“A 100 mile run??”
“ Really? People do that – run a 100 miles?”
“I can’t even run 1 mile – let alone 100 miles!”
“I don’t even like to drive a 100 miles…Why would anyone want to run that far?”
These were the rapid-fire questions the guy behind the counter asked us, at 1:00 in the morning when he discovered why we were rolling up to the register with twenty or so full-size Coke-a-Cola, Sprite, and Mountain Dew bottles. In this case, the night-time aide stations were experiencing perilously low levels of soda, a beverage-of-choice for the athletes running through the night as they strove to complete the Kettle 100.
Jason gets these “Why” questions a lot. He is an ultra-runner, having run plenty of 50-mile and 100-mile runs. As the co-race director for the Kettle 100 – an ultra-distance run held in the beautiful Kettle Moraine region of Wisconsin – along with his friend Timo (Tim Yanacheck) people also question his sanity for hosting a 100 mile race event.
Yes, people do choose to run a 100 miles; as crazy and inconceivable as that might seem. What is even crazier and more inconceivable is there are people like Jason and Timo who choose to step up to be race directors for such events. The planning, organizing, and logistics required to create a 100 mile race event is phenomenal and not for the faint-hearted.
The “Why” for runners and race-directors can be quite an extensive list, ranging from loving a good run in the woods, to embracing the challenge of pushing themselves physically, to reveling in mental challenge as their bodies and brains duke it out on the trail.
Happiness is a long run.
Ultimately, the “Why” of a 100-mile run, whether one is a race director, volunteer, runner, crew, or pacer is distilled down to one thing: happiness.
I’m not talking about the things we do for short-term, momentary happiness, like indulging in an ice cream cone on a perfect summer afternoon, or purchasing a new outfit when feeling blue.
Rather, I’m talking about the state of happiness which stems from doing the things which contribute to a life of meaning and purpose. It is a happiness built on Aristotelian ideals of belonging and benefiting others, flourishing, thriving, and exercising excellence. This state of happiness emerges from being connected to something bigger:
- A grander vision of one’s self;
- A wider community of friends and family;
- A monumental effort which supports a cause.
In fact, happiness containing these dimensions certainly promotes well-being and flourishing. Truly, the Kettle 100 is an event which brings this type of happiness to fruition; and here is how:
It takes a village to support a runner.
A 100-mile running event, requires the support of an incredibly committed team of people. The Kettle 100 inspires people to come together, in community, in support of a dream: a successful attempt at running an ultra. I know from personal experience, volunteering at an event like the Kettle 100, certainly takes me beyond myself. It allows me to participate in something bigger and grander and opens up the world of what is possible to achieve when people work together.
Volunteers step up to donate time and energy bringing together the parts and pieces to support a run. The hours spent loading and unloading the U-Haul of supplies; the hours spent sorting supplies for various aide stations; the hours spent working at aide stations – and a number of the aide stations operate through the night and into the next morning – are hours spent in contribution towards someone’s goal of completing an ultra and the accompanying sense of achievement.
The runner’s crew follow the runner from aide station to aide station to offer support and specialized supplies – a fresh pair of socks or shoes or some such thing. The patience cultivated by someone who signs up to crew a runner is a character trait to be in awe of – seriously.
Let’s not forget the pacers who eagerly run the grave-yard shift from 10:00 p.m. into the next morning as the sun rises, selflessly forgoing their own sleep and comfort in service of a friend or family member’s goal.
Living into a grand vision.
The Kettle 100 provides people the opportunity to live into a grander vision of themselves – one in which they push themselves beyond what they may have thought was possible. And while running a 100 miles is not a planet-saving, cancer-finding-cure sort of achievement, it certainly promotes endurance, commitment, stamina, and pride that hopefully then can be applied to other areas of one’s life.
I overheard a runner talking about the crazy thoughts running through her mind as she was out on the trail. It is true, on a long-distance run you will have plenty of time to think, and what you think about may indeed affect the outcome of your run. Yes, it is about exercising excellence. Running long on a hot humid day, like the Saturday we just had, can provide the perfect metaphor for life’s peaks and valleys and how one greets those times of life.
As I watch runners cross the finish line – the dazzling smiles, the well-earned pride on their faces and in their stride – brings me to tears of amazement: She did it! He did it! Wow.
Supporting a cause.
A HUGE motivator, a significant, underlying “Why” in the reason Jason and Timo step up to host the Kettle 100 is this: the race is a fundraiser for the Ice Age Trail on which part of the 100-mile course runs.
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail, for those of you not in the know, is a thousand-mile footpath – entirely within Wisconsin – that highlights the Ice Age landscape features created more than 12,000 years ago; a direct result of the immense flow of glacial ice. As the colossal glacier retreated, it left behind a variety of remarkable, unique, and stunningly beautiful landscape features. These Ice Age remnants are now considered among the world’s finest examples of how continental glaciation sculpts our planet. Who knew!!??
The runners of the Kettle 100 are able to enjoy this legacy as they run, and these landscape features create a good many of the challenging sections of the course! A portion of the race entry fee is donated directly to the Ice Age Trail Alliance, a volunteer- and member-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to create, support and protect this thousand-mile footpath tracing Ice Age formations.
As the race grows so does the contribution to the good work of the Alliance – to the tune of over $5,000 in 2014!
Well-Being and Flourishing.
Take a moment to consider what brings you happiness. It may not come in the shape and form of a 100-mile run, however, you may want to look at various activities in your life and think about them in terms of whether or not they contribute to your well-being and flourishing.
Do you have activities in your life that enhance your sense of belonging and which benefit others?
Do you engage in activities which encourage you to exercise excellence?
Are you invested in something bigger than yourself?
And, please know, you are more than welcome to join in the fun at the Kettle 100. If it sounds intriguing, we’d love to have you as a volunteer (or as a runner)!