The Price of Sacrifice – Are Mike Wolfe and Dakota Jones making the right choices ?

We all make sacrifices in life – and being an ultrarunner regardless of ability requires it in big doses. Whether it is spending time with loved ones and friends or late nights or favourite food and drink or even sleep , we all have to invest a certain number of hours per week diligently training in order to confidently toe the line for the race of our lives. Now most of us mere mortals manage to juggle an ever increasingly busy world with competing priorities. Our very own members of Ultra168 have all had major changes in our lives these past few months which has led to a number of sacrifices including even our racing sometimes taking the backburner.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that at the pointy end of the field the more talented runers we come to admire all have to make similar sacrifices. In fact as the sport grows in a number of new directions, with new races, new formats and an ever increasing depth of talent fronting up all over the world the sacrifices being made are even more life changing. And when you consider the sport is not exactly turning out millionaires when it comes to race winnings and major sponsorship deals, these sacrifices can seem even more confronting.

Two athletes who have recently deliberated over a number of potentially life changing options in order to pursue their passion are Americans Mike Wolfe and Dakota Jones. Both have made career choices which only time will tell whether they will be successful. I had the chance to spend a decent amount of time with both of them during the recent International Skyrunning Federations conference on the island of La Palma and also witnessed Dakota take it up to the Europeans during his great win of the Transvulcania Ultra.

In the interview below we were able to explore in more detail what goes into their training, the gamesmanship amongst the elite runners, how they cope with the pain and mental toughness required to race at the front of the field and specific to these two athletes their recent decisions where Mike chose to give up a career in law and Dakota quit studying at college. What amazes me and humbles me about these two is their willingness to back themselves regardless of what the future might hold. I admire characters who in the words of Dakota’s Blog,  “Living The Dream” is something they are pursuing but at what sacrifice ?

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9 thoughts on “The Price of Sacrifice – Are Mike Wolfe and Dakota Jones making the right choices ?

  1. Interesting piece, Marcus. I have been wondering about that recently myself given the increasing number of folks giving up their “normal” salaried jobs to go and run fulltime, e.g. Canada’s Adam Campbell as well. Big step in any case, especially for someone like Mike who’s presumably worked in a lucrative law profession for a number of years before. Not that I have any slice of their talent whatsoever, but after considering such a move only briefly I came to the conclusion that there is no way I could give up my day job to pursue what essentially is a hobby. And it is an expensive hobby if you want to race internationally. It takes some guts and courage to make that step, so I take my hat off to them and with they find the rewards they are looking for.

    1. Thanks Andre, yep there are a few guys and girls giving it a go. There is no play book on how to make it work but these two have talent in spades

  2. Nice interview on a subject that will be gaining more currency as sponsorships and corporate backing become more prominent in ultra running. The age of innocence in ultras appears to be coming to an end as pressures on the front of the pack runners expand beyond the race to include relationships with sponsors, etc. Ultimately, there’s no free lunch….

    1. Or the water 😉
      Great article Adam and I know my Ultra168 colleagues have all asked this question recently as we all have professions at varying levels of maturity. I like your approach – still keep your hand in, contribute with quality rather than quantity of hours worked and still enjoy life with dollars coming in the door. There is a huge mindset piece at play here – to give up a career is hard or at least put it on hold – whereas with Law or Medicine it is giving up a “calling” which adds to the complexity of emotions that all of these athletes will have gone through at some stage before pressing the pause button. We talked at length about this at the ISF conference and it will be a debate that will rage for some time.

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