Marine Ultrarunners: The MURCA Opus, Part I

There is a deep and sacred connection between Marines and ultrarunning. Some have found it and know it beyond doubt. Others are unaware, but need to know about it. Discovering the connection can improve your life, and in some cases can save your life. Using lessons and mindsets from the Marines can make you a better runner, and becoming a better runner makes you a better human being. Let’s go deeper and explore this connection.

What is it about being a Marine that never leaves you? Whether you do one tour, several tours, twenty years, or more, earning the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor changes you irreversibly, into a warfighter with a warrior spirit. Honor, courage, and commitment become more than just words, they become unbreakable principles to live by, forever. Marines understand something about sacrifice that most people cannot fathom, nor do they need to. Marines are “an elite force of fighting men, renowned for their physical endurance, for their high level of obedience, and for the fierce pride they take, as individuals, in the capacity for self-discipline”, says Clare Booth Luce commenting on General V. H. Krulak’s book First to Fight. As Marines, we possess a sense of discipline unparalleled by anyone in the world; “strong enough to override creature comforts, personal wants, and lapses in fortitude” (Colonel B. P. McCoy).

Marines are physically and mentally tough, trained to endure the rigors and demands of combat. Ultrarunning provides a way to sharpen the steel and maintain this toughness, for life. It’s a no-brainer that running is good for you and results in a high level of physical fitness. With running as part of your daily routine, you become faster and stronger, with powerful legs, lungs, and heart. Running clears the mind, improves focus, memory, and mood, in addition to other proven psychological benefits. It also promotes stress relief and stress resistance, as it alters concentrations of chemical neurotransmitters such as endorphins that help dampen stress response in the brain.

Ultrarunning provides the challenge  Marines seek, physically and mentally. Running one hundred miles is not something that anyone can do, it takes an incredibly high level of will, determination, and fortitude. There is a strong sense of camaraderie in the ultrarunning community. Being a relatively small sport, in terms of popularity, ultrarunners share a common bond, having experienced the same pain and suffering inside the pain cave.

There is an air of esprit de corps in ultrarunning that is familiar to Marines. If the social aspect of ultrarunning doesn’t appeal, then hours of silence and solitude will, leave work and drama behind as you escape to the trails, return fresh and ready to reattack whatever problem comes your way.

Commiting to the sport of ultrarunning, as a lifestyle can lead to a lifelong passion well into the elderly years. It is not uncommon to see runners in their 60’s and 70’s finishing 100 mile races. Marines inspire and lead, this same influence can be experienced in ultrarunning, as there are many newcomers and novices eager to learn about how to become mentally and physically tough enough to crush an ultramarathon.

Finally, ultrarunning brings adventure. In training and racing, due to the vast distance covered, often through remote forest and mountain trails, there will be opportunities to improvise, adapt, and overcome. If challenge and adventure sound appealing, then ultrarunning is the sport for you.

Ultrarunning offers most everything that attracted you to the Marine Corps in the first place: challenge, camaraderie, adventure, travel, sacrifice, honor, courage, and commitment. It provides a way of renewing the flame of desire that tends to burn out over time, as the rote and monotony of daily life drones on. As Marines, we live by several axioms: “improvise, adapt, and overcome”, “semper fidelis”, “honor, courage, commitment”, these are more than just words, they are principles we live by. The strong unity of purpose, esprit de corps, cohesion, and fraternal bond of Marines is unbreakable, and so is the resolve and spirit of Marines on a mission.

The Marine Ultra Runners Club of America (MURCA) is an exclusive group of Marine ultrarunners who understand everything presented in this article, and together, they are stronger and capable of more than they can imagine. To join or learn more, contact MURCA at [email protected].