I guess I should say something here as a follow up to my previous post and the shocking amount of response it has generated.
More than anything I want to say thanks to everyone for the passionate responses. This post generated more response in every regard than I ever expected. Thanks to many kind donations my Iditarod Invitational Entry Fee is almost certainly going to be in the mail next week! The supportive comments have been very appreciated, but also the critical comments have a lot of value to them as well (at least most of them do).
My response is this: It's not as black and white as many people would like it to be. A life that is based upon financial ambition works for many people. I have no problem with that. Where I do have a problem is when people try to make others feel guilty for not having that same financial ambition. Striving to make a lot of money is not a duty or a responsibility, it is a choice. If you do not have that financial ambition it does not necessarily mean that you are lazy and unmotivated. There are many ways for personal drive and ambition to manifest themselves that have very little to do with money. This direction is of course not for everyone either, but that doesn't make it wrong.
As the comments on my previous post would indicate people fall all over the spectrum on this issue, but none of them are wrong. What is wrong is when people try to diminish or disrespect someone else because they don't place the same value on financial ambition. It might be hard for some people who do feel very motivated by making money to understand, but the truth is that I just don't care if I make a lot of money, that's just not something that's important to me. Trust me, it's just as hard for me to understand those of you who do have a strong drive to try to make a lot of money, but that doesn't cause me to disrespect you or diminish you. We're just different and there really shouldn't be anything wrong with that.
As far as where I am at specifically and how my running fits into my life I could go on for a long time but I will try to keep it short. Ultra running is something that I've been doing for almost 3 years now. It started out on a whim to run a 50k and has now grown to the point where I base many of my decisions in life around my running.
I love racing. I love being out in all the places that my running regularly takes me. I love being good at racing and I love the satisfaction I get when I perform well. I'm still regularly embarrassed by the attention that this sometimes brings but I'm slowly learning how to accept this as part of it. I love when I finish a race and there are 2 or 3 people gathered at the finish line. That is comfortable. I'm still a bit uncomfortable about races in which there are hundreds of people gathered around at the finish. This doesn't mean that I don't want to run big races, but I'm still working on becoming comfortable with this. More than anything I love running with all the people that I get to run with. I thrive on the competition. And it has very little to do with winning. Having the opportunity to line up with other people who have trained for the same event and then going out and racing with them is what keeps me motivated the most. I love when I get to see other people win, and the energy I get from this. At Crow Pass this year I finished 4th (the first time I'd finished that far back in a running race in two years) and yet I was about as content with what I had gained from competing in that race as any race I've ever run. Eric Strabel won that race and I felt just as pleased with that than if I'd won myself. He was rebounding from a long injury and I think I learned as much from his accomplishment that day as I would have had I been able to win myself. That's the way it works. Running can be about individual accomplishment but the satisfaction one takes from their own accomplishments is so much greater because of what others are accomplishing as well.
Anyway, the point is that my running is a huge part of my life. I don't feel like it has anything to do with running away from something, but rather I see it as a self perpetuating passion that gets stronger everytime I go out for a run. I'm still getting faster and that is a huge part of the drive for me. I feel very motivated and passionate about pushing myself to see how much better of a runner I can become.
I have been a runner since 8th grade and I'm quite certain that I will be a runner for the rest of my life, but the passion that I have right now for ultra running goes well beyond what running was for me when I was younger and what it will likely be for me when I am older. Running will always be there to help me keep in shape and get out and enjoy the outdoors, but the drive I currently have for competing at as high a level as possible is something that I feel relies upon my ability to get better and faster. If I am lucky I might have 5 more years in which I'm able to do this. After that running goes back to being more of a hobby and less of a lifestyle. The last thing I intend to be doing 5 years from now though is thinking that maybe I could have been a good ultra runner had I put more energy into it.
Anyway, enough about all this... Time to go out for a run.