Make Your Run a Reunion | March 10, 2015
One benefit of the ultrarunning boom of the past ten years is that there are now a plethora of ultras to choose from spread across the calendar and across the country. You can pick just about anywhere you might want to travel and there’ll be an ultrarunning event somewhere nearby. The possibilities are endless, and there’s nothing quite like exploring a new region by seeing it from the vantage point of 50 or a 100 miles of trail.
Wherever you run, you can usually catch the flavor of the community from the race organizers and the volunteers at the event. You might feel Southern hospitality at a race in Georgia or hitch up with some cowboy exuberance when running in Wyoming. But if you want to make your running trip extra special, use the occasion of traveling to a race to renew an old friendship or spend some time with relatives that you seldom see.
Find a race that’s not too far from where your friend or relative lives and drop a casual line that you’re going to be in town for such and such an event and maybe they’d like to come out and join in. Most people will probably never have heard of ultrarunning and will be more than a little intrigued by your invitation. Plus you can rest assured that your guest will have a good time and will probably be amazed by what you’re doing. I’ve always found that the atmosphere at ultras is very welcoming, especially for out-of-town runners and their guests. I’ve also never known anyone who came out to watch or help and not be completely delighted with the experience.
Your old friend might enjoy acting as your crew, or even better, if your distant cousin happens to be a runner, you can enlist him or her as a pacer. The shared activity of being part of the race is a terrific way to get past the awkwardness that comes from trying to reestablish a connection with a person that you haven’t seen for many years. Have you ever been to a reunion and found yourself at last reengaging with someone who meant a lot to you but you can’t seem to get past the nervous chit-chat stage? Out on the trail or even relaxing in a motel room after all the fireworks are done, you might well find that the running connection loosens the spigot and you can really get down to the important stuff like how your shared childhood helped form your character or maybe crying together over some shared memory.
I’ve reconnected with a couple of high school/college friends by picking an ultra near where they live, and now my wife and I are looking at an invitation to stay with one of them at his condominium on Maui and an invitation from the other to come up to Minnesota and go canoeing for a week near the Canadian border. I also spent a night running with my brother-in-law on the Kansas prairie where we bonded over pushing our way through a herd of cattle and seeing a myriad of shooting stars in the vast night sky. It was really the first time he and I had ever shared anything with each other.
Traveling to run an ultra is a great experience. Make it even better by layering on a soul-building reunion with friends or family.