Beyond the Binge: What I am Learning from Ultrarunning

This piece is written by NMLFF Executive Director, Aisha Weinhold.

I haven't been running far for long. The majority of my running kicks come in a binge-style. If you follow my Strava (if I had a Strava), you would be able to see all of my major life crises. Thinking of dropping out of college for the third time, logging 60 mile weeks. Bad break up, look for 40-50 (none of these lasting more than ten days, max.). But these past few months have been the happiest of my life and I have been logging miles like nobodies business! And not in a masochistic kind of way, but purely for the love of running and the love of life.

I know what this sounds like. Girl is sad, girl runs far, girl loves life. Wrong! Well, sort of. Here is my story.

Running long distances has always held this wild allure for me. I love being in the mountains, the deeper in, the more connection and elation I tend to feel. I ski, I bike, I climb, I do all sorts of things, but something about long-distance trail running has kept me fascinated far beyond the binge.

I remember watching videos and reading interviews about Anna Frost, who has always been a hero of mine. Through major injury and reinvention of herself through running, I found myself following a parallel journey.

I too had injured myself. I had a broken soul. I had exposed myself to numerous moments of self-hatred, disrespect, and serious emotional and physical abuse. I had truly lost my joy. When I was younger, I loved running, I was a skinny little thing that found immense pleasure in running away from home. I played every sport that supported this habit, but was happy to fulfill that love alone.

I think that it was the day my mom told me that she considered herself a runner. I didn't know what that meant, but I knew that that was what I wanted to be.

But of course, like many other dreams, you lose them. Or rather, you become distracted. Priorities mature with time, as does judgment. Unfortunately, this evolution is rarely synonymous. During this time, I became a professional runner. I went between three schools in a year, dropped out of college, re-applied, found new jobs, new friends, ruined relationships, climbed, fell, laughed, cried, felt insanely poetic, realized that drunken slander isn't art, and drove thousands of miles and dozens of hours with nothing inside of me besides coffee and indecision. Not the kind of runner that I had hoped to be.

This past year I started running again, this time with my legs, but still binging. I found boundless peace in the high desert of Arizona. Trails that wind through pinons and junipers and are usually too hot to create a sane thought anyway. I was thrilled! I was also running away from the worst relationship of my life and consequently my worst performance in school. Ah! First-world problems.

Then I stopped running, let my life crumble around me. I enjoyed the rubble, little to clean up, few responsibilities. Just try and be happy, follow that daily dream and if you binge, thats alright. But I did remember the peace that running brought. I would still get out into the mountains, long tours on heavy skis. I couldn't wait for Spring.

Spring came and then Summer. And this is where it gets good. I moved home, living with Mom and Dad. I lost some things that I never thought I would lose and gained an infinite amount of wisdom and self-love. I also started running again. The first date with the love of my life was a run, a quickie up Mushroom Rock. I met two of my favorite women and girlfriends because of running. I also reconnected with one of the most influential adults from my adolescence over a conversation about technique and zero-drop technology. I felt healthy, confident, and free again. I found a whole community that supported this habit that I had so dutifully created. It was ok to run.

I ran my first marathon with the love of my life this summer. This is what running with Steve has taught me. Relationships are special and must be treated as so. No one is required to be in your life, it is their choice to remain and just as easily they can choose to leave, nor is anyone entitled to your presence. I feel so honored to have been chosen and have been so intentional with my choice. He has shown me the dark-side of competition, the true nature of running, and how to love and support a man.

Photo courtesy of Ben Mawhinney

I ran my first ultra this summer too. I ran with Steve, but the lessons that I learned along the way have no boundaries. I learned that blisters happen, girls have got to stick together, always bring toilet paper, you won't want to run the entire time, you won't run the entire time, trust in the process, its ok to be emotional, running like a girl is a good thing, and forty miles isn't that far.

Because of ultrarunning, I have learned to love, trust, find companionship in unexpected places, experience unfiltered joy, and have reconnected with a dream and passion that has been writhing inside of me for years. I look forward to my next outing into the mountains and to my next run.

Thank you Mom, Steve, Sarah, and Meg. You ladies/gent are amazing.  

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