David Hanenburg

    Patton – Nice quote and thoughts on ‘the journey’.

    Derek – Thanks. Nice insight as well. Rocky will be a special day and I look forward to sharing the trail with you and 600-700 other runners. It is going to be a special group run. 🙂

  4. on 20 Jan 2010 at 10:24 am Rick Sanford

    Some races I am focused almost exclusively on the results, however my most memorable events, races, and runs have been about the journey. My approach to my longest races has always been, “It Will Be A Good Day.” It is my reminder to myself how fortunate I am to take part in marathons and ultras. I know there will be low points in almost every race, but without those low points I cannot have the entire experience.

  5. on 20 Jan 2010 at 8:33 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Rick – I like your long race mantra. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. on 21 Jan 2010 at 8:29 am Kelly

    I love this post. My husband and I have discussed this many times. He’s the type who only runs to improve his race results. I’m the type who enjoys the training as much, if not more, than the actual race. For me, “the journey” is the weeks and months of long runs, hill work, speed work, and cross training that lead up to the race. I’ve always struggled with stepping back in the middle of a race and fully appreciating the experience. It’s usually just a blur with a finish time my only concrete memory.

  7. on 21 Jan 2010 at 3:11 pm Jay Hall

    The first time I ran an ultra, it was the Cross Timbers Trail Run back around 1984. It was only a few months after hitting the wall in the Dallas White Rock Marathon where I shuffled/walked the last six miles and came no where near my desired finish time.
    Fast forward to Cross Timbers and I was pretty apprehensive at the start. My friend, Luke Barber, offered me the best advice – walk the hills and stay behind him for the first half, which I did. We were way back in the pack of about 100 runners and I was getting impatient. Finally, we started to pass a few people after 15 miles, then more after 20. Finally at the end of the first loop at 25 miles, we were picking people off left and right. At 30 miles, I left Luke. For the next twenty miles, I ran alone passing everyone in sight. I felt like a kid again, running through the woods behind my house. It was an exhilirating feeling I just don’t get running on the road. I ended up finishing third behind two Dorking Sportsmen from Houston, ran negative splits, and probably would have won if the race had been a little longer.

  8. on 21 Jan 2010 at 6:09 pm Jeff

    For me, the journey is always in the run itself – planning for it, training for it, the actual day out on the race. I almost never worry about the time or even if I finish the race, because those things don’t actually matter all that much to me.

    I do pick goals for all of my races though – have fun, don’t get hurt, finish being the top 3, and then maybe a time goal or a goal of running close splits.

  9. on 22 Jan 2010 at 9:54 am David Hanenburg

    Kelly – Nice thoughts. It may be interesting to see a male/female breakdown of what is most focused on, ‘results’ vs ‘the journey’. Results/goals can and do inspire and motivate us all but I feel the ‘attachment’ to results can create unnecessary pain and cause you to miss out on the journey/experience.

    Jay – Gotta love the negative split – especially at Cross Timbers.

    Jeff – Looks like a nice mix of ‘journey’ and ‘results’.