The RunRunLive 3.0 Podcast Episode 3-269 – Chrsta’s Running Thesis 

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Link epi3269.mp3

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<Introductory Comments:

Hello my friends!  and welcome! to episode 3-269 of the RunRunLive podcast.  We have a wonderfully intriguing chat today with Christa.  She’s a runner who used long distance running as her thesis topic…but of course, like any good exploration, she went native and ended up an ultrarunner.  Such is the risk of scientific exploration.  (be sure to warn your kids). 

Section one, in a daring departure from the mien… well not really, Actually it’s more of the same self-improvement schlock that you’re used to from me – Anyhow – I talk about releasing your inner art and letting creative acts free.  I wrote this piece because I had several indicators pushing me in that topical direction.  Does that happen to you?  You start hearing the same theme in everything?  Like a message from the fates?  

I hope it helps in some small way.  In our culture we sometimes treat the arts as taboo. That’s too narrow a definition.  We business-people and technologists see art as some soft, squishy, throw-away stuff that real people don’t’ embark on.  But I think the creative act is essential to a complete and fulfilled person.  Art is in the eye of the beholder.  It’s ok to create and you can deal with the haters to get that creativeness out. 

I’ll tell you a story.  I once was playing a computer game called Civilization.  In this game you build a city and the way you win is that settlers come to your city – when you get to a certain population you win.  I started by being very rigorous and building only those functional things, those balance sheet things, that build a city; fields, granaries, civic building and such.  And my cities would grow to a point and then be sacked and burned with the populace fleeing.  

Then I figured it out, because, let’s face it, it’s a computer game so eventually you can suss out the algorithm.  I started building more baths, and theatres and entertainment facilities and my city flourished.  I became a successful city planner and a patron of the arts.  Whomever the programmers were, probably jaded and unemployed music majors, they sent a message, and perhaps a universal truth. 

In section two I’m going to give you the first part of a multi-part series on my plantar Fasciitis journey. 

I am racing the Pocatello Marathon this weekend. I hope to qualify.  I have had an excellent cycle of training.  But, I have also been doing this long enough to realize that anything can happen in a marathon.   

Therefore, I bit the bullet and signed up for the Boston Marathon.  Yeah, I’m a big pussy.  I decided that I’m needlessly putting pressure on these races.  I want these races to be a celebration of running not a white knuckle ride.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to dash myself physically against the rocks of this race until my body bleeds in search of victory.  I just got a monkey out of my mind. 

I’ve been cutting down my miles into a nice 2 week taper.  I did a 12.5 mile long run two weeks ago and ended up just about on race pace without working too hard.  I was running down the road and there was a book in the middle of the road.  I stopped and it was “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, which is a famous book that I have never read because I have never actually been a moody adolescent girl.  I picked it up on the way back and brought it home.  

If I got hit by a car that would make an interesting police report in the local paper when they found my wrecked corpse clutching ‘The Bell Jar’.  

When I got home I was out on my front porch stretching.  I have to go outside to stretch because sweat comes off me this time of year like the Trevi fountains.  I’m standing there, holding a hurdlers’ stretch and a tiny humming bird flies in and hovers a few inches in front of my face, just checking me out, before engaging the butterfly bushes.  It was surreal. 

This final long run I went out with my club and did a slow run up Mt. Watatic.  I think I’m ready. 

But, whether I’m ready or not, I’m racing this weekend. 

On with the show. 

Section one:

The War of Art --

Featured Interview:

Christa Scott

My thesis began with the simple question, Can I Improve my life and experiences through long distance running on the trails?  While the science behind the physical benefits of long-distance running is established, research exploring the psychological benefits of immersion in nature and ultrarunning are in the beginning stages of development. Have ultrarunners tapped into a historical (and literature supporting) theory that long distance running in nature is an optimal medium for people to improve their emotional well-being?  This thesis will also begin the exploration of ultrarunners’ personality, and their differences across personality characteristics compared to short-distance runners.


 Running is a natural human physical activity and one of the main mechanisms associated with the evolution of hominids, who were able to track and follow their prey on foot for hundreds of miles (Bramble & Lieberman, 2004).  While long-distance running has ancient origins, most people now run primarily as a form of recreation (Millet, 2011).  According to the Outdoor Recreation Participation Report (2010), recreational running and racing has grown significantly over the last 12 years with over 43.89 million participants worldwide (Knez, Coombes, & Jenkins, 2006). While some runners jog on roads, streets, and on a treadmill at the gym, others prefer running in nature (i.e., trail running).  There is a growing body of research examining the positive effect of nature on overall well-being and mental health (Howell, Dopko, Passmore, & Buro, 2011; Reese, Greensboro, & Myers, 2012).  Few studies have examined the extent to which nature and distance impact runners’ well-being.

 Ultramarathons push the human body to its limits and beyond.  It is possible that through the process of training for and running an ultramarathon, a person improves their well-being on a number of levels.  Six-time Ironman endurance champion Mark Allen describes the impact of a hard race: “Racing is pain, and that’s why you do it, to challenge yourself and the limits of your physical and mental barriers. You don’t experience that in an armchair watching television” (Katovsky, 2011).  Overcoming the obstacle of a distance or race provides many runners with a sense of achievement and purpose (Boudreau & Giorgi, 2010).  Completing an ultramarathon, for many, is considered a mastery of the body and the mind. Perhaps ultrarunners have discovered—and began to utilize—the immense benefits of running and being in nature as a means of improving their well-being rather than just setting a goal for a race or wanting to challenge themselves with a new distance. Veteran ultrarunner Dean Karnazes, in his bookUltramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner (2006), describe the role that ultrarunning has in his life: “Some seek the comfort of their therapist's office, other head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy” (p.86).Research is only in the beginning stages of exploration in the topic of ultrarunning and well-being.  The present study will examine the extent to which ultrarunning has a positive effect on well-being.

Long-distance running lies deeply rooted in our history.  In Why We Run (2002), author Bernd Heinrich writes, “A race is like a chase. Finishing a marathon, setting a record, making a scientific discovery, creating a great work of art-- all, I believe, are substitute chases we submit to that require, and exhibit, the psychological tools of an endurance predator, both to do and evaluate. When fifty thousand people line up to race a marathon, or two dozen high schoolers toe the line for a cross-country race, they are enacting a symbolic communal hunt, to be first at the kill, or at least take part in it” (p. 186).

 Because running is a natural part of our evolutionary history, one could argue that ultramarathons are essentially the return to our instinctive nature to run.  Re-discovering the immense benefits of the combination of running long distances and being outdoors may help encourage others to do so as well.  Running into the wilderness for a few hours is a way to encourage flow, and hopefully, with future research, be an established means for improving one’s well-being above and beyond personality characteristics.

While we are running, we are re-tracing our ancestor’s footsteps. For millions of years, our bodies have been lean and healthy through running and physical labor.  Growing trends in disconnection from nature and a lack of physical activity is alarming, but the solution is, and has always been, readily available to us.  Being surrounded by nature and long-distance running have both been shown to positively impact well-being regardless of age, gender, race or socio-economic status. Well-being and physical health is, and should always be, mankind’s greatest goal. In a day in age where countless products and health regimens are designed to enhance our physical and mental well-being, a simple solution is this: Get out into nature, move across the land with your own two feet for as long as you can, and you will undoubtedly return home happier and healthier.

Section two:

Recovering from Plantar Fasciitis Part One -


Well, my friends, I sit here Thursday night the 29th of August.  I didn’t run today.  I’ve got the Pocatello marathon two days from now on Saturday.  I don’t know what to expect.  In many previous races I’ve expected the marathon miracle.  That’s the wonderful thing where you show up for the race and the adrenaline of the event drives you to unexpected achievements.  

I feel like I had a very good training cycle.  I think I tapered well.  I’m not rail thin but I’m not over heavy. I’m healthy. Nothing really hurts. There is the omnipresent ache of the evil Plantar Fasciitis but nothing else hurts. I’m surprised because I ran the volume up over 50 miles a week with solid intensity during the peak week of this cycle.  I figured for sure I’d tweak something. 

One good thing is that Buddy got some extra runs in with me as I cycled my volume and intensity down into the taper weeks.  We spent the earlier part of this week down on Cape Cod exploring a new trail system I found near my house.  

Isn’t that funny?  I had been getting in my car and driving to trials to run and one of my neighbors told me about a giant trail system right at the end of our road.  

I decided to take the early entry to the Boston marathon and stop worrying about it.  I love running but all this pressure I’m putting on myself cant’ be healthy.  Work is busy and I’m traveling a lot.  Jet lag and over-tiredness can always bite you in a race, especially when you’re a couple time zones away from home.  I usually find that sorts itself out as soon as you start running, as long as you execute with some discipline and let the race come to you.  

I’ve been trying to meditate more and be present and aware instead of just charging about like a neurotic teenager all the time.  I’m a work in progress. 

Pretty country out here.  Reminds me of a cross between Utah and Colorado. 

Wish me luck. I’ll have another race report for you, one way or the other, in a couple weeks.  I sure would love to qualify and get this monkey off my back.  

Once more into the breach my friends.  Cannon to the left of me, cannon to the right, stormed at by shot and shell, into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell… once more into the breach my friends. 


Outro Bumper

Thanks for listening folks I appreciate your support.  RunRunLive is a free service for you because I like writing and telling stories.  

I also love to meet folks so feel free to reach out to me at Gmail or any of the other social networking sites.  I’m CYKTRussell.  And as you know that’s Chris-Yellow-King-Tom-Russell with two Esses and two Ell’s. 

My Website is and most if not all of this content is posted out there.   If you want the show notes to magically show up in your inbox when I publish a show in a beautiful HTML wrapper you can subscribe to the mailing list at my site.  It’s a useful thing if you are moved by something I say and would like to see if what I wrote is the same thing! It also has all the links to everything and everyone I talk to and about. 

Other than that, thank you for your attention, do epic stuff and let me know if I can help. 


Happy Song – Super Hero -

 Links for this show


Other products from Chris Russell you may be interested in

The Mid-Packer’s Lament


On Amazon


On Kindle


On Audio (Read by the author)


The Mid-Packer’s Guide to the Galaxy


On Kindle


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Dial in number for RunRunLive is – 206-339-7804 (to leave an audio message for the show)



Chris Russell lives and trains in suburban Massachusetts with his family and Border collie Buddy.  Chris is the author of “The Mid-Packer’s Lament”, and “The Mid-Packer’s Guide to the Galaxy”, short stories on running, racing, and the human comedy of the mid-pack.  Chris writes the Runnerati Blog at  Chris’ Podcast, RunRunLive is available on iTunes and at Chris also writes for ( and is a member of the Squannacook River Runners and the Goon Squad. 


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Direct download: epi3269.mp3
Category:Running -- posted at: 1:23pm EDT





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