Ultra Running and Animation

When I was in middle school my favorite saying was ‘I only run when chased’–I tried this excuse for my pitiful mile time in PE as well as that time I joined track because running was the lesser evil to waiting after school for my sister who ‘thought track might be fun.’  I am probably the last person you’d ever expect to want to read a blog about ultra-running.  And I admit that when I first came upon them in a long search to find blogs about doin’ healthy stuff (my desk-life is killing me!) I thought it was completely and utterly INSANE–now, even though you’ll never see me in one, I think I understand their appeal and why I’m oddly drawn to reading about them from the comfort of my desk-life–its not killing me enough to make me want to run an ultra, thanks.

One of my late night work  spaces
One of my late night work spaces

An ultra marathon is anything upwards of 100km in a single race–its marathons that often span more than one full day with these crazy runners running long into the night with headlamps fueled by bananas and coffee and this stuff called GOO which no one really knows what it is but athletes pretend its food.  Sound crazy? Yup that’s pretty crazy–but then I’m sure if I explained my life to an ultra runner they’d think I was nuts too.  I spend my evenings and weekends after a full day of work drawing hundreds of drawings of the same character, redrawing them, showing them to people so they can tell me everything that’s wrong with my hundreds of drawings and hours of work and then redrawing it all, and then redrawing it all at least a few more times before REDRAWING IT again but this time for PERFECTION in the evil process which is clean up animation where art has right and wrong answers and most of the time I’m doing it wrong.  Then I start the whole process over again for another scene just to create 2 minutes of film–sound crazy? It probably is–but I love it, I could spend 12 hours in the lab and not even notice time has passed, I wish daily I could spend more days locked up in the animation lab for 12 hours just to complete my couple of minutes and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life.

What I'm currently redrawing & redrawing...and then redrawing some more!
What I’m currently redrawing & redrawing…and then redrawing some more!

So other than having ‘normal’ people think this is crazy how the heck is animation related to ULTRA RUNNING??  Well, its the coffee and bananas.  This is a whole post about bananas.You’re welcome.

Just kidding!

Both Ultra running and animation require a unique kind of mental stamina and will power to keep doing this crazy thing day in and day out (…or all night).  In ultra running, as UltraRunnerGirl’s blog beautifully explains is 90-100% mental–its not about being a terribly good or fast runner, its about staying in the game till the end, who can outlast the mental and physical exhaustion to accomplish a crazy near impossible feat.  Its about your brain telling your body to keep going even when all logic and common sense say otherwise–when you’re tired and you’re toes are purple and everything sucks because YOU’VE BEEN RUNNING FOR 24 HOURS STRAIGHT!  Animation (especially grad school) is equally about finding a way to work through your mental and physical exhaustion.  Its about finding the motivation within yourself after a full day of work to pull out your frames and tackle the problems, to face poor, painfully honest critiques and keep working.  Its about reaching the point of frustration where you’re ready to throw in the towel and question why you even wanted this degree/this life and sitting back down at your desk anyway to restart that scene for the millionth time.  Its accepting a lifetime of rejection in a competitive field where you’ll constantly be asked to find that mental strength to keep going anyway.

Often when I tell someone I’m studying animation who isn’t involved in the art field, they tell me a story about how they knew a child, friend, cousin, etc. who tried that but you have to be in the top or you’ll never get anywhere–thanks–how uplifting.  Realistically–yes–you must be good but that statement seems to imply that these people in the ‘top’ just woke up one morning and could animate like the pros, that the reason their child, friend, cousin, dog couldn’t make it in the animation industry was because they just didn’t have the skills–Damn those genetics! Whatcha gonna do–NOT TRUE.  These people in the top they had the mental perseverance to keep going in the face of rejection, long hours, and exhaustion–yes they had above average skill but that alone wont land you a job in the industry–or at least it wont keep you there.

And so that’s why I read blogs from ultra-runners–they get it, I think they’re kinda crazy, but they get it.  And in a world where most of my peers have settled into full time jobs and go to bed at 10pm–I need to read about SOMEONE that doesn’t tell me ‘I NEEEED 8 hours of sleep’ or ‘I’d go to school, but I can’t do those hours’–Weeks like this week when I’m crazy busy but starting to see progress–FINALLY–I’m tired–SOOO tired but I wouldn’t trade it, I love animation and illustration–I’ll sleep when I’m dead (actual advice from my actual art teacher at UCD).

2 thoughts on “Ultra Running and Animation

  1. Toward the end I said to myself “You can sleep when you graduate”

    But then I realized it’s never really over. What I’m doing now is practically on the same scale as my thesis, only I have five months instead of three years! There’s always another project! Dedicated people will work hard forever. At least you can sleep on the train, Amber. You’ll puncture that animation world!


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