In a world where gratification for almost everything can be obtained instantly, achieving satisfaction in running provides a welcome antidote. When football was my main form of exercise, I could run 5k but not particularly quickly and with no idea of how to improve. Aside from those people with a natural talent, getting better at anything takes time and effort. As Malcolm Gladwell refers to in his book 'Outliers', there is a theory that if someone does something for 10,000 hours, they can become an expert at it. If you said that to someone before they set out on their life journey, I suspect that many wouldn't even try. And yet that's just the sort of practice that the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rory McIlroy have put in to get them to the top of their respective sports.
Today there are websites dedicated to 'hacking' your life i.e. taking shortcuts to make improvements. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for handy hints and tips that make life better (wearing swimming goggles to stop your eyes watering while chopping onions, for example) but when these 'hacks' are applied to things that can't be fixed instantaneously, I start to get annoyed. Diets is one of my biggest bugbears. I am massively suspicious of anything which promises quick results because what this usually means is that it's neither sustainable nor healthy. The sooner people realise that a balanced diet every day is the way to a healthier life, the better. Sadly, there's no money to be made from being sensible and so every few years a new "miracle diet" will "transform the way you eat forever" and millions of insecure, gullible people will be taken in by it.
The same applies to sporting equipment and in running, this often comes down to shoes. If shoes really gave the runner wearing them an extra x miles per hour, then we'd all be running at the same pace. The harsh reality is that is that to get faster or go further, we need to practice. We also need to fail a few times too. It may feel dreadful at the time but without failure you don't learn. I pretty much hated my first half marathon. It was painful and unsatisfactory but I learnt a lot. Similarly, my first marathon was agonising. By then though I'd already got the running bug and as soon as I finished wanted to try again so I could improve.
I put off running a marathon for years, thinking the months of training and sacrifice would bore me and put me off running. In fact, quite the opposite happened. I now can't imagine not training for a race. Of course, there's a fine line between being keen and being impatient. Perhaps you have an eye for medals (or t-shirts) and feel the need to enter every race going. Or perhaps you don't like training and much prefer racing all the time. That's absolutely fine but beware: you may not improve much, or you may end up getting injured.
There's been a huge increase in participation and events in the ultrarunning world in recent years. In the grand scheme of things, this is good but it also means that it's fairly easy to go into something you're not ready for. And there's a big difference between failing reaching a target time goal and failing to finish. I'm sure it's no coincidence that there's a high (and maybe increasing?) number of DNFs (did not finish) at ultra races, There are many reasons why someone might not finish an ultra, and yes, they're supposed to be hard, but the key is to do your due diligence, put in the hard graft and see where it gets you.
I'm on the verge of running my first 100-mile race. It's a scary prospect because I've never run that far before but I've done a few marathons, two races over 40 miles, two more over 50 and I know roughly what to expect. There are no shortcuts when it comes to running this sort of distance. And there is so much to learn simply being awake and active for that many hours that I'm still very much a novice. But having put in the hours of training fr this race and the years of running before that, I know I will come out the other side - especially if I finish - with the sort of satisfaction that you can't get from a 'hack'.
So whether you're thinking about running your first mile, the local 5k parkrun or an ultramarathon, think about some of the things you've done in your life that you've been really proud of. I'd be happy to bet that 99 times out of 100, those are things you'e worked hard for, rather than things you've 'hacked'.