| |

The Ultra Season is upon us.


 Hurt sign

The goal is far beyond the horizon, the task is before us.
The Ultra season is suddenly upon us.  We are finally looking at some longer competitive races.  Jeff Huff has roused himself out of his ‘other world’ and come forth like Punxsutawney Phil, to once again act as the wigged Mercury messenger of the running god to mortal runners and proclaimed the annual commencement of the HURT rites of passage.  A  herd of ‘trail runners’ has heard his call and now contemplates the very edges of ultra running while all those weathered guys and gals who have been helping at races and basically standing around looking bored finally grab their mudders and begin getting ‘out there’ for longer training runs and actually preparing to run the next few races.  

Training distances will subtly increase, the ritual of the ‘stash’ and its unspoken ceremonies will intensify again, and the brief love affair with speed will give way to an understanding that time on the trails is what really counts. Night runs will no longer be mythical adventures talked about over the goodies table, and newbies will find themselves totally disoriented running along dark muddy jungley trails on moonless rainy nights wondering if the graying older runners who have talked them into this insane adventure with promises of ‘great fun’, and who now coax them onward with assurances of ‘almost there’, are  completely mad or actually intent on luring them to the Ultrarunner heiau of Kukukinimamaonui tucked in cold dark wet ravine along a forbidding ridge above Nu’uanu where they will be sacrificed to the always hungry god amid the droning chants of ‘’Aole makou e ho’ohikiwale kela!‘ ..’We don’t want it to be easy’ .. not that we need to request this of the god.

All who venture out from now on will quickly learn that trail running is not ultra running, as morning sojourns stretch toward the evening and become night campaigns. Loved ones insist on ‘talks’  while runners make fantastic bargains they can never hope to honor just so they can continue to be miserable through wet nights and blazing hot days.  Fetid wet and smelly gear will become the uniform, Mud and dust will sift into the farthest corners of one’s ‘other’ life, as non running friends ask dumb questions about strange smells and odors that can never seem be washed away with any kind of soap and water.  

This is also the season the injury.  New and old runners will push too far too fast and pulled muscles, torn tendons, knee pain, foot injuries, and a host of other complaints will pass among us like the ancient plagues of Egypt.  No one will be immune to ill chance, stupidity, or just plain over exuberance, and pain and soreness will become our constant companions.   We will moan in the middle of the night, limp out of bed, groan getting out of a chair, wince as we bend to  kiss loved ones good morning. We will either be running, or recovering, or suffering through stretching and preparation to run once again, always bargaining for more time, always plagued by pains that ‘will go away once I’m warmed up’.  

We will be told it is insane, we are sick, we are selfish, we stink.  We will just stare blankly or shake our heads sadly and say ‘You don’t understand.’  It will become a burden, on ourselves and all those around us.  But many of us will persevere and distances will become longer and time on trails will stretch into the next day, and we will suddenly find ourselves talking matter of factly about a sixty miler being an ‘easy’ 24 hours, just 3 slow loops.  We will have become the trail, dream the lines in our sleep, metabolized the suffering, the odors, and the disenfranchisement from society to finally become worthy of making an attempt at the HURT.

But that challenge lays far far in the future and is a story for another day.