The madness of the ultra distance runner Part II


A few days ago on this blog I reflected on the perception that those who spend a long time running long distances are touched by a unique kind of psychological madness. Not true, of course, I concluded. Madness is everything the ultra distance is not. Amid various responses, a post from Rich Cranswick stood out. This is a man who is no stranger to perceived madness. He is in training to break a record of running from Land’s End to John o’Groats. He’ll have to run 62.5 miles – almost two-and-half marathons – per day for 14 consecutive days. Cranswick is training for his June 2014 expedition by running back-to-back 40 milers with full kit over the summer. The real madness is in the detail, however. The run has been completed in fewer than 14 days, but not unsupported. Cranswick wants to do the 875 miles without outside assistance, carrying everything he needs to survive for a fortnight of life on the road.

His words in response to mine are below, including an entirely appropriate corruption of the ‘band of brothers’ line from Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Madness is the obesity epidemic sweeping first-world countries. Madness is spending 8 hours a day stuck to a TV watching other people’s reality as a substitute to your own. Madness is having the ability to change your life, health, outlook and not taking it.

We’re not mad. We enter events we know will hurt like hell with encouragement from our peers and a wry smile. We’re happier for the pain and elation of a hard 4-hour run on a weekend. We’re happier for the improved fitness level. Happier for seeing the sun rise, running past herds of deer. Happier for the horizontal rain on an exposed hill.

We few, we mad, happy few.

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