Monday, January 30, 2012

Melissa Budd: ultrarunner, mother, teacher

Ultrarunning seemed to be an alternative universe where none of planet Earth’s rules applied: women were stronger than men; old men were stronger than youngsters; Stone Age guys in sandals were stronger than everybody
Christopher McDougall, Born to Run, p. 79

Melissa Budd is an extraordinary ultra-runner, one of the finest in Winnipeg in my opinion.  She ran every day, minimum of 6 miles, for 6 months to rebuild her spirit after a Sinister Seven DNF, she runs because she can, because she doesn't want to stop, at her first-ever 16 mile long run she broke down and cried at that achievement and still, after many marathons and ultra-marathons feels the emotions tug at this mile marker, she never asks "will I run today" rather, she asks "when shall I run today".  Melissa is a mother and teacher, but we're not here to read about that stuff!  Nope, we're here to get into her running mind.  What follows is the first of a three part series about Melissa.  I had originally thought  I would edit all of our email exchanges down to a single story, but I realized that to edit Melissa's words would be to remove her charm, her vernacular, her honesty. I hope you enjoy this story.

January 14, 2012
Hi Melissa,
You need to know that I consider you one of the finest female runners in the city, no lie, no exaggeration.  You may not be the fastest runner but I know of no one else that has your running-pluck (male or female).  Could I write about you in SMR?  Is this something you would ever consider?   Let me know.  

It’s a good day to be alive.  

January 16, 2012
Wow Mike.... you flatter me.  I love reading your blog and if you would like to write about me that would be...well...flattering.  You are right in that I don't think that I'm aware of my successes - I am probably a horrible example of how to run properly… I don't eat right, I don't taper, I run through injuries, I drink coke before, during and after a run, I avoid physiotherapy, I've mastered throwing up while running.... However, I think the thing that I have going for me is that I just love to do it.  Even though I may feel crappy during a run, I look at other people driving in their cars, or sitting in a coffee shop and I think, "If I were in their shoes, I would wish I was me".  

Thanks for your note.   : )

January 16
Hi Melissa,  
This is great news!  Your story is pretty amazing and I always brag about you to anyone who will listen.  I've always admired you for your spitting -I love a gal that can spit while running- but vomiting on the run?  Wow, that's amazing!  I want to talk more about this.

So how can we do this?  Can I just ask you some questions and you write a response in your own words?  You have a pretty interesting writing style.  I suggest I ask one question at a time so you don't feel bogged down.  We can take as long as we need.  That's the good thing about having your own blog… no deadlines!  I will only publish after you've given me the final go ahead so don't hold back on the vernaculars.  

So, if you're agreeable to this, here's your first question…

Why do you run?

January 17
Hey Mike,

Wow.... you start off with a hard question.  Why do I run?
There is absolutely no reason. I like the scene in Forrest Gump when reporters ask him, "why are you running?  Are you running for world peace? Are you running for women's rights? Are you running for the environment?"  His reply was, "I just felt like running." People couldn't analyze why he was running so far for so long.  Why on earth would someone do that?  I think people have a need to rationalize .  There must be some reason why Sarah is a workaholic...why Hal is climbing  Mt Everest....they are trying to escape life, get over their past.

Sometimes there is a reason.  But I least sometimes...there is no good reason we do the things we do.  If you've ever observed kids, especially little kids, you'll see they break into a run for no particular reason...they just felt like running.  If you asked them why - they couldn't tell you.  I think there is something inside me that just wants to run.  I realize I haven't answered your question

I run because I can
I run because I don't want to stop

January 17
Hi Melissa,
Your answer is beautiful and simple and elegant.  I love the way you have connected your running spirit to that of children, I can identify.  My happiest moment as a teacher was running with my students, Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 7:45 AM.  I would enter the school thinking it's way too cold, too wet, too windy, there will be no students today, and then, rounding the corner I would see 20, 30, 40 students waiting for me. Waiting for ME, their coach.  It was humbling and touching, and profound.  I mentored two grade 8 students through their first half marathon.  Sometimes I consider this to be my crowning achievement as a teacher.

You say, "I run because I can and I run because I don't want to stop".  I love the simplicity of this statement, and the honesty it represents, and the minimalism.  Sometimes I think I run because I'm afraid to stop.  Does that make sense or are you too young to connect with that sentiment?  You have answered the question, Melissa, beautifully and with such honesty.  

Here’s your second question…

What’s your bio?

January 18
Hey Mike,
When you say you are afraid to stop - does that mean you are afraid of how things would be if it were taken away from you (an injury out of your control)?  Or you are afraid that if you stop voluntarily, you'll lose touch with how you view the world (from a running Mike perspective as opposed to a non-running Mike view).

I think I can relate somewhat from a teaching perspective.  I taught in Thompson for 10 years.  When we moved to Stonewall - all of a sudden I wasn't a teacher anymore (did not have a job).  Students didn't know me, young people wouldn't come up and say hi to me....  I wasn't "Ms. Budd - the teacher".  I was just another person.  It was like I had lost my identity somehow.  It was scary.  I didn't feel like me anymore.  

Running is part of your identity - just like father.... husband.  It would be scary to lose that part of you (for any reason - choice or no choice).  

I'll send my bio soon - Gotta run (but not literally...I will do that later!)


January 18
Hi Melissa, 
Yes to all above… running provides me with an identity that I truly have come to love.  A 'running Mike' perspective is a good way to phrase it, for sure. I can't imagine life without running.  A non-running Mike perspective would be pretty boring I'm afraid.  Sometimes when I run I become hyper elated and my brain is flooded with happiness.  It's pretty amazing actually.  My thinking becomes crystal clear.  So yes, identity, happiness,  and friendship is all part of the experience.  When I say I run because I'm afraid to stop it is because I fear the aging process.  I ask myself, can I still do this in 5 years, 10 years?  I don't know.  I'm afraid that if I stop I might lose the motivation to keep pounding away.  David says he's always just one marathon away from quitting.  I don't know if he's serious or just talking.  I fear not running and all that it would bring.  

Now, back to that bio of yours...

Mike be continued...