How I got into ultrarunning
Juice and cake is all you need.
I’ve been lucky to live in many places around the world. And wherever I’ve lived in this wide, beautiful world, I’ve learned some key staples about us. All of us, no matter our culture or religion, love to belong, to feel accepted, and to feel welcome. All of us love to laugh. And all of us, at the heart of it, are simple creatures. We love our juice and cake.
When I was a young child, we lived in Nigeria. In my primary school (grade school), back in the 80’s, we used to have fun track and field days that were more about participation than competition.
All the moms and dads would get involved to help out. There was one game we’d play during this day, which was a ‘race’. This race involved children running back and forth across the width of the football (soccer) field.
Now, to my 5-year old brain, this made no sense whatsoever. Why would anyone want to run aimlessly back and forth across a field? And who would do this?
Until I learned about the juice and cake.
Apparently, either the parents or the teachers were afraid the children would run out of gas during this race and so, at each end of the width of the football field, they put a stand, with juice and cake for them. In case they got thirsty or hungry.
After I learned this, the race made way more sense. Of course I would run back and forth aimlessly across a football field, if I got to drink juice and eat cake at each side. It didn’t actually occur to me that I was neither thirsty nor hungry. I stopped every single time to get my little cup of juice and my piece of cake.
Did I win the race? No I did not. Did I have lots of juice and cake? Yes. Yes I did.
Turns out I have a knack for running. Especially aimlessly (There’s a video of my 3rd birthday party with me running around in circles looking up at the ceiling with my hands up in the air - while all my friends and family are dancing normally. Ha — it was fun [think I had too much cake]).
I’ve gotten to a point where I am now capable of running 50km ultramarathons. Which is a longer version of an aimless race back and forth across a football field. And you want to know the best part of ultramarathons (especially the one at Sulphur Springs)? They feed you juice and cake at almost every 3km mark.
Disclaimer: I’m simplifying grandiosely the amount of effort and discipline it takes to become an ultrarunner (i.e. — please do your research and check with your doctor if you decide to take up this sport).
As an ultrarunner, I now run in my hometown; and I get to feel like I belong, am accepted, and welcomed. I get to laugh. Because regardless of their culture or religion, people in my hometown stop me while I’m out running to say hi, wave hello, give me a smile and tell me that they’ve seen me running for the past 11 years in my hometown. They congratulate me for my tenacity, and they wish me well. Many times, we share a laugh together and always part with a smile. I run alongside their giggling, smiling toddlers who are just learning to run; I get wrapped up in their dog’s leashes as their pets run up to me happily to bark a greeting at me.
At the heart of it, I believe we are all simple, comfort-loving creatures. You want me to run long distances that take me from point a to point b with no real goal in mind? Give me a hometown that cheers me on as they see me running through snow, hail, sun, and wind. Where I get to feel like I belong, am accepted, welcomed, and can laugh with any of my fellow home-towners — regardless of our culture or religion.
Oh, and make sure there’s juice and cake at the end for me. Or better yet, throughout.