What you need (and don’t) to be a real ultrarunner
I want to clear up a giant misconception I hear a lot about what you need to be a “real” ultrarunner.
Let’s start with a partial list in no particular order of what you DON'T need to have, do, or be:
A GPS watch
Strava or any other app
Elite approval for your gear
A weighted vest or whatever the latest training fad
A cool, outdoorsy car
Stickers all over the cool, outdoorsy car
More/more impressive stickers than the next guy
A chiseled body of steel, sculpted quads, and six-pack abs
Sponsorship (other than your own)
The “right” training plan
The hot new shoes
Makeup/long hair/long beard/braids/dreadlocks/tattoos/more or different piercings than the next guy
A smokin' PR
Years of gritty, hard-earned experience
A dirtbag lifestyle
To live or train in a cool trail town
Drop-dead gorgeous trails to train on every day
Selfies that prove training on said gorgeous trails
A cool job
The perfect diet
A dramatic redemption/hell-and-back story
Trucker hat (can we please, please move on from these?)
Standing in a race series
A resume of big-name races
A coach (yes, I am one and a coach can help you transform your results but you don’t need one to be an ultrarunner)
Weeks of spare time to pull off FKTs and big unique adventures
A podium finish
Extreme suffering (moderate will do)
To finish a 100-miler
To be called “crazy”
To look like a Trail Runner or Ultrarunning cover model
To be a total machine
To be accepted in the cool kids' club
Everything perfectly measured out and dialed in
Anybody's version of the ultra-running life but your own
If you want something in this list that's going to make life better for you, go for it. I knew early on I wouldn’t think of myself as a real ultrarunner if I didn't go for a 100-miler, I sometimes use poles, and I love having a life coach.
But if you think not having, doing, or being any of that means you’re not good enough to show up at the starting line, that's a lie.
I’ve been running ultras for close to 22 years now and have finished plenty of ultras and 100s without the stuff on this list.
What you really need?
Ideally, some basic training
The minimum gear that will get you safely to the finish in likely circumstances (probably a lot less than you think)
Your full, all-in, I-can-do-this! self
Look, ultrarunning is about running a distance, not trying to be someone you've been told you’re supposed to be.
You don’t have to measure up to an image, you have to measure up to the distance.
Don’t worry about all that other stuff.
Show up as yourself, and run the distance.