For some reason I drifted away from this blog. Perhaps I was too busy. Perhaps I was bored with my writing. I know I questioned if anyone really wanted/needed to read yet another running blog. But in looking back at many of my posts, I have realized that the real audience for my posts is me. In reading previous posts I have been reminded of things long forgotten, of lessons learned and lessons yet to be learned. Perhaps one day my kids will enjoy reading this too, an opportunity to see their mother not as a mom but as a person striving to accomplish new things and challenging herself to experience life to its fullest.
So, for anyone else who chooses to read, welcome to my blog, Part 2!
When I started running almost 6 years ago I am not sure I had even heard of the term “ultra marathon”. I’m not sure when the phrase did develop meaning for me but I can guarantee I was not even considering the possibility of running past a marathon distance. Quite frankly, when I did my first marathon I quickly noted that it really wasn’t my distance. I was glad I had crossed it off the bucket list, but I did not see a future of training for and running long distances.
Yet somehow after running a several marathons (I guess I felt the need to cross it off the bucket list multiple times) the idea of a 50k started interrupting my running thoughts. My plan for 2016 was to try one 50k and be able to say I had done an ultra – a baby ultra perhaps, but an ultra still.
I can now say that in the last 10 months I have completed not one 50k but four. To be more accurate I have done two 50k’s and two 52k’s. (I have also learned that trail runs don’t necessarily match the distance of the race description). With each race I have fallen more and more in love with the distance. Surprisingly I would choose a 50k over a marathon now. And for the record I have now done six marathons, with a seventh coming up this spring.
So what is different about the 50k experience? Why would this middle-aged woman (I don’t actually know what the definition of middle-aged is these days but I am now 48) decide to focus on distance running?
My quick answer is always that distance running is an excuse to run slowly. I no longer seem to crave speed PB’s, even though I have some respectable times at all road race distances.
A second answer I often throw out is that it’s worth distance running for the aid stations. M&Ms, chips, coke, fruit, cookies and sandwiches (Nutella? Yes please!) are often found when doing an ultra. Realistically though there are easier ways to treat myself with junk food.
After four ultras I have identified why I enjoy them so completely. It is because time disappears. I recognize this sounds strange, after all any race – road or trail, short or long – is timed. Isn’t that the whole point of racing? You race another runner, you race against yourself, you try to get a PB. This is what you do in a race, right? If I run a shorter race I feel a bit of a slave to the watch. My eyes repeatedly shift to my Garmin. What km am I at? What is my pace? Why is my watch not matching the race km markers and does that mean I am going too quickly or too slowly? And yet on my last 50k I never looked at my watch until 20k. In fact I was confused for a moment as to what the “20” on my watch meant because I was positive I had not gone that far. The next time I looked at my watch was at 37k. Given my slow pace, that was a long time between watch glances.
When running on the trails for an ultra marathon, time actually stands still for me. Strange I know, and I can’t guarantee that feeling for anyone else, particularly someone who is going for a specific time. So far though I have only set very vague goals, goals that generally start with “somewhere between this hour and this hour”. I run choosing to let the terrain tell me what to do. Since each of my four courses have been very different, I simply can’t predict what will happen and therefore I choose to let go of control. I can control my training runs, but on race day I simply put one foot in front of another. Simply put, I live in the moment. What a rare gift in this busy life. My mind slows and I feel at peace. Sometimes I chat with other runners and I enjoy listening to their experiences. Sometimes I listen to music that moves me. Sometimes I focus on the quiet, feeling a little small in my surroundings. And somehow through all that, time stands still.
All of this means that this middle-aged woman who started running in her forties is now on an ultra quest. I want to run past 52k. I want to try different terrain. I want to be braver on technical single track. I want to live in the moment and be present. I want to be thankful for being able to run, hike, hobble or crawl over a distance most people would only drive. This is part of who I am right now. This will be my journey.