A few weeks ago, I ran a 50k race. That’s roughly 31 miles. I don’t think of myself as a crazy person, but the look on some people’s faces when I tell them about it says otherwise. What I wish I could convey to them, though, is the amazing feeling I get from long distance running. I remember running a few miles to stay or get in shape during college or in the few years afterwards. It was something I did for the outcome. Calories burned, maybe a little rush of endorphins. Inevitably, I would get sick with a cold because of the freezing winter air, and then I’d give up running again.
Then, a few years ago, my friend at work asked me to run a leg in a marathon relay. “Yeesh. Ok, well I can sign on for one of the shorter legs. I could definitely work up to running four miles.”
Over the course of the week, I got bumped up to a six mile leg. “If that’s what I have to do for the team.”
A week later, my friend told me we would just sign up for the ten mile race. That way we wouldn’t have to rely on the team members all showing up for the race. “I can try, but that’s farther than I’ve ever run before. I don’t know if I can do it.”
But I did, and I felt like I had enough energy for a few more miles. It was an amazing feeling. I ran through Denver, being cheered on by the masses, running through Mile High Stadium, and generally feeling badass. All of which spurred me to run my first half marathon (with lots of help from my uncle, who ran with me for several miles), and eventually my first marathon. The marathon was quite an experience. People voiced their amazement when I talked about my training, but I was training with my friend, which made it seem much more manageable. A lot of people have running a marathon on their bucket lists these days, so it seemed relatively understandable to friends and family.
As soon as I could, I signed up for another half marathon, a year from my marathon in the same race series. And I had the feeling that I could do even better if I ran another marathon. But along the way to signing up for another I had a niggling thought: “I could run a 50k. It’s only five more miles.” The road to a 50k, at least in my case, was a relatively slow progression. Ten miles is crazy! Oh, I did it. A half marathon feels so far! Well, too bad, you already signed up for a marathon, so you better be able to manage it. Before I knew it, I was the crazy person who was excited for a 50k. A 50k run on a loop course, where each loop was 1.3 miles long. Meaning I would run 24 laps. Life is strange.
To talk about my whole experience of my first 50k might be boring. But I will. (Ok, only highlights.) It was a Saturday of wet snow, in Brighton, Colorado, at a park. I was nervous about the weather and the distance, but also ready to see where my training would get me. The first two hours were great, other than losing my phone by the end of the second loop, and regaining it at the aid station later. Because of the snow and resulting puddles on the course, I was soaked within the first few laps. Luckily, though, I wasn’t too hot or cold. My goal was to try to keep going, and spend as little time as possible under cover at the aid station. Better to avoid any temptation to quit or take my time, and instead relax at the end.
The third hour started to feel more difficult. For me, the midpoint of any race is a mental struggle. The first third of the race, I can tell myself, “Cool! Five laps down, and feeling strong. Just 19 more!” But then I get to the middle third, and start getting tired. It’s much harder then to say that to myself, because my reaction is, “Oh my god, I don’t know why I’m doing this anymore. What is my life? This is taking forever.” So this race I had a plan to listen to “Anna Faris Is Unqualified,” a podcast, when things got tough. I got to spend the 45 minutes before my phone died laughing at Sim, Anna, and their guest, not thinking about each step of the race so seriously.
That kept me feeling positive just long enough for my amazing friends to show up with signs and loud cheering. They helped me at the aid station with changing my soaking socks, lent me wool gloves, and remained upbeat in the face of my exhaustion. I felt, and still feel, so grateful for their support and presence.
The last two hours were probably the hardest, with a little more walking. I didn’t walk as much as I expected to, and I tried to always run by my friends. It helped to take advantage of that positive energy. And of course, I finished strong. I ran as hard as I could for the last quarter lap, so I would know that I put everything into that race that I possibly could. And then I ate chili and hot chocolate with my friends. Even though it might seem strange, I loved running that race and seeing that I had it in me. For those of you who are crazy too, I would highly recommend the Runs with Scissors race.
I celebrated, and came home to flowers from a very nice man. A month later, I’m ready for a half marathon. It will be slow, but fun. Gradually over the last several months I have finally started to think of myself as a runner. It’s almost time to find the next adventure.