Running is a strange sport. You won’t find many hockey players who play for any other reason than they enjoyment, but that’s not the same with running. According to an annual poll by Running USA, only 55% of people who consistently run cite having fun as a primary motivation. Instead, most people run to stay healthy, either mentally or physically. Running is seen largely by runners as a means to an end, not an activity worthy of doing in and of itself.
And on its face, I get it. Running is nothing more than moving quickly for a long period of time, often just around your neighborhood that you already find unexciting. With that being said, I love running. It’s fun, meditative, and allows me to be outside for long stretches at a time. My running habits are comparable to those surveyed by Running USA, where I average about 21 miles a week.
While running is an activity I enjoy, I haven’t yet taken it to the extreme. Most runners aim to be healthy, but running for more than an hour at a time is actually counterproductive in the long term. Like beer, it’s an important part of my weekly routine, but not something I want to dedicate my life to.
Despite this, I have become fascinated by runners who have dedicated themselves to the sport, particularly ultrarunners. Ultrarunning is defined as any footrace longer than a marathon, but you don’t have to look long to find races of 50 miles, 75 miles, and even a 100 miles through the mountains. Filmmaker Billy Yang has filmed several documentaries that kick started my interest in the sport, but as with all of my passions, I eventually went looking for an ultrarunning podcast. I googled “ultrarunner podcast”, and the algorithm had no problems connecting me with Ultrarunner Podcast.
If you’re asking, “why would anyone be passionate about running for upwards of 24 hours straight”, you’re not the only one. On nearly every episode, host Eric Schranz – who is an ultrarunner himself – asks his interviewees “why?” And just like with the runners polled by Running USA, there are a variety of answers.
While everyone clearly enjoys the sport enough to continue it, few people cite their main motivation as “having fun”. Ben Gibbard, runner and band leader for Death Cab For Cutie had one particularly unique answer; in his day to day life, everyone treats him as a rockstar (which he literally is), so he runs insane distances to keep himself humble. Simon – AKA Ms. Monday Jones – also craves the humbling experience of ultrarunning but for a different reason. She’s a professional dominatrix and 100 mile races help to fulfill her sadomasochist desires.
While both Simon and Ben are professionals in their own right, Eric doesn’t only talk to elite athletes. When I interviewed him, he was quick to point out that Ultrarunner Podcast also features, “newbies, coaches, nutritionists, and regular folks with incredibly inspiring stories”. One such of these episodes features Jessa Hackman, who signed up for her ultra trail race with no absolutely no training or experience.
While Eric is now an experienced runner, he still has respect for newcomers to the sport. After all, it was the rookie’s curiosity that led to the creation of the podcast. In 2011, Eric and 3 friends were new to ultra running, but couldn’t find a podcast that discussed their newfound passion. With an all or nothing spirit characteristic of ultra runners, Eric and his friends reserved a radio studio, booked their first guest, and as Eric says, “the rest is history”.
8 years later, you might find it hard to believe that there are still topics to cover, but Ultrarunner Podcast has proven that running is more than just putting one foot in front of the other. As evidenced by the title of Billy Yang’s documentary about the Western States 100 race, ultra running is like experiencing all the highs and lows of life in a day.
But Eric says that beyond the wild ride of day long races, there’s still plenty to talk about. According to him, the ultrarunning world is constantly evolving, whether it’s a, “new event or new product or I’ve heard about someone doing amazing things, I ask them on the show and get to hear the real story first hand.” Eric says that as ultrarunning continues to gain a wider audience, he’s “ happy—and proud and excited—to be an education conduit to the people entering the sport.”
So if you are looking for tips to take your running up a notch, fascinated by elite athletes, or just looking to hear about inspirational people, give Ultrarunner Podcast a try and rate it on Podchaser to let us know what you think!
Chasing Pods is a Podchaser blog series dedicated to letting our readers know about podcasts they may not have heard of or provide a sneak peek into the making of their favorite podcast. We talk to podcast creators about their journey into podcasting, the creation of their shows, the ups and downs of the work, and what they’re looking forward to for their podcast
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