51 year-old Todd Aydelotte is probably the world’s only ‘historical ultra runner’. He has come up with an interesting way to make his long runs in his city interesting by turning them into a history lesson.
You must be wondering why he would go for a run to trace important historical events in New York City?
For many years, Aydelotte dreamed of running in the canyons and over mountains, like all the great ultra runners do. As an endurance runner, he got inspired to run like Tommy Rivers Puzey, Scott Jurek, Rich Roll and other legends of endurance running.
But in New York, it is difficult to fit in those amazing tracks as he is surrounded by traffic, noise, crowded streets and crime.
From there, he started to think creatively to motivate himself to run longer.
Instead of using the beauty of the earth to distract my mind from the pain of running long miles, I use the history of New York. I study this history deeply, and then I run through it, mediating on the history as I run.
Aydelotte told RunSociety.
History and Running
Aydelotte did a solo, 22 mile ‘Edgar Allan Poe Run’ when he started his running two years ago. Running to every home and address Poe lived in during his years living in New York City.
Before running, Aydelotte studied Poe’s life and read huge amounts of Poe’s short stories, poems and literary criticism.
“It was that moment I realised I was going to run like this for the rest of my life – that I could run through history, and become part of it.” said Aydelotte.
Aydelotte found that he had a profound experience and slowly he fell into a deep, meditative state as he ran, and felt incredibly close to Edgar Allan Poe.
In New York, there are no mountains, canyons, rivers or sacred spaces to run through. But they do have an incredibly rich historical tradition.
The history of New York is deep and inspiring. “I studied history and then use it a tool for a ‘moving meditation’” said Aydelotte.
A New Way of Running
Aydelotte lived right next to Central Park, which is a beautiful park that has a 6.1 mile running loop around the perimeter.
Most of the time, it was crowded with bicycles and tourists. It is not easy to fall into a meditative state if Aydelotte run in Central Park, especially when he have to jump out of the way from speeding cyclists.
Aydelotte can fall into a transcendent state when he is running through New York’s history in long miles.
Running is not just a physical activity or a form of exercise. But rather, Aydelotte thinks that it is a physical tool to expand his mind and reach heightened states of consciousness.
Aydelotte also do recommend runners to run like the way he did, they might discover a whole new way to run, which is incredibly rewarding.
“By running like this, you will expand your mind and your love for running, and the city or place you live in, will swell exponentially.” said Aydelotte.
Aydelotte also find Asia is a great place to run in as there are some of the greatest cities and historical sites in the world with the incredibly rich history.
Aydelotte hopes runners can explore and soak themselves with history and design long runs to track that historical sites and become a part of it.
“Historical ultra running is incredibly inspiring to me. It’s a way to transform running into profound intellectual and spiritual fulfilment.” said Aydelotte.
Aydelotte often run in the middle of the night and go through some of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in New York City.
He is aware of places such as the South Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn when he is running. So, he makes sure to research and examine ‘crime heat maps’ before he takes off on these runs.
If he runs through a high crime area, he will stay on main roads, where there are sidewalks and lights. And, he usually speeds up to avoid any incidents.
Before the long historical run, Aydelotte will make a huge amount of research. He read books about the historical places and people he is running as.
Besides researching online, he also visits the New York Public Library and The New York Historical Society.
Aydelotte have a large collection of research books, and historical atlases on New York City. Of course, not to mention many films and documentaries about the city and its history as well.
Normally, Aydelotte documents and tracks all of his historical ultra running on his Instagram, @toddaydelotte. He had many long, historical ultra runs that were very special to him such as:
- The Run of Sam, a solo, 65 miles run where he visited all eight of David Berkowitz’s crime scenes in a single night, a route he dedicated to the victims of the historic 1976 – 1979 crime spree.
- The Warriors UltraRun, a 28 miles recreation of the gang’s escape route from the iconic 1979 cult film about gang life in New York City. For this run, Aydelotte was joined by 30 other runners.
- The Teddy Roosevelt, a solo, 49 miles run tracing the history of Teddy Roosevelt in New York City and Long Island.
- The Nikola Tesla, a solo, 74 miles run where Aydelotte tracked the history of Nikola Tesla in New York and long Island.
Aydelotte advised runners to run to historical sites and not just to take pictures.
“Don’t just be a tourist. If you want to have a deep, meditative, historical run, then you have to do the homework. Immerse yourself in the history. Go as deep as you can possibly go read, study and reflect before you put on your running shoes. Then, release the history as you run.” Aydelotte said.
Once you have researched your historical sites. Aydelotte suggested that you should focus your mind on the history when you run in, long distances, and the road passes underneath you, you will find yourself going deeper into your consciousness, deeper into the run, deeper into history.
“Running is a journey, and it’s not nearly as physical as you think. It’s not about exercise. It’s a physical discipline that can peel away layers of the soul, heightening consciousness.” said Aydelotte.
Ultra runner, Todd Aydelotte shown us how historical running has changed his running journey. If you had the opportunity to run with him, which historical places would you want to explore with him?