Dean Karnazes suggests that, more than ever, finding connection on the trails is one of the greatest gifts ultrarunning can offer.
Is it just me, or does America seem like an increasingly divided place these days? It’s as though we’ve become walled off from one another, conducting our lives in isolated silos. Thankfully running appears to be trending in the opposite direction, at least from what I’ve observed.
Case in point: On a recent 100K I happened to lock strides with another runner. We’d covered about half the course at this point and each of us took to power-hiking up a particularly arduous ascent. Said runner looked to be in her mid-20’s. She was Asian and had a certain gritty demeanor to her disposition. I’m in my 50’s, could be stereotyped as a white male (although I’m of Greek nationality); it’s doubtful our paths would have intersected during the normal course of a day.
But here we were, climbing a towering peak with both our feet pointed in the same direction. Conversation organically flowed. And this conversation was not forced or awkward, like getting into an elevator with a stranger, our dialogue felt genuine and real. Over the course of our 45-minute exchange we covered territory ranging from our mutual passion for running, how our friends and family thought we were nuts, our future hopes and aspirations (which, given our divergent stages of life, were very different) and our concerns for humanity. Ironically, over the course of this conversation I think both of our hopes for humanity were renewed.
At the next aid station our paths naturally drifted apart. We said goodbye, smiled, and wished each other well. And it felt sincere and heartfelt, not fleeting and superficial like conversations you have with someone at the supermarket. For a brief, remarkable instant, on a remote hillside trail in the wilderness, two humans connected and there was a sparkle of magic.
I imagine many of you runners reading this article are nodding your heads in agreement, knowing exactly what I’m describing. This wasn’t the first meaningful encounter with a complete stranger I’ve had while running an ultra, and many lifelong friendships have been forged in footsteps. An ultramarathon provides the conduit for such interactions to blossom into something special.
There aren’t a lot of other venues where runners can meet and mingle openly. We have our occasional fun runs, which are enriching, and then there are pre-race expo’s, which tend to be a bit nervous and rushed, the pre-race anxiety palpable. Enter The Run Show, which can aptly be described as a pre-race expo, without the pre-race jitters. There are other running industry tradeshows, like The Running Event or Running USA’s annual convention, but these are closed to the general public. The Run Show is open to everyone. Industry insiders attend along with newbie runners, even wannabe runners looking to learn where to get started. Most of the established running brands have booths, but it’s also a venue for newer entrants to showcase their products and services. And there are even unique and unexpected products that are peripherally associated with running and recovery, like Afloat Waterbeds, a company I’m representing.
Along with products and services, The Run Show hosts a robust lineup of speakers, from Olympians to renowned coaches and trainers. The talks are catered to runners of every level, and there’s Q&A afterwards.
You may sense my enthusiasm about the Run Show, though I’ll be honest, it didn’t start out this way. When I first learned of the concept I was dubious. Would runners want to attend a conference to essentially geek out about running for two days? I went to the Run Show in the UK and was amazed at the turnout. The aisles, booths, and speaking sessions were packed and the energy was radiant. My doubts were quickly quashed and the attendees I spoke with all had an amazing time. Perhaps some of that goodness had to do with runners relating to runners. Regardless of your age or ability, we speak run.
And that, I’ve come to learn, is a beautiful language to behold.
Find the latest gear, learn new skills and tips, and gain inspiration from speakers including Dean Karnazes, Mirna Valerio, Sally McRae, Jacky Hunt-Broersma, Gary Robbins, and more.