I love the statement made by a fellow ultrarunner, (Rob) recently, "I know that I can finish the 100 miler, but there is also that doubt in the back of my mind, which is the way I like it. I am participating because I know that some day I may not be able to do so."
It shows a healthy respect for the distance. It also says that with every 100 or 50-miler, we are pushing the limits of our own endurance enough to know that there is still quite the possibility of either not finishing the race, getting injured, or even dying. Rob brought up some other things in his post that I fully agree with.
My personal (Bad Ben) philosophy:
I run 50 and 100-mile trail runs for the sheer enjoyment and personal challenge of it all, knowing that I will not be able to do it forever. For all of my 50-100 mile runs, I run to FINISH, and that's all. If I'm feeling well enough on that particular day, I might do well. I'll never be a front runner; it's not in the cards I was dealt, genetically. That's fine with me, because I'm still having fun! And, if training for these runs helps keep me in better than average physical and mental shape, that's a great side-effect.
Many runners are far more serious & competitive. Many of those runners run on pavement in much shorter runs, and they just don't understand these concepts. Some of them offer me the advice that I should give up some of the more enjoyable things in my life and get more SERIOUS about my running. Well, I won't give those things up! Some have actually stated that if I'm enjoying a distance event, then I must not be trying hard enough, and should quit competing, until I am serious about it. I'm not going to become a running facsist! I know many top-rated runners that STILL ENJOY running, even though they tend to win a lot. But there are those few out there that think that you can't enjoy life and do well in running. I am truly sorry for them.
I really ENJOY my life right now, and that wasn't always the case. I try to keep a good, healthy balance and enjoy all facets of my life. My running has very little impact on my family life right now. It's great that I have a wife that enjoys traveling with me on our 4-day weekends to these events, even though she's not a runner. This wasn't always the case.
Compared with the actual ultra events, I think I love the "journey" more, which involves the training miles and the camaraderie of running with other trailrunners. It is the best part of trailrunning for me. I also enjoy exposing newbies to trail and ultrarunning. That's the reason why I started a trailrunning group, web site, and blog. Scheduling and running in 4 runs per week doesn't require much effort, when it's something that I enjoy.
Ultra-distance events are basically training milestones and vacation destinations, for me. My spouse has had her hand in picking some of my running event locations, as well. This makes it even more fun and challenging. It's one of the main reasons that I'm going to be running the CCC100 in 3 weeks...she gets to see & visit with her best friend.
Have fun out there!
(Truly) happy trails,