I am a couple weeks away from my 59th birthday. I've been running the long stuff for more than two decades. I used to finish at or near the front. Now, I run much more slowly and methodically. Occasionally, the pressure of making cut-offs digs deep into my soul and keeps a fire burning that carries me to the finish. But even so, sometimes I don't even walk away with the "Grand Masters" title because another "old lady" completed the course before me. Since my slippery slide down the record book columns, untold numbers of young people have joined the ultra parade. They didn't know me "back when." In fact, they probably don't know me - period.
So, here's the million dollar question: Why would a great company with growing market share ask me to be an ambassador for their products?
I've been an UltrAspire ambassador for several years, and with an overflowing bucket of gratitude signed a contract for another twelve months just this week. The profiles of the folks listed as ambassadors, or Immortals, as they call us, is pretty impressive. Top runners. Record breakers. Household names in ultrarunning. Race directors. Athletes who are featured in magazines and oft-read blogs.
So, let's think about this. How many runners fit onto the tiny piece of real estate we call a podium? About 3, right? Not a lot of room for a crowd. How many people stand on common ground? Everyone else.
Who will the guy who finishes 226/305 relate to more? Me or the champion? What about the gal whose stage of life makes consistent training and long miles more of a dream than a reality? In whom might she find a kindred spirit? Who might she look to for encouragement? The abilities of the top three are certainly to be admired. But really, are the training plans combined with extraordinary physiology typical of so many of the topflighters in reach of the mid to back of the packer like me? Probably not. But still, all of us - fast, slow, or inbetween - need gear. I am delighted to wear the best!
These days, I find the greatest pleasure introducing the sport to the younger set; kids I used to coach who now find great joy in seeking adventure along mountain trails. I love my title of "TrailMama." I am ecstatic that my experience is called upon to guide those four decades younger than me. I embrace the long discussions and problem solving with fellow runners when saving seconds is not top priority.
So, you see, I am quite normal. I am more like the greatest segment of the ultra community than the elite. I am past running for reward. I run in the mountains because I love it. I race because I can. I suspect there are many who feel the same way.
Thank you, UltrAspire, for believing in normal people like me. Thank you for granting me the privilege to be a part of your team. Thank you for your excellence and attention to detail. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to run long, run strong.