In December 2016 and on a long run, my heart started race. This lead me to do some research and eventually buy the book, The HAYWIRE HEART. In thinking about a response to all of this, I also found some evidence that running more then 8 hours a week can be due to a mental illness or issue such as OCD. Thus someone is doing something that they rationalize, justify as "fun" but are more akin to a Hamster on a exercise wheel. One example is a person with anxiety will feel better running as in its simplest explanation, makes one feel warm inside and that eases anxiety. But if you exercise more then 8 hours in a week, it can make actual physiological and chemical changes that increase anxiety. Thus the person runs more to deal with the running caused anxiety and so on.
The point of this is that me expressing my belief, my opinion that someone doing multiple ultras or marathons should not be used as a role model or praised is based upon a solid scientific foundation. I should hasten to add, that the benefits of running 30 - 90 minutes a day are too numerous to list. Thus I am not saying "running" per say it bad, it is more that at a certain point, running becomes harmful, even dangerous. Not necessarily kill you dangerous but leave you permanently impaired with arrhythmia. And as noted by the one example above, too much running can leave smaller scars such as increased anxiety, depression or a "addiction" to running to the point one's life is negatively impacted. I see such a "warning" or again, at least the belief one who runs too much should not be praised and put on a podium no different than if someone where to say that they read about someone who went from the longest run of 5 K to doing a 30 K run. I can be done but it does not make it any less risky or stupid.
When I was doing the 5 Peaks Sport races, there was one gentleman who was 70 years old. You can see that he ran as hard as it could given the circumstances and always finished near the back of the pack. Not one person thought any less of him because of that and many, including myself can only dream of being able to run a race when I am in my 70s. In fact everything I am doing now, including hours of research and reading are ideally to be able to race but I would be content to be able to run on my own for as long and as fast I would wan to. These are my role models, not someone who is frankly going to be lucky if they do not do some real or permanent damage in what I believe is an ego driven endeavor. That is my opinion and again, I believe that is backed up by research and not some fantasy of what people would like to see the world.
I had thought about giving up running entirely but I love to run. The ironic thing is that I have never considered myself a RUNNER but that is an entirely different discussion. There was the myth and mystic of the marathon. That someone in the back or deep in my mind that if I did not run a marathon ever so often, I would be kicked out of that club. But I hated the dues, the long runs and worse, they were starting to have a real and negative impact upon me. But in looking into this issue, it is clear that running is one of the best exercises one can do. And there is some new thought at 90 minutes a day is may not be too much. Mix in some more moderate exercise such as cycling and weight training a couple of times a week and that will optimize one's health and functionality. The odd marathon and ultra may not be particularly healthy but at least at one time for me, it made me feel alive as opposed to just living. But to circle back to the original post - the argument that a 70 year old doing 7 ultras in one year is cool and my counter is not, it is foolish and playing with fire. They have every right to pursue that goal but if they put it out in the public sphere, if others suggest she is a role model or inspiration, than I also have the right to disagree. And that is what I am doing. And again, I am not saying someone just because they are old and slow are not worthy of praise or admiration. It is just I am reserving mine for someone doing it in a sensible and healthy way.
As a side note, when I was training for marathons and doing the 3 + hour long runs, my mood was not good. Irritable, grumpy and I could fly into a rage over nothing. When I was just running, none of that. I was not aware of the research with regards to the connection between mental health and excess running. Running is great but as with any medicine, the right dose for each person needs to be found.
From the authors of the study on excessive running and its impact on one's psychological condition. What I did not include is that there are those who can train for more then 8 hours per weeks for months and months. But then they can cut back, walk away. This applies to those who cannot:
Dr. Garber noted that frequent exercise of 8 hours or more per week may come at the expense of other things important for mental health, such as social interaction, family ties, and relaxation time.
"There are good data that rigorous physical activity for 30 minutes a day is fairly effective treatment for depression," Dr. Maidenberg said.
Yet, when a person feels that frequent bouts of exercise are a need, rather than a choice, then physical activity has the potential to be compulsive, he noted.
When exercise is a compulsion, it is likely to be seen as part of a constellation of symptoms in a mental illness, such as anorexia or obsessive compulsive disorder, Dr. Maidenberg said.
"If a patient says: 'I need to work out for 2 hours a day, and if I don't, I feel anxious,' that's an indication that their activity is driven by anxiety and not choice," he said