Six Things You’re Doing That Elite Runners Aren’t

I saw an article the other day that talked about the six things elite athletes are doing that us mere mortals are not. It was an excellent piece with some great discussion that offered some sound advice as to how to better our running. I certainly learned a thing or two.

But it was on a run yesterday (practicing all those things that elites do that I don’t!), that I thought it would be a great idea to produce a satirical counter article that looked at all the things us mere mortals do that maybe elite runners don’t have to contend with. Note to self, this is SATIRE.

I’ll also add (before the Interwebz throws its toys out the pram), that I know the context of what’s being written about here is very different to the original article, which focused more so on some of the training that elites do, rather than the life situations I allude to below. Regardless, I thought it would be a fun thing to write.

I also know quite a few elite athletes that will be nodding their head in agreement at some of the things us weekend warriors have to contend with as we go through our everyday ‘normal’ lives as they do exactly the same thing. US elite runner, Tim Olson has a family that he balances with his running. Likewise, I know Marty Dent, our leading marathon runner for many a year juggles his training with having four kids and a full-time job, along with ultrarunner Andrew Tuckey, who balances his family, training and job with a bank.

So sit back in a chair, grab some popcorn and have a laugh at our ever-so-slightly-humourous take on what (some) elite runners DO NOT DO that us weekend warriors contend with daily.


1.) Dealing with multiple kids capable of starting WW3

You can tell the difference between those runners that do have kids and those that don’t. It’s called average number of races entered per year. Pre-2011, I’d regularly run between 6-10 ultras a year without a care in the world.

Kids however put a stop to all of that, and so far in 2015, I’m yet to run an ultra. But the reality is that racing and kids do not mix. We get paid each month and within a matter of days, our money has been allocated to the various elements of bringing them up. It feels as though we have constant direct debits with the doctors, the chemist, local supermarket and school who compete with each other to squeeze the life out of our salaries each month. Racing is not longer a financially viable option. We need to beg 🙂

2.) Sleeping on average less than 4 hours a night

This is a killer for the average Joe. Anyone with a new-born or toddlers going through teething or whatever God forsaken issue that’s going on, will know that sleep is the most precious asset an ultra runner can own. Kid-less people, little do you realise the absolute joy you’re getting right now with you eight plus hours sleep a night. Never ever take that for granted – feel my look of envy pierce your eyes!


You guys and girls with kids, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. A couple of weeks at 4-5 hours a night is just about sustainable. Move that into a few months and your body resembles that of a two-week booze bender on the Gold Coast. It’s devoid of energy and life – you may as well have sold your soul to the devil, that is how lifeless you have become.

Lack of sleep is a sadistic form of torture. I’m sure there have been many times when having just had your head hit the pillow, you hear the pitter patter of footsteps from those little rascals who suddenly believe that it’s time to play and gather a picnic for their dolls at 12:30am. Having finally settled them back down again at the princely hour of 6am, your alarm goes off 30 minutes later to remind you that you must go to work to ensure you can pay for this pleasure of sadism.

3.) Working 60-80 hour weeks

Don’t get me wrong. I know that the life of an elite ultra runner is not paved with gold and a free pass to life’s necessities. Most elite runners hold down regular jobs and combine their love of ultra running with the fact that they have to pay their bills too.

All workplaces should enforce a two hour siesta

But I also know mums and dads out there who combine families and 120km+ training weeks with a 60 hour working week as a lawyer or a doctor. I know mums and dads who’s only chance to actually train is to head out after they get home. They put the kids to bed, cook their loved one some dinner, wash up and then maybe get to head out of the door at 11pm for a cheeky hour or so. You guys and gals are rockstars – I salute you!

4.) Expertise in siphoning money 

For the most part, elite runners are extended the courtesy of free entries into races, some flights and maybe some accommodation. Again, it doesn’t pay the mortgage, but it certainly helps them to enjoy seeing new countries with a big slap on the back.

Those with families will fully understand just how hard it can be to subtly siphon off a few dollars here and there to pay for the ultra running addiction. As if suffering at the hands of some toddlers isn’t enough on a daily basis, we must pay for some additional suffering at the hands of a race director somewhere in the deepest darkest bushland. The average ultra runner loves sadistic pain!

54fe2a73e0524-kids-in-bed-with-parents-0610-md5.) The art of ‘zero’ recovery

The life of an elite ultra runner is pretty cool. You race, invariably win, then spend a few days gallivanting around on holiday posting pictures on Facespace of your feet relaxing by a pool.

Us ‘normal’ people have the pleasure of coming back from a race and being pulled immediately into building a lego-based house that could easily sell for $500,000 in Sydney given the floor space that it takes up. While you’re desperately trying to keep your eyelids open using some matchsticks you’ve found in the cupboard, our idea of a massage is a couple of toddlers who think that jumping on you from a chair at 1.5m high will help your aching muscles. So far, I’ve escaped with only two fractured ribs this year.

6.) Drinking before race day

My favourite tipple... makes me run like Killian - for real bro'
My favourite tipple… makes me run like Killian – for real bro’

While many average Joe’s have the above five points to contend with, the one joy we can afford ourselves the night before a race is a few cold ones. While the elite runner is safely tucked up in bed at 7pm after a quick protein shake, you’ll find me cooking a nice piece of filet steak, some chips and a #hipster craft beer of some sort, thinking how much better it will taste after my 100km tomorrow.

Elite Runner or Average Joe?

We may have zero sleep, a leaky wallet and a bruised and battered body, but I’ll take that any day of the week 🙂 Hope you enjoyed.

Like our articles? Take a second to support Ultra168 on Patreon from as little as $1 a month!
Dan on Twitter
I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

7 thoughts on “Six Things You’re Doing That Elite Runners Aren’t

  1. Very good Dan. Both Kel and I can back up the notion of how hard trying to run, work full time, raise a family and balance the books on all accounts can be. Also lets not even throw racing in there as it is it’s own beast! But I’m sure that like most others we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Leave a Reply