I touched on this a little a few weeks ago. Here are my thoughts.
Since I have shared my thoughts about avoiding burn out, I thought I would ask two veteran ultra runners; Geoff Scott, and Dan Baglione.
Geoff Scott is 65 and has been running ultra endruance races since 1989.
Below is our exchange;
When did you take part in an ultra endurance event; 1989, if you count Ironman as an ultra. First ultra run was 1995.
Why? I saw Ironman on TV, thought it was supercool. And a long lost friend had just come back from Hawaii, placing 10th overall, and convinced me that anyone could do it. I needed an inspiration to stop smoking, so this was it.
How many ultra endurance events have you participated in? Counting triathlons, let’s say 75, give or take.
What is your favorite part? Definitely hanging out with younger people; or should I say people who believe in the power of positive thinking. There’s not a lot of room for whiners in the ultra community. If you need to whine, take up golf!
Least favorite? Actually no least favorite. Every single effort to get you to the finish line is a requirement. No training; no finish. No focus; no finish. No fun; No finish. But if I didn’t have fun friends to hang out with, I’d have no training, no focus, and no finish. So the friends make it all possible.
Do you think that the support of your family plays an important role in your longevity: Yes, family is important because they have to understand why it’s meaningful to you. I haven’t pushed this lifestyle on my family, but they have certainly adopted it as their own. Each has paced in mountain ultras, certainly not an easy task, and then gone on to some marathon races of their own. So I guess the sense of fulfillment is contagious.
What drives you to finish? Certainly a fear of failure. There aren’t a lot of excuses out there, it’s just you and a trail. Other runners aren’t really the competition, the trail is the competition. With a binary result, either finish or DNF. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
How, specifically, have you avoided burnout? And words of wisdom? Keep an active race on your calendar, always have a “next” race. That way, you never lose focus cause there’s always something to think about. And find a great group of friends with whom you can share the emotional intensity.
Lessons learned? Humans need fulfillment to enrich their lives and provide joy. With the strange exception of Barkley entrants, nobody gets excited about failure. Families can provide that joy, intellectual discovery can provide joy, but I would strongly argue that the biggest adrenaline rush ever is coming around the last turn and seeing the finish line. I never tire of that sense of accomplishment. If you can “bag” that emotional feeling, and bring it out whenever you’re a bit down, it’s just the best pick me up in the world. The ultimate in positive feedback.
Geoff just recently finished the Barkley Fall Classic 50k first in his age group in just over 12 hours. He is also my ultra running hero having encouraged me to run my first 50 mile race, paced me at Pinhoti 100 in 2013, and will be pacing me at Grindstone this year, 2014.
Dan Baglione is 84 and started running ultra’s in the very early 80’s. I was lucky to meet and chat with him at the Barkley Fall Classic, where he started, but opted to drop before the finish. I have to say his positive attitude is contagious and refreshing, if you ever meet him, definitely strike up a conversation with him!
Why do you continue to compete in ultra distances? I have this strong desire to keep testing my ever changing limits. I believe this is true of most ultrarunners.
What do you think allows you to keep going? My parents gave me genes which enable me continue that testing, albeit at a slower pace and decreasing intensity with age. In addition to genes, my ability to continue is the result of attitude and lifestyle in that order. I am almost always up. I do not let stress gray the few hairs I have or otherwise adversely affect my life. Granted, what may be stress to some is often exhilaration to me. Similarly, what may be pain out there to some is discomfort to me. laz would probably feel the same about that last point.
What events still call to you? There are still events that call me. I want to make one more attempt at Vol State, but as a go-as-you-please event, unconstrained by any time limit. I shall continue to go to Across the Years event as long as I’m able. As my age increases, I may back down to the 72 hour instead of the 6-day. I’ve told Nick and Jamil Coury that I hope to do ATY when I’m 90.
Why do you think you have avoided burn out? In my ultrarunning career, I have never competed with another runner, only with the course, the conditions, and myself. I enjoy the camaraderie with other runners, especially in fixed-time events on loop courses. I am not interested in single age awards or awards simply because I am the only entrant in my age group.
How does your family fit into your ultra-career? My wife, my 3 daughters and 1 son, and I just cope. Running (now walking) is something I do for pleasure. I have tried to minimize the impact my running has had on my family, especially my wife; but she has been very tolerant (but if I tried to make a 5th attempt at the Badwater course, she might break one of my legs). She has benefited from some of my races. When I did the Athens International Marathon, she traveled with me and we spent 30 days touring Greece, Italy, Sicily, and Spain. She wanted to stay in a castle in Spain and she did.When I did the first Everest Marathon in 1987, I flew her to Kathmandu for the award ceremonies; and we toured a little of Nepal, Bangkok, a side trip to the Taj Mahal, and Hong Kong. She accompanied me to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras marathon, and we spent some time in the French Quarter, boating through bayous, and touring a plantation home.
In addition to running, I like being up high in mountains. Hiked to 20,000 feet on Aconcagua at age 69, spent 1 to 2 months a year for 20 years hiking mountains in the Leadville area. Also hiked to 16,000+ ft on a couple mountains in Ecuador. Basically, I have lived life in such a way that if I die tomorrow, no one need grieve because I have made it a great life. I have loved and been loved by the same woman for more than 62 years. How much better can it get?
Dan recently took part in 6 days at the Dome in Alaska. He completed 166 miles.