Month: July 2015

Why an ultramarathon is not about the finisher shirt or medal


There is nothing special about being an ultramarathoner.

However, there is something truly amazing about an ultramarathon.

To train for such event is like being invited to this private, spiritual journey, with a guarantee that things will never be the same again.

Just about a year ago, I used to think that medals and finishing shirts were an entitlement.

“I ran 42km, so I must be entitled to at least a finisher shirt and a nifty medal”.

I even posted this on Facebook,



And only upon training for my 2nd ultra, did I really underestimate the phrase, more than that.

Finishing an ultramarathon has nothing to do with a medal, or a finisher’s shirt that has 3 figures on it.

I initially thought it would, but as I hold them, a piece of metal and a dry fit shirt cannot even capture a slight essence of the journey.

Before I started training, I admit I was quite adamant about having bragging rights. It was the ultimate reward of rubbing into someone’s face when they think they are all that.

However, only when I started training again, I was reminded of how small I was compared to the event. It did not made me felt small, but more of, it made realize my insignificance in the grand scheme of all things.

The ultramarathon strips away things that I thought once mattered. Bragging rights were among the top.

So I completed an ultramarathon, so what?

I trained, I raced, I finished.

It takes away the need to justify myself, or to prove my worth to someone.
Feelings that are not genuine, things that I thought once important were no longer that significant.

A shirt or a medal doesn’t cut it. It can’t explain how I felt during mid week training. When you are sore from the accumulated fatigue and knowing you need to train for 16 miles after a long day at work.

It does not do justice to the amount of discipline and mental bullshit you need to convince yourself to go on. To train under the blistering sun or in cold wet conditions, to do a 5 hour run although you only slept for 2 hours.

Come race day, you finish a 100km on your own two feet, and no amount of money, fabric or metal can summed up the whole experience.

It’s like falling in love and eventually tying the knot. I can’t determine the sacredness of the marriage nor can I imagine the journey the couple has gone through just by the size of their ring.

It redefines, or more accurately, remind us the bare essentials of being human.

To survive.

My crowns and trophies no longer matter.

The ultramarathon stretches the limit of self reliance. It does not matter if I own a Bugatti, or a public figure in my community, the ultramarathon would just spit these 2 words in my face,

“So what?”

That is the beauty of the sport.

The world is telling I need to possess certain items in order to prove my worth.

The ultramarathon teaches me the opposite. It tells me to stop impressing people who constantly expect my worst. To not live someone else’s dreams.

It challenges me to find out who I am, and encourages that pursue with all I got with dignity and respect.

Underestimating the ultra distance is a lack of respect to the race.

Not training hard and smart is saying I do not wish to run this race with dignity.

And when I have gave it all, it made me realized the significance of a medal or a shirt. It is nothing but a memento, a mere souvenir. The lessons that comes with it are far, far more precious than them.

P.S No wonder most 100 miles races do not have finisher shirts.