Thursday, May 26, 2011

Western States: Why Run 100 Miles? (With Russ McGarry)

Back in my glory days as a middle school track runner, my mom used to come to all my races. I remember at one race in particular, she remarked in dismay, "I forgot my sunglasses!"

I stared in confusion. It had been overcast all day.

"What's so important about your sunglasses?"

"Oh," she hesitated, "so no one will see me cry."

"Oh God, Mom!" I rolled my eyes at this. My 11-year-old self simply could not fathom why anyone would cry at a track meet.

Turns out, I am my mother's daughter. 

There's little I love more than a heartwarming tale of personal victory, and running is the perfect venue for such stories. My husband will gladly tell you that my favorite movies fall into what he calls the "feel good sports movie" genre. He never fails to giggle while I sit watching, captivated, with tears streaming down my face. And I've ceased to be embarrassed by it. I adore these sporting triumphs.

It didn't surprise me, then, to find myself captivated by a radio program that attempts to answer the question of why we run 100 miles. It's the perfect question, if you ask me, and one with no shortage of interesting answers. It was the question that compelled Russ McGarry to follow Hal Koerner and Kate Merrill on their Western States 100 journeys in 2010.

This piece captures many of the things I love about ultrarunning - the journey, the camaraderie, the searching out of physical and mental limits. Mostly it captures the love of the sport.

With my first Western States right around the corner, it speaks to me in a way that most of the other internet chatter really doesn't right now. This piece gets me excited to take part in something special, whether it's Western States or any other 100 miler. I love ultrarunning.

And yes, I did sit listening, captivated, with tears streaming down my face at times. If you're listening in public, don't forget your sunglasses.

You can listen to the podcast of "Western States with Russ McGarry" here. Or, you can download it straight from iTunes here.

Thanks for putting this together, Russ. I love it.


  1. Well, I listened to the podcast and it made ME cry too, of course.

  2. Mom - Well, yeah. Duh. ;)

  3. Gretchen, you have no idea how much this means to me. That piece was such a labor of love, taking nearly a year to complete, and the feedback I've received has amazed, inspired, and humbled me. Along the way, I was lucky enough to peer deep inside and expose what running 100 miles means to me...and found that it's touched many others.

    I wish I could be at the track to watch your own victory lap. And cry my eyes out :)

  4. Thanks, Russ. Nice work here, my friend. Truly!