While sitting in on a session with my wife and a gentleman giving us some advice, she told the man I was an ultra runner. His reply, “Oh, one of those crazy people!”
I guess the use of the term crazy can be taken in several different ways, so I thanked him for his comment.
Each New Year’s Day, off the shore of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, we witness a bit of zaniness and perhaps craziness too. Our local Polar Bear Club takes to the frigid waters of Lake Michigan to embrace the New Year. I am not sure why.
Apparently, there is a good reason they frolic in the frigid waters and to this day I have not heard of one that I can really believe.
I assume those people have a bit of craziness in their heads, although they come from all walks of life and are not unlike you and me. In fact, I, at one time, confessed that I would like to join the Polar Bear Club on their special day.
I have always come to my senses and always appreciated my first wife, Gail, commenting each year I would say I was going to jump in the lake on January 1, that I was crazy enough. Whatever that meant. I did listen to her and to some sound reasoning too.
Reasons such as you might freeze certain body parts was the best reason I have heard to date. Why risk it meant don’t do it.
My craziness is for running long distances. And if you think the Polar Bears are thought of as crazy, ultra runners are also. We tend to take the sport of running beyond what most people can comprehend, just as those folks in the Polar Bear Club.
Recently, I was asked by my nephew, Ken Udovich, of Kohler, to train with him for an upcoming winter, trail race in the Southern Kettle Moraine. I accepted his request to train with him and then also joined him on the day of the race for the 50-kilometer (31.1 miles) run.
Race morning brought 3 inches of new snow and the temperatures were single digit at the start and near 18 when we finished. There was a bit of bite in the air as the wind blew at about 15 mph too.
Unlike the well-attended shoreline festivities on the first of January, where spectators brave the elements, bundled up, and stand around for less than an hour, there are no spectators at a winter trail race.
Perhaps those “Bears” like the attention and that’s why they do it. For ultra runners, we do it because we enjoy embracing the elements for up to seven hours or more, but do it in relative solitude, on a wintry day in a state forest, all by ourselves; nearly 200 of us, including the birthday boy, 90-year old Paul Gionfriddo on his special Ground Hog’s Day jaunt.
Become one of those crazy people, in some form of another and enjoy your craziness for whatever reasons you choose.
See you in a few miles… roy pIrRUNg
Roy Pirrung is a Sports Contributor at The Sheboygan Daily and Ultra Marathon Champion. You can reach him at email@example.com or (920) 395-4025 and connect with Roy on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @RoyPirrung.