Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ultra Marathons are changing for the……ummmm???

     For the most part, I really do think Ultra Marathons are changing for the better. However, there is a lot of talk on some of the negatives that have come with the growth of the sport from lotteries to ultras losing their original charm. To be honest though, there is only one real problem I have noticed. For some reason a select few runners (definitely not the majority) feel that it is acceptable to talk negatively about other runners in an unacceptable manner. This saddens me as when I first began this beautiful sport, I always heard that trail/ ultra runners are nice people. I really do believe that this is still true; some runners are just forgetting their manners. (I hope that doesn't sound lame but I’m really trying to make this as non-offensive as I can.)

     This topic has been on my mind for quite awhile now but I finally felt the need to openly express my thoughts after a recent experience. Sage, my wonderful, good-natured boyfriend was running the Tarawera 100k. At one point he got a 20 minute lead over the 2nd place Timothy Olson. I was of course informed of this because I had my computer open to the irunfar live coverage all night. As I watched the comments come up on the live coverage, someone started suggesting that Sage was using drugs to enhance his performance! This person obviously has no idea who Sage is as a person, and I immediately felt hurt for Sage who gets upset whenever he hears about an athlete taking drugs. (I would like to thank the MANY people who immediately defended Sage.)

     Now, I’m not saying I’m against drug tests. I have to face the facts that it one day may become necessary in ultras, BUT it is by no means okay that someone who doesn't know Sage suggests he, or any other elite runner, takes drugs. That job is specifically for the people in charge of the race or organizations like USATF.

     Soon after the drug comment, a few people mentioned that they were disappointed in the coverage. It’s expensive to fly to New Zealand! We’re lucky someone was covering it at all. Unfortunately, Bryon isn't God (though us ultra runners are very thankful for him), and can’t be everywhere on the course at once. He even took a boat for us viewers to get to one of the far aid stations! That’s dedication.

     Why must some runners always have to assume the worst in others or go into a post trying to find something negative? Would people still make the same comments if they had to show their faces? My examples above are just a couple of many where a select few people have to take a blow at the positive ultra-runner image. 

     After thinking about this topic alone, I wanted to talk about it with my twin sister Rachel, as she normally has some great insights. Here are her thoughts:

     “It is possible that much of this negativity came about through social media. It doubled the number of people in the sport, including people who just got into it without a real "why" and those who have remained chosen to remain unaffected by the sports ability to allow for deeper thinking. So it is interesting as more research is reported on the health, happiness, and even intellectual benefits of spending time in nature for long periods of time that negative people are still involved in ultra running. On the other hand, I know some of the top ultra runners out there have simply used ultra running as another addiction or a way to cover up other feelings. Another theory would be that there were always negative people in the sport, they just increased as the sport did, and social media gave them the ability to type their negative comments without being known.

(Told you she was insightful. She really brought up some great discussion topics.)

     Some of the negative comments people are making are just ridiculous and hurtful. An elite woman ultra-runner won a 100 and wrote in her blog about the technical sections of the course. Someone commented that Krissy Moehl wouldn't have complained about the rocks (I’m sure Krissy wouldn't have appreciated this either). Why couldn't this person just congratulate her on her win? Is it that hard to appreciate the struggles of other people or that it’s very easy to trip over your own feet at the end of a 100, let alone rocks?

     Then I read a comment about some of the elite ultra-runners no longer being authentic. They are giving up financial stability to live their dreams of running and exploring the mountains. They are following their hearts and passions. Who is anyone to say that isn't authentic?

     I’m not asking everyone to agree with what people have to say, but everyone can at least try to put their words in a way that is less offensive. It is possible to state an opinion without bringing down someone else. Not trying to be mushy, but it’s important to consider other people’s feelings. We need to try to lift people up, not look for silly reasons to bring them down- unless someone is getting a little too cocky. Then maybe we can nicely tell them their legs will soon not be able to run fast under the weight of their head.

(Top) The Animal Camp and friends. (Bottom) On top of the CDT before a group run with some of the nicest people this sport has to offer. Proof the majority of ultra-runners are great people!

    I realize some people may be thinking “toughen up” and sites like Letsrun.com seem to make it acceptable that road runners can be closely scrutinized.  We however, are ULTRA-RUNNERS! We stick together because we are banded together by our uphill struggles, and the fun we have together running through beautiful nature. I know life can make it easy to always first find the negative in people, but as ultra-runners, we know we get more out of doing the harder things in life, like always trying to find the positives in people.

Ultra-Runners are known for being great people. Let’s keep it that way.

Run Wild, Live Happy,


Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~Plato


  1. Well stated Sandi. I watched the irunfar coverage as well and thought that Bryon did a great job considering the location, terrain and time difference of the race. It was nice that someone was covering it at all.

    I hope the very few negative people don't get you down anymore then they already have. Your message is right to raise others up as it helps take everyone - including the sport of ultra running - to a better place.

    Keep letting your light shine. Stay positive. Stay you and the sport will be okay.

    Be sure to pass a congratulations on to Sage for a great race.

  2. Excellent post Sandi! I love everything about the trail running experience and everyone experiences them differently. I believe everyone has something they are running towards(or from) and should not be judged but like was said, with social media everyone has an opinion. Shoot, here's mine.
    Can't we all just run along?!
    Btw...I just found your blog through Sage's and it sent me to your last post. It really hit home.
    Thanks and here's to trails and smiles, jim

  3. HA "Then maybe we can nicely tell them that their legs may soon not be able to run as fast under the weight of their heads" - GREAT quote! And post...unfortunately while the world of athletics in general brings out the best in people, it can also bring out the worst. Luckily there are many more people like you than like the 'other' kind. And if there is one thing we know for sure, Sage and all other ultra runners are TOUGH and won't let negativity get them down!!!

  4. great post, chica! I always enjoy your blog because you are so insightful and thought provoking. I hate that happened to you as you were watching the updates on Irunfar during Sage's race. My impression is most of the people posting the negative comments are "arm chair quarterbacks" it's really easy to sit at home and type a flippant comment from your laptop-- There is a detachment I wish there wasn't and but I think people are just not thinking too deeply how by strokes on the keyboard, their words can wound, hurt and defame others. I'm 100% positive the people who made those comments would NEVER articulate anything of the sort to his face or yours.
    HOWEVER, I would like to think anyone who understands what these front of the pack Athletes have to do to RUN a 100k or 100 miles HARD.--- Would never make comments or remarks like that. I think they perhaps more accurately understand the suffering involved!! Just be impressed by his athleticism, guts and determination and be happy for him that he had a good race. It's his time. Its not like he came from nowhere- this kid has been progressing the past several yrs.

    Byron, Meghan, Sean and all the rest of the IRUNFAR team do any excellent job. it's the gold standard for online info regarding ultras and trail running IMO.
    and SANDI-- You're freaking amazing. Please do not let a couple meanie pants posts ruin your day-- You have such a sweet happy spirit and I know that you can join me in feeling sorry for the people who post negatively-- it's doesn't have a thing to do with Sage and his win-- and has everything thing to do with themselves. people are generally very egocentric: when people are angry, unhappy, sad-- they project negativity onto others:( So positive thoughts for the meanie pants out there!!! Hope things get better for you and you find joy and the fulfillment you need:)

  5. Great post Sandi! I think Rachel is right on target however that negativity doesn't seem to make it to the trails but, rather, is found behind the anonymity of message boards, etc. It's as if these outlets allow the true nature of people to come out because there is no one to answer to (at least in person.) Congrats to Sage and best of luck to both of you at future races.

  6. It's the era on entitlement. I did't read comments about Sage, I tuned in late, but did read a mentioning about it - and was like Whoa, we now just blame guys who run fast? Anyway, too many people demand and transfer their needs from normal life - not to mention too many people are too demanding in regular life as well. Thanks for speaking up.

  7. No matter what it is, running or otherwise, there will always be those people that lack tact or respect in their comments or musings. Sometimes it's rough joking, other times a lack of knowledge, but I think it's rare, especially among our ultrarunning demographic to be intentionally offensive.

  8. You've brought up unfortunate situations, and presented the sides of the struggle eloquently. Thanks for that. Something I also appreciate about the people and circumstances that give rise to ultrarunning is that even in the absence of social media and hype the sport and communities embedded therein can continue to challenge us, connect us, and fill us.
    Great sunrise run this morning, thanks for coming out

  9. Great post Sandi!

    Don't let the negative words of a few people overtake the positive words that many more have to share. It is unfortunate to hear drug accusations, but one positive that Sage should take away from this is that it shows he has elevated himself to a very high level in the sport. It could be looked at as an honor that people would think such things as it's only those athletes doing amazing things that draw the anonymous drug accusations. There is no doubt in my mind that Sage is competing clean and always will be. I hope that trail and ultra running remain clean as that was one of the appeals for me to make a transition from the road/track to the trails.

    Keep up the great work with your blog and good luck with your training and upcoming races!

  10. in hell these negative people will rot, with their negativity.

  11. Nice post Sandi, I too was in Tarawera trying my darndest to get coverage along with Bryon for the social media sites and the terrain made it so difficult. When I got back into coverage the first comments popping up were criticisms about the lack of coverage and also the bias toward the male field. For Bryon and I to cover these races costs us a fortune as global roaming costs are so high and other technologies in NZ were unavailable. But all of this negativity pales into insignificance when you see Sage and his folks at the last checkpoint. He was a real trooper and gentlemen the whole week. He had time to speak with everyone and fr the accusations to be thrown at people via their keyboards is very sad. The majority of people and I mean 99.9% left that race with a better understanding of what it is like to see the elite athletes train and race and everyone had smiles on their faces. At Ultra168 we tend to not give oxygen to these negative comments and before long, those from within the sport who value the sport enormously usually fight our battles for us which is very heartening. Keep blogging and focus on the good things in life. I will post this to our FB page as well.Cheers Marcus - Editor, Ultra168.com

    1. Hear, hear. Having Sage and the other elite runners here in New Zealand was a real privilege. I can certainly say without a shadow of a doubt the Tarawera 100 made a lasting impression on the ultra-running community here.

      And Ultra168 is right. The terrain the runners covered is very, very remote as far as technology goes. Thank you Bryon and Ultra168 for coming all the way out here. It was fantastic to have you.

      And Sandi we'd love to have you come out here to New Zealand with Sage when he returns to defend his title ;)

    2. Well said ultra186! Thank you for your words and covering the race! :)

      Jonathan...I really hope to be running it myself next year! :) New Zealand is number one on my list for places I want to visit.

  12. Nice write up and "Hear Hear" to everything that Jenny said...

    Getting from one aid station to another is one of the most difficult parts of covering these events since they are often located remotely. I think Bryon and Marcus (as well as Meghan back in the States) did a fantastic job under difficult conditions.

    As far as the "letsrun" site, if roadies are spewing ignorance about a sport they don't participate in, why would any ultrarunner want to listen to it? There are so many bloggers and writers that give us beauty to enjoy on the computer screen, I don't care to waste my time consuming the ugliness. Life is too damn short.

    I'm still getting acquainted with Sage the runner and person, but must say that I was impressed with how teachable he is even after winning. He seems to have a deep respect for ultrarunning and that he's still learning about how to run the longer distances. I wish him all the best as he continues to stretch himself and choose races that will challenge him and allow him to continue to develop as a trail runner. I'll be watching in awe from the back-of-the-pack!

  13. Hi Sandi, I had the immense honour of meeting Sage shortly after the finish at Lake Okareka. I had just completed my first Ultra, even though I had entered the relay event with my mate and we only did about 40km each. For us, as a couple of old Kiwi fellas, that was enough and we were stoked!! I found Sage warm and engaging and was surprised that he would even give a "weekend warrior" the time for a brief chat.

    Now to your post. I have been around a wee while longer than you and Sage (don't want to sound like a fuddy-duudy, but what can I do??!!??). Like you, I was (and remain) very idealistic and want the world to be a better place where people get along nicely and share and embrace the positive aspects of life. Unfortunately, time has taught me that this will not happen and that there will always, always, be people who see the glass as half-empty. As such, I have had to learn that sometimes you just take it on the chin, as you will not change these folks, they are, quite simply, set in their ways. As perverted as it sounds, they actually feel happiest when they are throwing spears (usually from behind at keyboard) at others.

    Make no mistake, it still frustrates me. You see it everywhere. Even in the friendly 'burbs of New Zealand, we have it. I guess that I can only offer you two insights, advice if you like.

    Firstly, do not be swayed or allow yourself to be made negative by them. They will frustrate you, and often make you do things (or type things) that are not natural to you and often, that is exactly what they want. It's a little like wrestling with pigs. You wind up tired, sweaty and dirty, inevitably losing, only to find that they are enjoying it!

    Secondly, learn to see where these comments come from. Often (I would wager damn near 99%) they are born from some form of deep insecurity and/or jealousy. They assume evil things of others in order to make themselves feel better about themselves. Buddhism would encourage us not to become angry, but rather to pity these poor sops (not that I am in any way Buddhist, but I do like the teachings) I mean, how horrible would it be to be them, having to always find reason to diss others, etc...

    As for the iRunfar dudes and Ultra168, one of the most amazing things about New Zealand and what I enjoy most about trail running is that you really can get way from it all. That means no 3G either!! Those guys did a sterling job, as did the organisers, etc.

    Hope that this helps in just a little way and kind regards from Aotearoa.

    Eddie Sella

    1. Great post Sandi! irunfar always have great coverage, especially when there is only a team of two doing the broadcasting. The newcomers of the sport that act negatively against others do so because they can not succeed in this sports themselves. They also clearly don't understand what ultra really is about.

  14. Wow. I've written critically about the need to re-consider flying every which way when there are still enough trails to explore closer to where one's living, I thought about only doing self-organized/-created outings rather than any races this year out of dissatisfaction with the focus on big races and fastest runners - but that's just the beauty of it.
    You can decide for yourself where you put your focus, whether you want to do 50k or 100 miles, official races or adventurous outings you just go for, fastest known times or journeys to document and speak of.

    But to sit around in front of a computer, complain and criticize... yeah, it's easy. Might be better to get out more, though. I had the same as soon as I put up a YouTube video (product review). First comments, all hurtful. It's just the medium and the times, though. So, indeed, let's focus on giving better examples.
    And if it all gets too much, there's always another trail to run and remember that life isn't about random snipers online. There are more important things. Like oxygen in one's lungs...

  15. Great post!! It was great that you guys raced up in Ithaca. I went to Ithaca College and know those trails very well, but I couldn't get up there from San Diego. I hope Sage just lets it roll off his back. There will always be nay sayers whenever anyone is successful. It has gotten a little out of control. Look at the comment section on IRUNFAR's post of the review of "In the High Country". It was open season on Anton. It got to the point where people started bashing IRUNFAR and Bryon when he tried to tone down the arguments. It was definitelly the ugly face of the sport showing itself in full force. So sad.

    Thank you for posting about it. Happy Trails


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