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Am I Nuts To Do This?

Am I Nuts To Do This?

Any hot weather runner worth their salt (sweat, tears, etc) will at some point question the wisdom of their endeavor, subtly dissecting in their mind the reasons for subjecting themselves to this exquisite agony, or – to be more accurate – generally shaking their head and asking “What the #$!* am I doing out here!”

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This is both healthy and natural.

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I remember when people used to refer to organized races as ‘Fun Runs’, and as a competitive athlete in those days I found the term ignominious, erroneous, and downright irritating. There was nothing ‘fun’ for me – just step after step, each one tougher than the last, each one vindicating my belief that I couldn’t win, but I could damn well drop dead trying. Even when I did beat the other guys, I rarely enjoyed running at all.

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But I kept doing it, and now I know why – it’s for the same reasons that I plod around Death Valley each July while my brain cooks from the inside and German tourists marvel at the fact that you can fry eggs on the pavement.

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There are three key reasons, I believe, that many endurance, elite, and extreme athletes can’t stop.

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First – we love our environment, the beauty of being outdoors, the solitude most of us train in. It is our chance to commune with nature. We see a stunning mountain, and in our minds we must run up it. Or a shimmering lake, and we must run around it. Or, in our case, an infernal heat-trap, which we must run through. Rarely do we see a subdivision and a strip mall and think, I must run there, now, at all costs! It’s a nature thing.

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Second – we feel special, a quality all three categories mentioned above can associate with. At the risk of simplifying things and not recognizing the crossover, elite athletes go faster than anyone else – their motivation is to be the best. Endurance athletes go farther – their motivation is to be the toughest. And extreme athletes just do what nobody else in their right minds would do – their motivation is to be unique.

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Perhaps your motivation is a combination of those listed above; mine is to be unique, which is why sometime around the 21st July 2010 I will be posting a video from Death Valley that will prove that I have achieved that goal…

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Finally, and perhaps most importantly, all three types of hot weather athletes have one thing in common: a grim satisfaction that they’re not just beating the other guy, or the weather, or a time, even the expectations of others. They’re beating themselves.

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Mentally and physically, they’re doing things that they know they shouldn’t be capable of… yet they do them anyway. They are refusing to accept the limitations that have been forced on us by billions of years of evolution. They are asserting their freedom.

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Oh, and the hallucinations help too…

Jon Rice
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Jon Rice

Jon is a highly-experienced runner who adopted the sport of heat running in 1996. He visits Death Valley every year to participate in his bizarre creation, The Darth Valley Challenge - a one-mile charge through the desert in the height of summer, dressed as Darth Vader.

To prepare for such silliness he takes extraordinary precautions. He trains year-round in the sauna, runs countless miles in extreme temperatures, and has crewed the Badwater Ultramarathon twice.

Jon's only request as you read this site is that you prepare carefully, tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back, and take more water than you think you'll need.
Jon Rice
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One comment

  1. I just wanted to say, I’m very happy to hear about others doing intense training in the sauna. I get stopped constantly, among weird looks when working out in the sauna….so it’s nice to know there are others.

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