This blog as might be apparent from the title has to do with running, biking and basically other outdoor individualistic sports, sometimes extreme, such as rock climbing . But don't be surprised if you find articles on work, personal life, music and even philosophy, this blog is an exception in this aspect in the blogosphere of running blogs and I am trying to revamp the blog to make it more runner friendly. You might want to look at the sidebar titled 'categorised', which as is obvious, categorizes my posts into different areas of interest.
The other thing that might interest many people is a section on 'running videos' and 'general videos' on the side bar, which I keep updating now and then.
I plan to bring in more posts on running and biking, with some added colour, so as to make them 'complete'. That's about it for now.
As a post-note, I have run a half-marathon, but I am yet to attempt a marathon, which through some concerted effort and time should happen in the future, but that ofcourse is not the culmination of this blog, it would on the contrary be something to jumpstart this blog onto new vistas.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The research and ultra running communities

First a few definitions:

Ultra running: The sport(that's right) of running taken to the extreme in terms of distance. More definitively, any distance beyond 42kms 195 metres or 'the marathon distance' would qualify as an ultra marathon. And training for such distances, usually on mud trails and close to nature would qualify as ultra running.

Research: 'The real head banging'. To expand the theme, being occupied by a group of related ideas on a very specific topic that may seemingly have no connection with the 'real-world'. I was chatting with a friend the other day who is working in neurobiocomputing and he told me that he had had an orgasm the previous day when preparing for the mid-terms. Here's a sample of the conversation.
Me: "Wow!!! It was all 'ah...ah' level eh"
Him: "Yesh, nothing like understanding how you your brain and senses work".

Now, for a few comparisons or rather parallels which I draw from experience and reading.

1) Both the communities occupy an area less than 5%(2 standard deviations) in a normal distribution(or any relevant distribution) of the sizes of different communities.

2) There are huge highs and lows experienced in the regular workings of both the communities. The highs come from either endoprephines, anandamides or pure insights as the case may be or just the condition of being focused or what can also be termed auto-cruise control.
The lows could be pains categorised as physical, mental or a mixture of both. Research tends more towards the mental/psychological and sociological frustrations while ultrarunning involves a healthy mix of both the mental/psychological and physical pains/frustrations!!

3) There is always the "Why am I doing this? I must really be insane..really really insane" genre of questions that pop into the runners'/researchers' mind now and then.
a) Running on trails for 5-6 hrs with no one in sight and the body has already given up all hopes of rest, working in submission to the mind's fancies (I haven't run for more than 2 hrs straight so I can only sort of imagine what it feels to run for 3 hrs, leave alone 5-6hrs straight). Here the mind is fixated on one thing which the body has to put up with.
b) Sitting in the lab in front of the computer for the whole day doing assignments and stuff and you realise you got a weekly meeting with the professor the next day. The day shift ends, the night shift begins. Here, mostly the mind has to put up with itself.

4) People seem to find that ultra running/research occupies most of their time and they can only talk about their next training run or how they have been put off by an injury and can't wait to start running again. An anology in the research community would be, people who can only talk about their current research or what they plan to do next and how the crappy assignments are interfereing with their research work.

5) Ultra-running and research complement each other well, since you can run on auto-cruise control(analogous to recharging your batteries) while running (i.e. switch off the mind and just observe the surroundings) while on the other hand while doing research, the body is given a damn and the mind is actively involved in a play of ideas, analysis and dreams.

6) Quite a few ultrarunners also seem to do well in their 'professional life', whatever that maybe.
Motivation needs to be high, to be able to undergo some of the treacherous pains experienced now and then in ultra running and research. For example, whenever I run a 5km race, I always tell myself that I will never do it again since the body heat, pain in the legs, stomach during the race sometimes are intolerable. But the desire to be able to run faster and the feeling of fast movement will always brings me back to running such races. A similar analogy can hold for ultra running. As far as research is concerened, writing a document brings me the most pain, because of the seemingly infinite corrections that need to be made to make the document coherent, structured and understandable to the targetted audience.

There is also an article by a researcher who runs ultras on 'Why men run ultras', which gives an alternate explanation on why more men than women run ultras. The article is not sexist as some feminists might immediately want to conclude, but merely put forths a psychological hypothesis for why men run ultras which is also consistent with why not many women may not want to run ultras. However, having said that, digest the article in with a pinch or two of salt especially the statistical analysis part, since the sample size or even the population of ultra runners as compared to men who don't run or those who run lesser distances is known to be negligible.

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