I don't even want to drive 100 miles. Why would you run it?
A buddy on a whim decided to run a 50-miler and coerced me to as well. I started my ultra-running career on a dare, really. We've forgotten how much fun running is.
Your best seller Eat & Run says that, to you, vomiting and hallucinations are as common as grass stains. How can this be fun?
Growing up in northern Minnesota, you learn how to have fun picking rocks, stacking wood, weeding the garden, doing chores. My dad said you don't have a choice. So you learn how to find the enjoyment in something tedious, something very difficult, physically.
Are we still talking about fun?
At times, O.K., my legs feel like they've been beaten by baseball bats, which is just normal ultramarathon fatigue. In the Badwater ultramarathon [in Death Valley, California], I wished a sidewinder would bite me. You have to shut that off.
Running that far requires lots of discipline. Is that genetic or how you were brought up?
The way I was brought up. When it comes to ultramarathoners, there are all shapes and sizes. It's much more of a head game. It's the ability to be adaptable. That's something you learn. You don't have it in your genetic makeup.
How much did the fact that your mother was confined to a chair by multiple sclerosis make you want to move?
It was a huge reason. My mother's illness was horrible, and I didn't get a real childhood--but it made me who I am. I'm celebrating the fact that I can power my own body. If you ask anybody who's finished a marathon, they'll tell you that. When they finish, they feel like they can do anything.
They don't feel like they want to go lie down?
That's definitely one of the first things I look forward to, lying down, by all means.
You completely changed the way you eat. Why?
When I could afford to go out and didn't have my parents telling me I couldn't eat fast food, I was eating it five times a week. I started to realize maybe this isn't the best way. I wanted change for the long term, for cheap health insurance more than anything.
You won't eat meat, dairy or eggs. What will you eat?
I eat anything that comes from the ground: beans, legumes, soy products, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats. I never crave a steak, but if I wanted that protein feeling, tempeh is one of my favorite foods. I grew up hating running and vegetables, and now I run ultramarathons and I'm a vegan, so go figure.
So you believe in listening to your body except when every part of it says stop running?
Well, it's all wrapped into one total experience of discomfort. Life is like running an ultramarathon. There are times when it's like, Why are we doing this? This is hard. But you come back stronger.
You once ran 165.7 miles in 24 hours. Do you consider people who run mere marathons to be wimps?
It's totally cool to run a marathon. I still appreciate somebody who takes six or seven hours to complete one. Sometimes running around the block is a lot for somebody. So I definitely don't look at a marathon as a drop in the bucket.
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