Bitten by the Ultra-Bug

Nifty Fifty (Miles)

I know what I want to do next.  Run 50 miles.

Credit: Eustaquio

Credit: Eustaquio

Perhaps the most exciting thing about qualifying for Boston is — well, that I don’t have to do it anymore.  I don’t mean I’m happy that I can sit on the couch and eat potato chips now, though I have done quite a bit of that this week as a little break and reward.  (Replace “potato chips” with “coffee, wine, and pizza” to get a more accurate picture.)

No, fun as that may be for a week or so, what I mean is that now I am free to choose something new to go after.  Not because I love running so much, but because I’m discovering what I kind of already knew — I need to have the next big, scary thing on the horizon.  For seven years, the goal of qualifying for Boston was the guiding light in my fitness life, and now that’s gone.

A lot of people have suggested taking a break, slowing down to enjoy the anticipation of our first child.  The problem is that “maintenance” doesn’t work for me.  Sure, I could get on with my life without setting some crazy fitness goal.  But without one, I wouldn’t be me.

I know because I’ve tried it before.  If I’m not training for something, here’s what happens:  I don’t run.  I don’t eat well.  And I most certainly do not inspire.

A three-hour marathon (a time with a “2” in front!) is something that I’d love to do.  And since my 3:10 marathon last weekend was over ten minutes faster than my previous best, I think I could do it.  But taking more time off my best doesn’t excite me right now; I need something completely different.

A triathlon is also on my list; I’m especially intrigued by the Ironman distance.  (I always pick the easy stuff, huh?)  But that’s too far off right now.  I can barely swim and I don’t own a roadbike.  I’d have to work my way up through the shorter distances, and right now the idea just doesn’t inspire me like it would need to for me to work that hard.

But 50 miles, now that sounds like fun.  When I started running marathons, I didn’t even realize that people ran that distance.  When I first read about it, I thought it was a typo intended to say “50K.”  Not to mention 100+ milers, but let’s not go there (yet).

50 miles lights my fire.  And for precisely the above reason: there was a time when it was inconceivable.  For me, that’s what it’s about.

Giving Back

I’ve felt the strange urge to contribute something recently.  I say “strange” because I’ve never been a giver, first and foremost.  Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m a pretty nice guy and I try to help people whenever I can.  But I’ve just never been the guy who donates to charity much or raises money for a cause.

Anyway, I really want to be a pacer for a marathon, one of the people who holds the sign that tells people to follow them to a four-hour marathon, three-thirty marathon, or whatever it is.  It just seems like it would be so fulfilling to help a bunch of people achieve such a big goal (maybe because I now know how good it feels to achieve a goal like that).  And it’s funny, because I used to think about the pacers and wonder what would possibly motivate them to run a race a half hour slower than they are capable of doing.  But now I think I know.

Along the same lines, I’m thinking about trying to raise money for a cause as part of my training for the 50-miler.  I really don’t know what yet, but something to make it an even more powerful experience.

And finally, this is a great chance to mention something else I just signed up for: Project Feed Me, an idea that Natalie came up for health bloggers and readers to help feed hungry people in the United States this fall and winter.  All you have to do is donate the two recommended food items each week for nine weeks, and commit to getting three other people to do the same.  I just signed up, and I need to get three of YOU to do it too!  So please check out Natalie’s post and consider helping out.

Ok, that’s all for now, sorry for such a long post.  Lots going on, all for the best!



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  1. Hi, I have been reading your blog for a couple weeks now and I wanted to stop in and introduce myself and say congrats on your BQ. That’s awesome!! I think an Ultra would be great, but I haven’t attempted the full marathon yet so that’s next on the list. My husband and I did our first sprint tri this summer and loved it!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..A Bloggy Award =-.

  2. Wow, you really like setting goals for yourself, that’s for sure. I think you need to have the baby first, run around your house like a chicken without a head, then realize how much you’ll be running around the house and how fast that 50 miles will rack up, haha. Good luck in all your ambitions
    .-= Evan Thomas´s last blog ..Let’s Just Not Talk About It =-.

  3. I am the same way 🙂 Just laying back never seems like an option for me. I think it would be fabulous if part of your next project involved giving back. 50 miles though? Oh my! I can’t even imagine!
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Pumpkin Muffins & Chocolate Chocolate Cookies =-.

  4. I’d say I couldn’t imagine 50 miles…but I can. I followed the same path. Sure, it took me a few more marathons to BQ and I ran a lot more of them before getting the ultra bug (and using a 50k as a training run for a marathon) – but I got that first 50 miler out of the way this past January. Well worth it.

    I’ll give you the same advice that was given to me before my 50 miler. The first 32-35 miles should feel easy. Then from 35-40(ish) you’re going to have a rough patch and wonder what the hell are you thinking. Then you’ll get around mile 40 and realize, hey, only 10 more miles, and you’ll feel relatively good and will run it in.

    That’s what I was told my first 50 would be like, and it pretty much went exactly like that. Good luck, can’t wait to hear about your training.
    .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Portland’s 2nd Annual Reiche International 5K is on October 18th =-.

    • Hey Blaine, thanks for your congrats on the BQ. I’m shocked to find out it took you a few more marathons to BQ; I figured you were a sub-3 guy from the beginning. (I think we talked about this before, but I can’t find the convo.)

      Thanks for the tip on the 50. I’m sure I’ll be asking you for more advice, since I don’t know too many others who have run that far!

  5. Want to give back? Volunteer at a race! Have you ever been thankful that a race ran smoothly? Be one of the crew that makes it happen and help inspire others to continue with running and racing. What a great way to give back!

    • VegPedlr, good idea. I helped out at the finish line of a race once and that was kind of fun. I bet doing aid station at a marathon would be a really good experience though.

  6. I think it is nice to have a goal to work towards. An ultra would be cool. I say do it and go for it while you can.
    .-= diana´s last blog ..Break =-.

  7. Hey Matt – since I know how much you like upstate NY, there is an ultra at Greek Peak Ski Resort. I don’t have details but a friend of mine blogged about it – he was the official photog this year – at

    There is also a triathlon in Ithaca each year –

    Hope you all get back up here some time.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Great Books Week – Tuesday – Fav Childhood Book =-.

  8. I did my first sprint triahtlon this past September and it was an amazing accomplishment, and now that I’ve achieved it, I am trying to figure out what is next. Although I’m thinking more along the lines of a 10k!
    Sounds like you have an exciting path ahead of you whatever you decide to do.
    I joined Project Feed Me as well!! Great cause!

    Adventures in Tri-ing
    .-= Courtney´s last blog ..Thinking Outside the (Bread) Box =-.

  9. I’ve secretly considered doing a 50k…then a 44 mile race we have in KC…then maybe a 50 mile…I get ahead of myself :] But you – I think you’re capable. I say go for it and don’t look back.
    .-= Amber Shea (Almost Vegan)´s last blog ..Almost vegan in France I =-.

  10. Laura says:

    go for it…especially since you’re pushing off Boston for a year. 🙂

  11. CONGRATULATIONS!!! The marathon, the baby… WOW. That’s really wonderful and I’m so happy for you.

    I feel the same way about having something to work toward. I always need a new goal or challenge to keep me motivated and doing something.
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..Poll: How do you like your bananas? =-.

  12. Whoa Matt – how long would 50 miles even take???
    .-= Morgan @ Life After Bagels´s last blog ..Shhhh Shhhh It’s Okay =-.

    • Morgan, I’m really not sure. Since a four-hour marathon would be pretty easy now, I was thinking 8 or 9 hours for 50 miles. But to be honest I have no idea how you adjust marathon time to get 50-mile time, especially considering the terrain difference. Maybe I’m way underestimating it. Probably my goal will just be finish though anyway.

  13. I know I mentioned it last time, and it’s on your reading list, but if you are excited about Ultras, I can’t wait for you and Erin to read Born to Run!
    My husband and I have signed up for our first run ever. A 5k trail run! I have only been running for a few weeks now, since my first run (he bikes 15 miles+ everyday, so he is pretty in shape already). Do you think this is too ambitious? I know I might not be able to run the whole thing, but that is my goal right now, to run the entire 3.2 miles.
    I am so proud of you for BQ, thank you for reminding me that this life isn’t merely to coast through, but to enjoy and push oursleves to the test and become better people in the process.
    Which Ultra do you have your eye on? If Boston is the best Marathon in the world, which is the best 50 mile Ultra? I also thought he was talking about 50Ks and 100Ks in the book until I really paid attention.
    Congrats on owning all of your transformations!

    • Hey JJC, I started reading Born to Run on the plane to Florida for a wedding today! And I’m loving it; I’ve already read 50 pages and can’t put it down. No wonder so many people have recommended it!

      I don’t think a 5k is too ambitious; that seems to be a first-race distance for a lot of people. The trail part of it will add a dimension, something I’m going to have to learn to do as well, since almost all the ultras around me are on trails, not roads. That will just mean you’ll have to add some strength and might benefit from some resistance training or at least lots of hills. And same for me, of course.

      I really don’t know what the best 50 miler is, I’m just starting to learn about it all. But I’m really excited about it!

  14. wow, you surely are an inspiration! That’s awesome. Once you catch the bug there’s no turning back. There always has to be some goal ahead on the horizon something to work your tail off for. My fiancee is riding a 118 mi race tomorrow and is already talking about the furnace creek 508, yes 508 miles! crazy. I would love to do a shorter tri someday, but I have to figure out the swimming part 🙂
    That sounds like a great cause, I’ll be sure to donate when you start raising money.
    Have you ever read ‘Lore of Running’? It’s pretty interesting.
    .-= EatingRD´s last blog ..BEST pumpkin pancakes. period. =-.

  15. i am the EXACT same way. i need a goal. if not, it was way to easy for me not to run, eat crap and then complain about it. so i feel ya. i don’t know what my next goal will be, but i definitely think i am going to make 1/2 marathons a 1-2 times a year thing. other than that, no idea.
    .-= Holly (The Healthy Everythingtarian)´s last blog ..Classy Drunk Food =-.

  16. That’s it. We were separated at birth. How else to explain our parallel running lives? (Other than you run WAY faster than me.) I just qualified for Boston at Chicago. With every other marathon, immediately afterwards I’ve been like, “Which one next?”, usually b/c there was still a goal to accomplish. But now that I’ve hit the Beantown goal, I want to run Boston but training for another mrathon? Eh. So now I’m thinking… ultra. Hope you go for it. Would love to read about your training.

  17. Your blog is really good Matt. Really interesting and full of good stuff on food and running. One of the best I’ve read by far. I like how you reply to posters regularly too.

    I used to do a lot of 10k races and ran 35+miles a week training for that, but after getting my target PB I cut back a lot. But I’ve definitely noticed that when I am training for a race I take better care of myself – and your blog reminded me of this – so thanks! 🙂 Don’t think I’m up to the challenge of the ultra marathon just now, but definitely keen to get going on the marathon challenge.

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