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Why Do I Run?


 By Jason Schlarb | Summer/Fall 2021

Crazy, unfathomably miserable—and “why”? I believe most “regular people” question why someone would ever choose to run ultramarathon distances (greater than 26.2 miles), especially distances of 100 miles or more. Furthermore, people have a lot of questions for ultra runners about how the hell they do it and what it’s like. The truth is, running ultras makes me a lot more human than I would be otherwise.

Jason Schlarb

Here are my answers to five questions I frequently get about running ultramarathons. My answers to these questions are just that—my answers. While many ultra runners may resonate with my answers, they are unique to me.

 1. Why!?

Two hundred years ago, 500 years ago, or a thousand years ago, life was a lot more… raw. It was a battle, more about survival and endurance, and we relied a lot more on the performance of our bodies than on our intelligence. Humans have always been driven to explore and to venture out and test ourselves, both mentally and physically. I believe that as we have more and more lost touch with our “primal selves,” we have created new ways to experience that primal thrill of pushing our bodies and minds to the limit. Whether it’s running through mud, flames, and ridiculous obstructions at an obstacle race, climbing to the top of 20,000-foot peak, flying down mountain cliffs in a wingsuit, or running 100 miles, we are crazy. Deep down, a lot of humans have a hard time being happy and content unless they’re getting “raw.” I love getting raw. I love stripping away all the distractions of life until nothing is left but me and moving my body across wildlands. Running ultras in the mountains is my favorite way to get raw.

jason schlarb

2. Do you stop or sleep when you race 100 miles?

I have never, successfully, slept while running an ultra. I only stop to get more water and fuel. Most of the time, I don’t even sit down. Our bodies are incredible endurance machines and humans are better at overland ultra-endurance travel than most any animal.

 3. Do you eat “regular food”?

No, and yes. I used to eat sugary gels and drink mixes, but now I eat high-calorie and carbohydrate-rich “real food” in gel form. Spring Energy gels—made from rice, coconut, and fruit—are pretty much all I eat during my races. I don’t consume hamburgers, pasta, steak, French fries, etc.

 4. Do you change your shoes?

I don’t know why I get asked this so much, but I almost never change my shoes. I run in Altras, which are foot-shaped and have balanced cushioning. I almost never have blisters or problems with my feet. Our bodies are resilient and so adaptable. When we train them to run properly, they are incredibly good at it. We were meant to run. We were not meant to sit in an office.

Jason Schlarb

5. What do you think about when you run?

I think about everything and nothing. I cry, smile, and laugh over the course of pretty much every 100-mile race. Running ultra distances has a way of stripping away all distractions, and I’m often faced with having to “sit” with the big questions in life. I used to avoid facing important life questions and emotions in general, and thankfully ultra running has forced me to show up, face the music, and find some answers. I have come to hold myself more accountable for what I’m doing in my life through these “religious thought experiments” at ultras.  When I’m not answering life’s questions in a 100-mile race, I’m usually focused on when to eat, drink, see my crew, and get to the next aid station. But none of that is as much fun as pondering the mysteries of life while flying through it on foot.

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