7 min read

This isn't a post about running (it's about running)

I want to tell you that I became an ultrarunner for a reason that you’ll understand immediately. It’ll be easier for me to explain. It’ll make more sense to you, that I choose to run so many miles.
Three people (left to right): Grant, Simon (the author of the post), Katie at the start of Wy'East Wonder 50k in June 2023. T
Left to right: Grant, Simon, Katie

I want to tell you that I became an ultrarunner for a reason that you’ll understand immediately. It’ll be easier for me to explain. It’ll make more sense to you, that I choose to run so many miles.

We’ll both feel comfortable putting me in a particular box. Maybe I did it because when you lose your parents way too early, you turn to the physical extremes to feel something.

That’s true, of course. They both died from terrible diseases. In 2016 (Dad, pancreatic cancer) and in 2018 (Mom, Creutzfeld-Jakob’s disease), barely 25 months later. But it took two and a half more years for me to start running again, and I didn’t think about either of them when I signed up for my first trail race in August 2021. At the time,  I just wanted to get moving again. If I’m honest, I’d grieved plenty by then.

So that’s it. Maybe I did it because I hit my own athletic rock bottom.

Yeah, that’s true, too. The COVID-19 pandemic did nasty things to all of us. I know that, here in the U.S., January to June 2021 was the most sedentary six months of my adult life. In early spring, the first vaccines brought hope for normalcy. But, by then, the emotional damage of lockdown eating away at routines and friendships and travel plans; the political and psychological violence of consuming the news and grieving the loss of community as the 2020 election seemed to tear the country apart; the frustrating physical limitations of doing dishes in the tub and cooking food in an instant pot or microwave while our house underwent a renovation—it was all enough to zap any extra motivation I might’ve stored up.

Even so, I’d never had much of an appetite for running all that far. 25k in the mountains, let alone 50k, seems a bit extreme for someone who wanted to reclaim his athletic identity, right?

Maybe I did it because I wanted to tell you I could.

Listen. I’m 5’7” on a good day. I weigh just over 200 pounds. I don’t fit the most common images of what marketers and broadcasters and coaches and parents have in mind when they think: athletic man who primary runs very far.

So perhaps this is one big, “I’ll have you know…” A way to prove to you and to myself that athletes come in all shapes in sizes and deserve the label regardless of how fast or slow, tall or short, light or heavy they are. Maybe it’s me that needs to hear this most and the only way to drill it through my own thick skull (and by thick skull I mean the decades of being socialized into telling myself I’m not worthy) is to prove it to an extreme.

I want to tell you this, because you’ll probably ask. You’ll probably ask, because, it was the first thing out of my mouth when you asked me what I’ve been up to. Now, I can’t shut up about it. And I'm thinking, "Oh, god. I'm doing it again." Wouldn’t it just be easier if I had a nice, clean, explanation so that you (and everyone else) could understand and we could move on?

I want to grab onto these explanations, because so many writers have come before me to tell you about running. Alison Mariella Désir runs because it is an act of self and group liberation. Haruki Murakami runs because it both feeds and is fed by his writing practice. (Although I can't say I liked the book much.) Christopher McDougal runs because he was enchanted by our evolutionary history and the promise of pushing beyond what we think we're capable of. Caleb Daniloff runs to process his relationship with his daughter and the familial trauma her addiction caused. Lauren Fleshman once ran to chase greatness, and now runs to show us what greatness looks like outside the context of the patriarchy.

The boxes make it easier to understand. Making it easier to understand means we can file someone away faster and get back to whatever it is we want to be discussing. Perhaps this is too cold a way to frame things, but otherwise, what would we have to do?

We’d—you and I—would have to be patient to uncover a more complex answer. Maybe I run for many reasons: to process grief, to destress, to stand out amongst my peers, to achieve and maintain mindfulness? Maybe one day, I have one reason and, the next run, I’m out there seeking something entirely different.

Maybe, I hash together a quick and easy answer—formed just enough so that you can recognize the vague shape of my logic and we can move on. Because I figure you don’t want to know all these different reasons I have. I am, after all, an anxious over-explainer, easily consumed by self-consciousness, who doesn’t want to exhaust you when you were hoping for a simple answer.

Maybe I tell you everything and you, gracious with your time, listen. Maybe you’ll know what I mean when I—arms out beyond my shoulders, fingers spread wide, palms tilted skyward, already five minutes into my rant—say:

“I follow this guy, Andy Glaze. He’s run 100-plus miles a week for like 196 weeks. He’s insane. He runs 100-milers like they’re 10Ks. I definitely don’t want to be him. (He’s also a firefighter, I don’t know how he does it.) But I read this interview with him, where he talks about his PTSD. And he said, ‘Running long distances quiets my mind and puts me into a state of where my brain stops thinking about things that I don't want it to think about. I find it super peaceful.’ And I, if there's a any one thing that keeps me coming back to running long—that's it, maybe?"

I don’t want to just tell you, “I run to find peace.” I’m not some zen master. I don't mean to sound like a poser.

But maybe, when I snap out of my reasons-for-running-reverie, and look at you—a little bit embarrassed that I didn’t keep a lid on it, we both see that identifying one single source of my motivation isn’t all that important. Maybe you start to see it the way I do: We spend too much time trying to justify—or arguing about—our reasons for loving what we are drawn to no matter what. That I can be running because of all of what I’ve told you and none of it.

The return of my recommendations

I used to use the bottom section of this newsletter a little media diet journal. Some of you liked this part a lot. Let's bring it back.

Music I'm listening (and looking forward) to

If you like melodic hardcore, or just want to know what I'm talking about when I say, "This was my favorite record of 2023", may I present:


  • Greg Freeman's I Looked Out (2022)—a fuzzy, alt-rocky recommendation from a dear friend
  • Ethan Iverson's Technically Acceptable (2024)—a terrific new jazz record from the founding pianist of The Bad Plus. (Stick around for his cover of Killing Me Softly.)
  • Waxahatchee's single "Right Back To It" ft. MJ Lenderman, from my most anticipated record of 2024 Tigers Blood, out in less than two weeks. (Sidenote: If you like Lenderman, you'll like Greg Freeman and vice versa.)

What I've read and loved recently

The books

  • I just reread James Baldwin's Another Country last month. The best of the best when it comes to 20th century American Lit. First read it when I was 16. (Hits a bit different as a 35 year-old. Whew.)
  • Denis Johnson's spellbinding final story collection, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden. It's no Jesus' Son, but that's an unfair standard—nothing else is.
  • I spent last fall and the beginning of winter cruising through all the novels of The Expanse. A terrific ride for any sci-fi lover, I think. There are novellas to be read, too, because those two dudes who share the pen name James S.A. Corey are freakin' machines.

Just one article and the resulting minor controversy

  • Self-described magazine about "a nearly unattainable car-centric lifestyle" Road & Track, seem to have unknowingly(?) hired self-described card-carrying socialist and excellent writer Kate Wagner to write about the obscene and entertaining pageantry of F1. She crushed the reporting and writing, they published it, and then the EIC forgot he had a spine and pulled the story. The archived version is available (linked above) and, especially if you're an F1 fan or a fan of the Netflix show, is a terrific read.
  • Defector's Patrick Redford asked Road & Track EIC for comment and the result is, as I've already spoiled, spineless.
  • The Washington Post also covered the retraction, but somehow managed not to get comment from Road & Track (article unlocked)

It's Oscars Sunday, people

I've managed to see all the Best Picture nominees other than The Holdovers. I'm resigned to the notion that Oppenheimer will probably clean up (which, great movie, fine).

But just to put it out there, here are my five favorite films released in 2023, in no particular order:

  • How to Blow Up a Pipeline
  • Past Lives
  • Killers of the Flower Moon
  • The Zone of Interest
  • Poor Things


I'm a little hung up on movies right now, but I am watching FX's Shōgun, and the first two episodes ruled.

Alright, that's a wrap for the first edition of Sunday on a Whim in a long time. It's also the first proper post published here on Ghost. Hopefully this thing works.

You're always welcome to reply and tell me what you thought. I'd love to hear from you. And remember: this is a passion project. The only email I don't want to get is about a typo you found.