The Extra Mile Endurathon: A Skeptic Comes Around

What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever walked for?

Endurathon Night

Over the weekend (and extending into the week), three people in Boulder broke the world record by walking for four days and four nights – 103 hours!   It was part of a new event that’s now spread worldwide and is known as an Extra Mile Endurathon

The walkers are only allowed 10 minute breaks at intervals throughout the event to do whatever they want – rest, eat, use the bathroom, try to sleep, etc.
The previous world record of 102 hours was set in Buenos Aires last year and the walkers in Boulder were determined from the start not just to beat their fellow competitors but to try to set the new world record as well.

From 103 hours: Boulder walkers break world Endurathon record:

“Three determined athletes in Boulder broke the world record for endurance walking together early this morning when they stopped their 103-hour trek at the Lazy Dog Sports Bar & Grill, 1346 Pearl St., and had a beer.”

The emphasis is mine of course.  They stopped and had a beer!  Now those are my kind of athletes.

Since I work down on Pearl Street, I got to see them all walk by me several times during the weekend.   It was amazing to see the numbers dwindle each time they passed and the looks on people’s faces as the sleep deprivation and fatigue set in.  

Unfortunately I wasn’t out there on Monday or Tuesday so I missed the real home stretch. 

What’s the grand prize for all this mental and physical torture you might ask?  $1,000.

And, in order to even win the prize you have to be able to walk an extra mile after the last person drops out.

I have to admit, when I first saw that, I actually laughed out loud.  As a small business owner, $1,000 is certainly a lot of money and there’s no shortage of crazy things that I would likely do to win $1000.    But, thinking about the physical and mental toll that the walk would take on my body, my first thought was that there’s no way it was worth it unless I was either able to raise a lot of money for a good cause or the personal payout was significantly more.   On the surface this event accomplished neither.  It just begs the question of ‘why?’ and, judging from some of the commentary I heard from people in Boulder, there were lots of people who thought it was completely pointless.   I was definitely one of those people when I first heard about the event.

The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that it’s exactly that extreme mental and physical challenge with only a small payout and an obscure world record to set that actually makes the event so interesting.   It’s just walking  - one of the most basic of human activities, one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again.   It doesn’t matter how physically strong you are or really even what kind of shape you’re in, you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

At its core, endurance is actually the backbone of almost every sport in existence.  From baseball to football to even golf, if you can’t continue to be your best longer than your opponent does then you won’t succeed.  Whether it’s a long season or a long game, when fatigue sets in the winners will always be determined by who pushes on and lets it affect them the least.   Pain and endurance as a positive force for growth can be seen in everything from martial arts to the military and even high school sports.   I used to laugh when I’d hear someone say “it builds character”, but when it comes to endurance it’s hard to deny - once you’ve pushed your physical boundaries beyond what you once thought possible, you’ve recalibrated your internal scale; everything else will forever be in a different perspective.  (My parents also told me that taking out the trash built character, but the jury is still out on that one)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going on record as saying the Endurathon is the next great sport or that it belongs in the next Olympics.  Far from it.  But after initially laughing at the stupidity and pointlessness of such an event, I’m now able to see that the Endurathon is actually isolating that raw endurance at its core and removing everything else extraneous.   You don’t have to smash bricks on your head or brave cold water to see what your physical and mental limits are.  You don’t have to play in the NFL or be a pro athlete.  You just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward against all desire to stop.

For those who are still reading and wondering – nobody even won the Endurathon in the end.   Once they broke the world record the last three decided to end it together and split the money.   But, they are now qualified to walk in the World Championship Endurathon in, where else, Las Vegas on December 3rd.   The grand prize?   $100,000.    Something tells me there might be a new world record set in December.

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