December 28th, 2013

The [fill in the blank] of the long-distance runner

How would you fill in the blank for this ultra-marathoner who ran 311 miles in 86 hours without sleeping?

I’d start with “OCD” (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

It seems nearly insane to me to do this sort of thing. But then again, it’s relatively harmless in that she doesn’t hurt anyone except herself.

And her toenails.

11 Responses to “The [fill in the blank] of the long-distance runner”

  1. Matt_SE Says:

    In this case, “inadvertent suicide.”

    While extremely impressive (the original marathoner collapsed after only 20+ miles), I think stressing one’s body in such a way must reduce lifespan.

  2. Ymarsakar Says:

    It was often said by the wise that humans could out run horses and other predators. Most people doubted this fact because they have never tried outrunning a horse, for real, over 500 miles, day in and day out.

    That’s how we kept up with the herd that we hunted. It’s how our ancestors also outrun the heck out of other predators. You didn’t outrun the sabre tooth tiger at the 100m dash. You would just outrun your fellow slow poke human, let him get a bite taken out, and while the bunny is going slow, you get enough of a distance that by the time the predator catches up to you, it’ll be hours if not days of straight running.

  3. Q Says:


  4. J.J. Says:

    This type of activity does not seem all that strange to me. Those people who are into physical fitness and sports are mostly highly motivated to push themselves to improve – to exceed their limits. Mountaineer George Leigh Mallory (an early pioneer who died on Mt Everest) said, “Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No…and yes. We have achieved an ultimate satisfaction… fulfilled a destiny…. To struggle and to understand—never this last without the other; such is the law…”

    Those with a talent for extreme sports are not unlike those who have a talent for singing, composing, sculpting, or ?? Many will push themselves to find their limits. In my years of rock climbing I never came close to being a top level climber. But I pushed myself to be as good as my abilities allowed. To do that I had to push myself out to do ever harder, more demanding climbs. What was the purpose? To vanquish my inner barriers.

    Such motivations among elite athletes have led to some astounding feats. At one time the Eiger Nordwand (North face of the Eiger) in the Alps was considered impossible. Several climbers died attempting the climb. The first successful party (1938) took three days of arduous effort to reach the summit. Gradually more people climbed it and, as climbing abilities increased, in 2011 a young Swiss climber, Daniel Arnold, solo climbed the face in 2 hours and 28 minutes. That effort is a near super-human feat of skill and endurance. Almost inconceivable to someone like me. In a way, such a feat is much like the ultra marathoner. Just inconceivable to most people.

    Read “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell. The inner drive of the SEALs is similar to the ultra marathoner and the extreme climber. Luttrell describes SEAL training. No average person would ever push themselves to that extreme. But the SEALs do it, in fact they volunteer for it. Not all make it, but those who do know they have pushed themselves beyond their inner boundaries. Crazy? Maybe. It’s the way many people are.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    Ancient human tribes often found these kinds of people very useful in war. But in a day and age where peace is supposed to be the normal and celebrating joys of life considered a social mandate, people have to find other ways to push out that urge.

  6. Army Mom Says:

    I can think of several words and phrases but then I am a distance runner too.



    Will to overcome.

    Break boundaries.

    Pain threshold.

    Self control.



    I’ll bet that at the end she was likely thinking…”I can go one more mile….”

  7. Ira Says:

    Just staying awake for over 3.5 days is amazing. Running the whole time is, of course, so much more amazing.

  8. Army Mom Says:

    “YOU ARE CRAZY!!” = A runners favorite compliment. :)

  9. physics geek Says:

    I’ve run only half-marathons to date, with my longest run somewhere around the 20- mile mark. This type of endurance run amazes me.

    To be fair, a cousin of my wife’s runs ultra because he found regular marathons too short and easy. Really.

  10. blert Says:

    What to make of the 366 marathons run by the 68/64 year-old couple from New Zealand? — Every day for more than a year!

  11. neo-neocon Says:


    I would make of it that they’re a perfect match.

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