Young Gun ultrarunners were like Lost Generation writers in the ’20s, Beat poets in the ’50s, and rock musicians in the ’60s: they were poor and ignored and free from all expectations an inhibitions. They were body artists, playing with the palette of human endurance.
“So why not marathons?” I asked Jenn when I called to interview her about the Young Guns. “Do you think you could qualify for the Olympic Trials?”
“Dude, seriously,” she’d said. “The qualifying standard is 2:48. Ayone can make it.” Jenn could run a sub- three- hour marathon while wearing a string bikini and chugging a beer at mile 23 – and she would, just five days after running 50- mile trail race in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“But then what?” Jenn went on. “I hate all this hype about the marathon. Where’s the mystery? I know a girl who’s training for the Trials, and she’s got every single workout planned for the next three years! She’s doing speedwork on the track like, every other day. I couldn’t take it , man. I was supposed to run with her once at six in the morning, and I called her up at two a.m. to tell her I was shitfaced on margaritas and puh-robably not gonna make it.”
Jenn didn’t have a coach or training programs; she didn’t even own a watch. She just rolled out of bed every morning, downed a veggie burger, and ran as far and as fast as she felt like, wich usually turned out to be about twenty miles. Then she hopped on the skateboard she’d bought instead of a parking pass and kicked off to class at Old Dominion, where she’d recently dropped back into school and was making straight As.
“I never really discussed this with anyone cause sounds pretentious, but I started running ultras to become a better person,” Jenn told me. “I thought if you could run one hundred miles, you’d be in this Zen state. You’d be the fucking Buddha, bringing peace and a smile to the world. It didn’t work in my case -I’m the same old punk- ass as before- but there’s always that hope that it will turn you into the person you want to be, a better, more peaceful person.
“When I’m out in a long run,” she continued, “the only thing in life that maters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn’t going blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow. It’s just me and the movement and the motion. That’s what I love, just being a barbarian, running through the woods.”
Born To Run