Why Run 100s?

"What in God's name would motivate anyone to even think about running 100-miles," a work colleague asked late Friday when I shared my weekend plans with her.

It was Sunday morning at about 7:00 when I pondered her question in earnest.  By this time, I'd been running non-stop for about 21 hours. I was alone, nearing the top of what seemed like an endless climb up the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. My knee hurt. My quads were shot. If someone were to have seen me, they'd have surely figured I was drunk the way I lurched up the trail. Funny how I was being kept awake by thinking about how I might sleep while running.

After eating and drinking sugary, high calorie stuff for almost a full day (OK, a couple of burgers and beers, too), I craved a big plate of bacon and eggs with a side order of greasy home fries and a strong cup of coffee. I fished a soggy piece of beef jerky out of my pack and washed it down with a sip of lukewarm electrolyte drink. Just about then, I caught my shoe on a root and almost augured my head into a rock. Ouch! There goes another toenail.

The grit in my socks was rubbing the bottom of both feet raw. I'd have stopped to clean the stuff out, but feared I'd  cramp-up if I dared to reach down that far.  "Only 2 more hours to the next aid station," I thought. "They have a chair, there. I'll clear the gravel out and reward myself with another pair of sox. Maybe smear some Vaseline on my raw nipples and the inside of my chafed thighs, too. 'Hope that's not a stress fracture in my knee..." 

I'd been running on and off with Rick, Jason, Paul, Matt, Grant and Randy for the better part of the past day. Last time I saw him, Jason was on a tear. If he didn't blow-up, he was headed for a personal best time and a top finish. Matt had run very strongly for 70-miles. A very fast and experienced ultrarunner, I thought he'd be giving Jason grief over the last 1/4 of the run, but a tragic wrong turn sent him almost an hour off course and ended his race. After we spent 8 hours together taking turns pulling each other through the night, Grant found another gear and dropped me. He was on track to knock hours off his fastest 100-mile time and break the elusive 24-hour barrier.

Rick, Paul and Randy are supremely well trained and experienced.  They were also behind me.  I figured the 3 of them would be sneaking up behind me at any time and would pull my pants down. 'Couldn't have run away if I wanted to. The thought made me recall an incident at around 2:00 am when a guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a thong jumped out of the bushes hollering and waving his arms. 'Scared the crap out of Grant. "It just Ken getting even for something I made him endure in a 100-miler he was running a couple weeks back," I informed Grant.

Lava Flow Hill is the high point on the 50-mile STORMY course. Go straight and you will fall about 100 stories down a cliff. Go left and it's about 15 miles of more gentle downhill to the finish. There's a big rock at the cliff edge. I sat on it to ponder my co-worker's question.

An orange fireball of a sun rose on the eastern horizon. Jagged peaks were silhouetted for as far as the eye could see. In the valley down below, I could see the river I'd crossed about a half-hour ago and could hear the rushing water as clearly as if it was just below my feet. The air was fresh and hinted with an earthy smell of sun-baked pine needles after a light rain. I calculated the distance from my perch to the glacier at the horizon was less than 1/4 of the distance I'd already run. "100-miles is a long way to run," I thought to myself.

The left side of my brain told me this would be a good spot to have a snooze. My right brain countered with "Only 15 miles to go. Maybe I can catch Jason?"  I got up and started a fast shuffle down the hill that had just taken me hours to climb.

So, Adelene, why do people run 100-milers? My guess is that each person you ask will give you a different reason, but I run them for fun. 

Oh, by the way, those last 15 miles took me 4 hours to complete.  Yes, my "run" did include some walking.  Yes, I spent the rest of the day drinking beer in the sun with my friends and enjoyed every minute of it, despite the fact that I was a bit beat-up and tired.  Yes, I slept in a tent that night and I know you won't believe me, but apart from a stiff knee, I felt like $1M the next day and am ready to sign up for my next 100-miler!


Jason Eads's picture

It was a rockin' good time!

Great way to celebrate the 10th anniversary for STORMY as well as answer the age old question "why would anyone run 100 miles?".

Good on you Ean! Next year, I bet you'll actually train to run 100 miles and run well under 24 hours! Hope I'm there to witness it. 

Ean Jackson's picture


I noticed I didn't mention in my little story that the fun-and-games I refered to took place at the 10th annual STORMY ultras in Squamish, BC, Canada.

Given that I had run in 9/9 STORMYs and had yet to attempt the 100-mile distance, I figured blowing my brains out would be a fitting tribute to my friends Paul Cubbon, Rich Rawling and Wendy Montgomery who have selflessly organized this great event for a decade.

I'd also like to thank my friends, family and all of the other kind people who volunteered their time to help with aid stations and the many other aspects of logistics that go on behind the scenes.   Wendy, you are a saint for taking this on.  I hope you've caught up on your sleep by now.

See you next year for #11!


Great run Ean, even better to see your taking on the big distance again. Its in your blood!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.