For most people, running to catch the bus will leave them panting, struggling to catch their breath.
Then, there are dedicated joggers who run regularly to maintain their fitness, or to keep themselves slim.
Some of these get hooked to running to the extent that they start running marathons, which cover a distance of 42.195km. These are normally run on roads, and the world record of 2h 03:59 is currently held by Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia).
Well, I thought that was the maximum. 40km is a lot of distance to walk, let alone run, and I admire these 'marathoners' greatly. Running just one marathon in your life would have been seen as a fantastic achievement, don't you think?
But, for some people, running is like an addiction; they just can't stop running. They compete in several marathons annually, and they train whenever they can, covering enormous distances. Stefaan Engels recently became the first man ever to run a marathon every single day of the year! He almost didnt make it, suffering a swollen foot after 21 days of running. But, what did he do?
For two weeks, he 'ran' the marathons on a wheelchair! After that, he never stopped until he crossed the finish line in Barcelona last Saturday, 5th February, using up 25 pairs of shoes!
Then, I had a student who competed in triathlons, swimming 3.86km, cycling 180.25km, and, for dessert, throwing in a casual marathon! That was when I first heard of Ironman triathlons.
Our dear friend, Stefaan, by the way, holds the world record for competing in 20 triathlons in a year!
So, what's the limit, right?
Now, I have a student who runs ultra marathons! What's that? And I thought a marathon distance was almost superhuman! These ultra marathoners run marathons as part of their training!
"What are ultra marathons?" you may very well ask. Well, basically, they are anything more than 42.195km. But, that isn't the end of it. Most of these ultra marathons are run over treks, not roads, covering beaches, mountains, deserts, and what have you. Distance? Well, they speak of 50km as a piece of cake!
Takahiro Sunada (Japan) is the official world record holder of the 100km ultramarathon distance, with a time of 6:13:33.
This student of mine participated in the recent 'Maraton del Meridiano' in El Hierro, a gruelling run through varying altitudes, reaching the summit of Pico Malpaso at 1500m, and then running back down again. The winner, Francisco José Rodríguez de Paz (La Palma), completed it in 4:17:45.
This very same student will attempt to run the Transgrancanaria Ultratrail, starting in Playa del Inglés on Saturday midnight (5th March), running along the beach to Maspalomas, then crossing the mountains, finishing on Las Canteras Beach some time on Sunday evening. Distance? Ahem... 123 kms.
So, what makes these people tick? Why do they punish their bodies so? Most of them, when asked, say it's to test themselves, to see what their limits are, so to speak. It's a question of setting goals, and to work at achieving them.
Stefaan Engels, who, incidentally, was an asthmatic when he was a young boy and who was actually discouraged by doctors to participate in sports, said, "if I can get somebody to run five or 10 kilometres, or get involved in any sport, I will have succeeded – because I know how good sports makes me feel, how important it is to a person’s life.”
What is your next goal?