Maybe we are... a little bit!.. about 10 years ago, if you ran 100Km ., you were an extraterrestrial, but today, in the world of running , this seems like a pretty normal thing .
Yesterday I completed the entire course of the race "Oncotrail ": 102km., 3,500 meters uphill, leaving our team ranked 8th. place of 47 teams, even though we were one two of the teams that had a member (me in this case), which made all the 100km., since all others did different combinations of relays, because there were teams of 6 which was mandatory to always have four running. And during some long moments of the 13h50' that I was running non-stop, I tried to answer this question: Is this good, or it is just an extension of my ego, my unconscious , ego and a great abuse all together?.
I've never been a prominent or elite runner, but my short or long review authority to this is that for many years I enjoy running as an activity and as an important base of my fitness in order to face other complex challenges. I ran my first half marathon 31 years ago and my first duathlon 22 years ago. You can see since my beginnings in the endurance 'running' is already accounted for decades (what an old man am I, oh dear!) .
During all these years I have never obsessed in looking for a high performance, in doing many races, or having this as central activity in my sport life. For me it was a good way to be connected to an activity that I love (running) , and do so from time to time in competition for being in a demanding environment that allows me to measure myself, learn attitudes, and force myself a little more in order to supplement a workout physical and mental endurance very useful for my adventures. And from this point of observation of 'non-elite' but front-line trench, I have seen how the sport evolved from being a highly specialized topic into a massive fashion, and as many popular athletes passed through different stages not always entirely intelligent.
As in all disciplines, there is the professional or elite level, wich is formed by a small group of chosen ones that cannot be the reference for the other people ... we can follow them, and we can admire them, but we cannot try to imitate them; and they are not, in any case, the example for those who have this activity as a no first priority in our lives, and we're just popular runners . So, this text is not aimed at them, who by having the level they have and make a living at it, they have to do new things, different burst to overcome limits and crash their knees if necessary, making 100, 200, 300 or 1,000 Km if it's required. This is their job (and passion in most cases).
The problem comes from the normal practitioners. This is where there has been a revolution, I think not always well managed. People go from nothing (not practising this sport at all), or little (so little intense practice), to the whole (to run 40,60,100,200 brutal km) suddenly. They Skip any gradual progression that besides letting them enjoy the way to major challenges in the future, allow them to prepare their body in stages to make more challenging challenges and, above all, they do not have time to talk enough with their bodies in order to know it well and know how to listen it before each time of maximum demand .
As always, there are people who have grateful constitutions to be able to do these big events, and the body is going to respond well without major injury. But there are many riders who finish just broken by too much racing, and demands punishment to the body. The first group have been lucky, and the fact of not doing a progressive evolution has not affected them, but the second group pass at once to require so much to theirs bodies without knowing where are their limits, that they tend to suffer significant physical problems in the short or the long term.
It's good and logical that running is being so popular at the moment. It's much better that people keeps active (if not exceeded) than sedentary; and running is cheap, logistically simple, very social , and provides a deep and intense contact with nature. But our responsibility, in all the activities we do, requires that we manage well our own limits, especially if we are not professionals or specialists in it.
Looking at it coldly, running, despite having all the virtues I have mentioned and many others that could be described, is a sport of donkeys. Almost everyone can practice it (basic level is not terribly selective), and to evolve a bit it doesn't need any special talent (unlike other sports). From here on, the more you train, the more fit you are, and within certain levels, it is easier to progress and highlight a bit. And I think this is one of the traps that many people falls in, which derives from a leisure activity to enjoy being in nature and providing healthcare, to a exaltation of Ego, seeing that just training more and more we can stand quickly within our little group of friends, our neighborhood, owr town or our county (and usually not much more) And now, with the phenomenon of blogs and social networks, this is triggered exponentially, up to a point where it seems that one of the basic motivations of staff is, long before enjoying, doing something sounded to give hit roll all our social environment and, above all, hang a show off on Facebook. And clearly, running about 10Km. or half marathon or even a marathon, is not cool nor a point of "singularity" award to any spectacular challenge.
And it would be good if people from enjoying training all throughout the year, and then doing one or two ultra-marathons per season (more than 42Km.), but it is very common for runners to make 4, 5, 6 or more ultras by year, plus many smaller races without giving their body time to recover minimally. And it is very common to see people injured in the start line of a race, that with a taping and some physiotherapist sessions, force themselves as if they were in a World Cup final or fighting for gold medal in the Olympics, and only playing for their written text in the Facebook and, above all, having a poorly treated injury that may incur fatal consequences in both the short term and, much worse, after a time.
During last 20-30 years it has passed to me many times that some people came to this sport, even seeing me, in their environment, like a little reference, and we did things together as a group of friends or in a sports club; and after a short time they had engaged so much and train so much, that I was caught, happening that in a short time I was always beat until it could no longer keep up following them. Some of these have spent much time with good track record, but many have left this activity well soon or mental fatigue or having some parts of his body seriously damaged (usually the knees, Achilles tendon, hamstring, the back, or a mix of all...)
We can all make dreams beyond the walls or common supposed usual behavior, and it sure to be stimulating for life and mind to face new challenges and experiences to enjoy a bit extreme situations, but we have to be responsible and learn that life in general and specific personal sports career is very long and it can bring us much happiness if we manage ourselves well our limits.
We can dream, plan and implement crazy projects, but cannot become crazy, and always do so with intelligence, prudence and responsibility. It is our body, and will accompany us, for sure, in all stages of our life...