You should be ashamed of yourself.
You really should be.
If you are a trail and ultra marathon runner, you cannot be trusted.
I’m no expert, but I have been sucked into enough trail runs to have learned that although most trail and ultra runners are good people…..they ALL lie to you.
I want to give you the facts of Trail & Ultra Running. I highly encourage taking up the hobby of trail running, but I would like to give you an idea of what you can expect.
First of all, a trail run that is pitched to you as a 10k will range anywhere from 7-15 miles long, a 25k can be as long as a marathon, a 50k is just a best guess, and anything over a 50 miler is just an arbitrary number which has no relevance to distance.
There has not ever been an American trail runner who understands the metric system. They throw out kilometers in an effort to confuse you into running with them. Distance means nothing to them. They plan to run until they die or they have to be at work, whichever one comes first.
If a trail runner tells you that, “You are almost there”, it is a blatant lie. You are never “almost there”, because these people run forever….there is no end. On the road, the pace of the run along with the distance you are traveling will give you an idea of how many minutes you will be running (ex. 45 minutes or 2 hours). In the trail running community, runs are measured by chunks of the day (ex. most of the morning, mid-day, late afternoon). What time of day that you will finish a run is generally rounded off to the nearest sunrise or sunset.
If you are fortunate to be running with a trail runner honest enough to tell you, on the front end, that you will need a headlamp….bring your own. Trail runners have no grip on reality when it comes to “safety”. They think that two headlamps with one set of batteries is plenty. They believe that two runners sharing one headlamp, on uneven ground, on the edge of a river or cliff, is perfectly safe. They feel that we all possess some kind of internal instinct that allows you to sense the terrain ahead of you, like Predator or something. I don’t have this sense.
True story. I once had a trail runner tell me that he would supply the headlamps for a night run. When we put them on, mine had no batteries. I told him, “my headlamp has no light.” He looked me square in the eye and said, “mine does, and you plan on sticking pretty close, don’t you?”. WTF. Aside from some nights spent in jail and rehab, it was the worst night of my life.
An aid station that is “around the corner” is rubbish. There are no corners on the trail. Around the curve, there are only more curves and more trail…the pain never stops. The belief that there is some sort of relief ahead is a tool that trail runners use to sucker you into a few more miles of masochism while you suffer. I have been convinced to run a few more miles in hopes of bumping into some guy named “Carl”. Carl is a guy, who I have never met, who will give me a ride back to my car, after I continue down the trail for an extra five or six miles. When I ask, “Who is Carl? And, how do we know that Carl is even out here?”. The response was, “Don’t worry, Carl’s always out here. He is parked at the other end of the trail.”
All trail junkies know a Carl.
Trail runners will risk their life on running into half-strangers who might have a Gu, jelly beans or some sort of nutrition, if it means logging five more miles. I’m not use to this, I don’t leave my couch unless there is a bed nearby. I prefer safety and certainty. “Larry is probably out here. He will have a Honeystinger or something.”
“What? Who the hell is Larry”
Last month, I crossed paths with a friend of mine on the 18th mile of a 50kilometer race. While we passed in opposite directions, as I was truly concerned if it was possible for my hips to snap in two and fall off of my body, we acknowledged each other. After our initial greeting, and my mentioning that I thought I was dying of dehydration, she very matter-of-factly asked me, “Some of us are thinking about attempting a 100miler next year, are you interested?” (Who the hell asks these kinds of questions? Especially at a time like this?)
Let’s not forget this one, “You look great!”. These words have been said to trail runners just moments before they collapse and fall over dead. Back in college, some friends of mine drove to Mexico and bought a bunch of Quaaludes. I saw a few of them that weekend, at a keg party, which asked every guest to bring two pints of Mad Dog 20/20. My friend Peter spent most of the evening walking at a 45degree angle, using only the wall to hold him up, as his forward motion combined with Mad Dog and sedatives propelled him around the same four walls for a period of about four hours hours. I was pretty sure that he would be tits-up-dead by morning. He essentially looked like every trail runner looks at about three-fourths of the way through a mountainous ultra. Had it been a party of trail runners, each person who passed Peter, as all of the color had drained from his face, and another step would be certain to be his last, would have repeated….
“Keep going! You look great. Almost there.”
Don’t act like I’m exaggerating. You should be ashamed.
This weekend, my wife and I enjoyed a trail event. I needed to get a few extras miles after the event, for training purposes. I asked a friend/fellow trail runner for advice on where I could enjoy a few leisurely miles, as I was unfamiliar with the area. He painted the picture of an open trail which runs along the side of a serene pond of calm water. So far as I know, most bodies of water are generally pretty level. To my surprise, he led me down an overgrown single trail, which quickly bottomed out into marshy wetlands, just before leading me to a never-ending stairway of stones. At the top of the stones, was an endless path of ups-and-downs which led me to only more path and left me with nothing but sore hamstrings…and an honest desire to never speak to my trail running friend again.
Upon returning, my wife told me of everyone’s concern for my safety. My only question,
“If they knew it was so bad, why the hell did they send me out there in the first place?”
The reason? Because they wanted to get some extra miles, and they thought that forming a “search and rescue” team for my fatass would be fun.
I will say it again. They can’t be trusted.
As I was licking my wounds, another “friend” said that he wanted me to go run with a group. He claimed that he wanted to “Show me some lesser-known sights that the park has to offer”. I was quick to decline. These sights are “lesser-known”, because people aren’t crazy enough to get to know them, and they are not “offered” probably because they are off-limits and unsafe.
“Show you some lesser known sights that the park has to offer….”
Translation: “I want to watch you die, slowly, painfully, and legally.”
Never trust a Trail & Ultra Runner if it’s regarding a trail or a run.
Find a trail, and have some fun today.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,
It’s all downhill from here.
That’s right, “It’s all downhill from here. Hard parts over.”
I just laughed harder than perhaps ever before. I’m new to trail running and will run my first 50K this Saturday. Honestly, this piece is 100% true.
Dave, this makes me incredibly happy! I’m glad that you enjoyed it, but more excited for you and your upcoming adventure. Man, let me know how the 50k goes. I would love to hear all about it. Hit me up…
I’m starting mine on the 1 May. Im looking forward to it. I’m Thomas , I want to experience on my own
I hope to hear all about it Thomas. Be sure to share your progress with us in the Lift Heavy Run Long Athletes group on fb.
This should be a warning to trail runners who do not know how to safely prepare for a run!!!! Always, and I mean always have the proper gear and make sure has the lead you take into consideration the well-being of others who follow you!!!!!
Hahaha, oh so very true!
Thanks Britta! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Almost there, right around the corner! You look great.
Paul, I’m laughed so hard at the “you look great” comment, that I went back and inserted it into the post. Too funny!
Ha! Love this!
Thanks Chris! I appreciate you reading.
I had a good laugh myself coz I’m a trail run lover & the lies are all true. Truly enjoy your piece.
Thanks Johnson! I appreciate the note. I’m glad that you enjoyed it!
“It’s a runnable race”
THAT….is funny. They are all described as “runnable”, are they not? I’m trippin. Thank you.
I just signed up for my first ever “race.” I love yo hike with the dog & get a pretty fun speed in with my pack, but hate running. Yet I’m committed to running 7 “miles” next month on a mountain bike trail that his described in all caps as “VERY TECHNICAL!” Don’t most people try a 5k first? Maybe I found my tribe of crazies.
Congratulations! And yes, it sounds like you are in the correct mental ward. Let me know how the race goes. I bet you have a blast!
Thanks! I will also take this moment to apologize for my typos. Ever since I switched phones last year I can’t get away with trying to post from one without looking drunk. My photos are great though. God forbid I care more about how I sound than look… That would be tragic…
Haha! Absolutely tragic. No apology necessary. Have a great day.
This is exactly why I stick to road ultras!
Haha! I don’t blame you. I just appreciate people getting out and moving around at whatever they enjoy.
Love it! Hate it!
You got that right. Thanks for reading!
This made my day. I’m running 46K trail event in May and 68K event in July. Can’t even be sure if distance is true. Last year they said 65K and people said they are on 70K and are afraid if they got lost or not.
Thanks Piotr! Those are some impressive distances. keep it up! I hope to hear about your races.
This article is not funny at all. It’s just true.
I agree. I think that the humor is overshadowed by truth! Thank you.
I learnt that questions can let you know what lies ahead… “How do you feel about hills? Translation 1km of 37% gradient all up hill.
Haha! Yes, it’s like some sort of mysterious language code that you have to crack….only it doesn’t make any sense…and it’s never accurate or consistent. Thanks Kylie.
It’s all runnable..
Mark, so friggin true. I have not received a clear definition of “runnable”, but it apparently includes crawling on all fours.
Thanks for reading!
Hahahahaaa!! One true story!!
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.
This is brilliant. I run trails all the time in my home (West Highlands of Scotland) and yesterday did a fairly speedy and hilly few miles in prep for upcoming Trail Race this weekend; came home, had a drink of water and thought “it’s a nice day, I’ll just go back out for a few minutes to stretch off my legs…” 5 miles and several hundred feet of elevation later…! 😀
Wow, Scotland! I can imagine there is some scenery there that could easily keep you occupied for a few extra miles. That’s really cool. Thanks for the note, Bryan!
There sure is…was over in Royal Deeside at the Queen’s country estate (Balmoral) at the weekend for Run Balmoral 15 mile trail event; 7 miles in a marshal said “this is the last wee hill” – he was right – they were all HUGE after that! 🙂
Bryan, We will be in Inverness, Scotland in June. I cant wait to see your magnificent country. My son is entered in the Celtman Triathlon. Any advice for him?
Thanks, Cathy smith
Wow! That is an EXTREME Triathlon, good luck to him! The Torridon area is beautiful but the hills are very exposed and very steep! Serious elevation, can also be really cold even in June so check he has the right equipment!
Very best of luck, enjoy the most stunning part of the country!
Brilliant! So much truth and little white lies rolled together. Trail runners have a completely different perspective that is not connected to the facts and reality of the real world, all that running in nature sets us free.
That is really well said. I stopped and read this a couple of times over. It really does have a great deal to do with perspective, and perspective changes in nature. Thanks for sharing.
Those of us who’ve run the OT50 know to look for the sign that says “You look like crap, you look like you need a beer.” Those folks are more honest than those other poseur aid stations. Ah sweet nectar of the trail running gods, it will ensure that at the next aid station someone will definitely tell you “you look great!”
I have heard so many great things about Ouachita! That must really be a heck of a race! Thanks Lisa.
Who does this guy think he is? I’m a teenager who has completed several 50k’s and mountain marathons and I can tell you with 100% certainty that every runner is different. He just happened to get stuck with unexperienced newbies that didn’t put batteries in their headlamps. If a runner has any experience whatsoever, they will take good looks at their expected run and plan accordingly. I feel sorry for this guy because ultrarunning is amazing and really a fantastic sport. Sorry for your troubles and bad luck on the trails, maybe you should consider taking up a less extreme sport.
Lighten up, Patrick. It’s meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek. Trail running is a wonderful sport with wonderful people. It’s all in good fun. Take it easy, my friend. Peace and Love.
I could relate to every single thing you said, and the sad thing is- I’m not a trail runner- I’m just an occasional trail hiker who joins hiking groups. The bast…err….regular hikers and leaders all say the same thing! Not far to go, just 5 more minutes and it’s all downhill….yeah yeah, pull the other one.
HAHA! Adrian, I go at more of a hike pace, and usually strike up conversation with anybody that will talk to me. You are ABSOLUTELY correct, those bast…err…folks will tell you the same pile of it.
Thanks for reading.
Hits the spot. I am new to trail running and admit to harboring dark thoughts whenever a runner passes me by on the return leg, and says – “good job”. Feel like reaching for something sharp…nicely done, man..:-)
Yessir! I’m guilty as well….and then I get pissed when they don’t say it as well.
Hahaha!!! You hit the nail on the head. . . . wanna go for an EZ run??
Yeah, what’s up with that? I’ve never had an easy run, period. Let alone on some godforesaken trail! Ha! Thanks for reading, Leslie.
It’s a fun course with a few gentle rolling hills. The trail is well marked. Lies, I tell you!!!
LOVED this!! I have run one trail marathon and my first 50K is on Saturday!! The adventure is already beginning because the roads to get to the race have slid out. A four hour drive has now turned into 8! But we will make it.
Oh, man. This is great. I wonder how many times I’ve been deceived into a race or run. I also wonder how many times I’ve done the same to others. I am so, so sorry, friends. (Aaaaand kinda not.)
Hysterical, and 100% true! “Tits-up dead” made me pee a little. My favorite is “this is a recovery day for me, I’ll totally go slow. You can keep up easily…”
Craig, yessir! There is the obligatory excuse as to why someone is going to “take it easy”…right before they smoke you. Thanks for reading!
And there’s also an element of lying to ourselves. I just ran Portal Trail in Moab on Saturday. I was suppressed to be mountain biking it, but, due to a mechanical, was waiting on the gang.
Was sitting in my Sprinter, with great tunes, and a good book.
Next thing I know, I’m running the trail. Hey, it’s only a mile and a half to the overlook. That’s a 5k up, and back. Based on the ejection to be gained, not easy, but I figured within the realm of possibility.
Next thing I know, I’m going for a 10k, because hey, you made it this far, what’s twice as much distance, on one of the ten most dangerous trail sections in America? Seriously, it is. There is a sign that actually tells you to get off your bike, because riders have died. Really.
Anyway, next thing I know, I’ve done a full 10k on this trail, and the only person that was around to lie to me that I could, was me.
*elevation, not ejection.
It seems to happen that way. You certainly seem to be afflicted with the disease! we are all very sick people…some of us sicker than others! Keep doing exactly what you are doing. Thanks for sharing with me!
I think we (trail runners) may all be descendants of the Black Knight from Monty Python and The Holy Grail: “’tis but a gentle incline”
Michael, Too funny. Perfect injection of the funniest movie I have ever seen. Thank you, you have inspired me to spend my next couple couch hours watching Holy Grail. It’s been a while.
Haha I run trails most in Indonesia, south East Asia . The above all applies here too. Made me giggle as it is so true. We just run up little hills 3000m total ascent is quite normal on long runs here:p
Cherly, WOW! Indonesia, that’s so cool. I bet your scenary is magnificent. I would love to see some photos of the areas you get to run. I appreciate your reading and posting……also, a 3000m hill would be the end of me.
When you post for friends to join you for 5-8ish miles and they start complaining at mile 6…..we went 9. I’m that “friend”. One of the party said her hair hurt the next day….mission accomplished.
I have friends like you! There is a correlation between determination and loyalty. Good friends to have.
Ran a 100k mountain ultra last year. At the 58 mile (of 64 miles) aid station, the guy told me the trail to the finish was all down hill and runable. Come to find out that the first 5.25 miles were pretty much up hill and the last .75 miles was a pretty gnarly descent!
Haha! Sounds about right. Thanks David!
It’s when you turn up to an ultra-trail marathon and you look around. You notice that the runners divide into two distinct groupings – those whose calves are bigger than their thighs and then taper upwards so that their upper bodies are just sinew. They have a running vest, shorts, a scruffy pair of old tennis shoes or brogues on, a small drinking bottle, boundless optimism and a steady supply of gruesome anecdotes or stoical expressions. The rest of us have bodyfat and carry things like maps, hydration systems and looks of concern. Your story was SO funny and captured ultra mindsets perfectly!
So true!Thanks Nick, I’m definitely in the fat, concerned crew.
Thanks for reading
Wife: “why are you crying?” (at the finish of a 50 miler)
Me “because i managed to finish in daylight”
I want to shed those tears. My 50miler it was nighttime. I got some work to do. Thanks Darren
So true! That’s why I love trail/ultra running!!
That makes two of us. It really us a beautiful thing, that makes room for everybody. Thanks for reading, Rich!
This is one of the best pieces I have ever read in regards to Ultra and Trail running!!!!
Charles, I am humbled by the compliment. Thank you so much for saying this.
Don’t remember when i laughed so hard last time… In the middle of street.
Thank you, Wilson!
I love to hear things like this. I’m glad that I could make you smile. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Ha ha so true!! I’m glad it’s a closed group or none of my friends would ever run with me again
Isn’t that the truth, Tony? Friends sort of takes on a whole new definition considering what we put our “friends” through.
Laughed soooo hard ! You left out another good lie we say “the ultra is like spending a long day in the woods !” WHAT?
Thank you, Belinda. Yes, you are so correct! They make it sound like it’s a Disney movie, with birds & butterflies gently whisking around your shoulders, when the truth of the matter is that it is one hellaciously painful and smelly experience…..but also rewarding (which is why we keep thise friends around.)
Thanks for reading!
“All of the hills are runnable.”
I know, right?! Climbing the Himalayas….”It’s a very runnable course”
I love this. You hit it on the nail.
My favorite lie told to me: “Yeah, almost all of the trail is runnable.”
After a few trail runs, I’m like, “Did you mean the parts with the loose gravelly rocks and sand straight up and slippery down? or just the parts with the mud, tree roots and loose rocks? Because I pretty much had to walk the whole damn trail.
Haha! Yep, I have walked about 80% of the trails which were described to me as being 100% runnable, at least 70% of the time. Thanks for reading. (I am so sorry I took so long to respond. I missed this somehow.)
Best, most hilarious, thing I have read in a long time. Sometimes the truth hurts. And other times, it leaves you laughing and nodding your head in agreement
Ha! Thank you so much, Katie. I always appreciate a nice comment!
A friend just sent this to me and said; Hey Larry, check this out!
Goddamn my face hurts from laughing at this!!!
Lol! I am glad that you enjoyed it, Larry!