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Why Do We Run?

Seven world-class ultra runners on what it is that makes them run

Dean Karnazes (pictured) @ultramarathon
Dean is Ultramarathon Man — the title of his autobiography. He was voted one of the ‘World’s Top 100 Most Influential People’ by TIME, running and winning some of the toughest endurance events on the planet. His most recent endeavor saw him running 50 marathons, in all 50 states of America, in 50 consecutive days.

“I run to see how far I can go and because I’ve never been much of a car guy. I run because if I didn’t I’d be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air, to explore, to escape the ordinary. I run because walking takes too long, and I’d like to get a few things done in this lifetime. I run because long after my footsteps fade away, maybe I’ll have inspired a few to reject the easy path, hit the trails, put one foot in front of the other, and come to the same conclusion I did: running takes you where you want to go.”

Hollie Woodhouse @holliewoodhouse
Ultra runner Hollie helped set up the charity For Rangers (forrangers.com), in which a dedicated team help raise money for rangers in Africa by taking part in gruelling races around the world. She’s competed in a number of ultramarathons for this cause, including one through the Sahara and another through the Amazon Jungle in Peru.

“I run for the freedom, the challenge, the adrenaline. I run because it takes me to new places, it makes me feel alive and it helps me manage the daily pressures of life. I run because I want to run, not because I have to. Being involved with For Rangers is a huge part of the reason too. Running for a cause makes it all worthwhile.”

Anna Frost @annafrosty
Anna ‘Frosty’ Frost is one of the world’s best-known ultramarathon runners. She’s come first in over eight of the world’s toughest races, including the 100-mile Hardrock100 in Colorado, which she’s won twice.

“I run because it gives me freedom and space. It allows me to go places that you can’t by car. It’s a huge sense of achievement to climb that mountain or run the range or trail. Going for long days, exploring new mountains — it’s such a great way to go back to simplicity and nature, where there’s only my two feet, my heart and my lungs.”

Jamie Ramsay @jamieisrunning
Jamie Ramsay ran solo from Canada to Argentina — a journey of 17,000 kilometres, across 14 countries, for 472 days, pushing everything he needed in a trolley in front of him. He also ran the 240 km-long coast of Vietnam.

“The why I run question is so difficult. I was thinking about it yesterday as I was running and it made me realise that running is the centre of my life. Running is my job, my hobby, my fitness, my release, my meditation, my reflection time and my challenge. When I run I enter a sort of hypnotic, trance-like state fuelled by endorphins where I can recalibrate my life. Life without running is inconceivable.”

Emma Timmis @emma.timmis
Emma regularly competes in ultramarathons around the world, but her biggest running achievement was when she ran from Namibia to Mozambique, on a route equivalent of more than a marathon a day for 89 days, in Africa’s baking heat.

“I find running therapeutic. No matter how I feel when I go out for a run, I always return feeling better. I'm not sure if I ever particularly look forward to going out for a run like I would with other activities, but my body intrinsically tells me it’s what I need to do and I’m always grateful. It's a good way to think over any questions you have in life.”

Jamie Gaymer @jamie.gaymer
Jamie didn’t start running for fun, but rather as part of the For Rangers charity. His decision to join wasn’t easy, but he wanted to help, so despite never really being much of a runner, he started training for an 240km ultramarathon in Manu National Park, Peru. Since then he has completed a number of other ultra runs, each one gruelling but each for the rangers of Africa.

“My motivation for running is For Rangers — in the last 10 years more than 1,000 rangers have died in the line of duty. I run for them, to raise money for their work, and raise awareness about the dangerous conditions they endure. But through this I’ve found that running is like an obsession once the endorphins kick in. There’s also a sense of achievement at the end of the ultra, shared with close friends. It's something that I can't explain, but I yearn for it.”