Thoughts after the interview with ultra-marathon runner John Budge:
In preparation for developing the runner’s story I got the opportunity today to interview John Budge an ultra-marathon runner who lives here in New York. John, originally from Seattle, has only been in the ultra-marathon scene for a couple of years now, but has dove into it with the obsession of a man who, well, would stay up for 27 hours and run 100 miles straight.
We sat at a table in McCarren Park, Brooklyn, and he was kind enough to share his experience, mindset, and thoughts on ultra-marathon running. I won’t include everything we talked about during our hour together, but will relay a few things that struck me.
· Diane’s positivity is not just unique to her personality, but seems entrenched in the culture and mindset of ultra-marathon runners. They as a group have to push though such difficult circumstances in these races that they have to have this driving can do attitude to succeed.
· Once you’ve mentally and physically pushed yourself to run 100 miles straight, you wonder what else in life you can push yourself to do. We often don’t do things because we think we can’t or it may lead to failure. Over coming something as hard as an ultra-marathon makes you more open to take risks and try new things.
· John says this stuck with him after reading it in a UMR magazine, “You just have to spend one day of your life dedicated to putting one foot in front of the other, to simply keep moving forward.”
· John also talked about the peaks and valleys of emotions while running and the intensity of focus while running. You feel such exultation one moment and absolute despair on the next mile. “Within the 100 miles is a life time of feeling and extremes.” I think the path of the runner’s path should mirror the one experienced on an ultra-marathon.
· I may regret this, but I think I should start running with the actor several mornings a week to train endurance and study of what its like.
· I love that John compares his running to his form of dancing.
· John, mentioned how for parts of the run he will be engrossed in the world around him talking everything in, but some times gets so entrenched in his thoughts that he won’t notice an hour has gone by. He isn’t sure how or when he sinks from one to the other, but interestingly though, it takes a single bit of external stimulus to snap him right back into his place. This could be a useful tool to use with the audience.
· The world record for a 100 miler was set at about 12 hours. Think about that.
· The economy of motion of a marathon runner stuck me. They minimize extra arm, body, and head movement to save energy. They also tend to have a shorter gait and work hard to find and maintain their stride.
· Another image John used that impacted me was the challenge of the “wall” and trying to push through it. To him this is the thrilling part of the run. When you reach what you think is the mental and physical barrier and some how push past what you think you can do. Seeing how far you can go beyond your own expectations and having the nerve to try. What he struggled to answer was how.
· See John’s blog about his race at the Rocky Raccoon, and the insane state his feet were in by mile 60. Some how he turned a sharp pain with every step into a manageable general pain though sheer will. Amazing he finished with 40 miles to go.
· John is very goal oriented with his running. What gets him out of bed and out for a 20-mile jog, is the goal of the race. If he doesn’t do this run today and keep to his schedule, he won’t make it through the race. All this work later comes back as motivation for the race itself. I think this may be a trait shared by the runner before the surgery. Organized, goal oriented, and keeping on a carefully planned schedule. This was her sense of place before.
· During the run too, John looks at his watch constantly, checking his pace and time. I think it would be great for the runner to start out with a similar habit. Is there a “white rabbit” quality to her early on?
· This maybe good subject matter for text, but the idea of peeing during a marathon is kind of funny. Particularly the anecdote about the elite runner who can pee mid run while maintaining a 7 minute run. The origin story of the belt buckles given out at 100-mile races might be good subject matter for text as well.
I got a big narrative idea from all this. The runner’s first sense of place is tied to mastering time and schedule. She’s got to keep moving forward, making it to her next goal motivated by her bigger goal. She gets satisfaction from pushing though the wall.
After the surgery there is no wall. The goal can’t stay in focus. She can’t keep track of time. She loses all her previous reference points and finds herself lost. But with-in her new disability she starts to move towards the realization that her new place is in the simple moment, in the bliss of now.
Please check out John’s blog where he chronicles all his races: http://johnbudge.blogspot.com/