I’m reading two books about ultrarunning. The first, Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich, is mostly about his run across America, in which he tries to average 70 miles per day. That’s more than two and a half marathons per day!
This is certainly a fascinating new world to me (because I’ll NEVER run across America).
I love to read about other people’s experiences with running, especially when they’re so different from my own.
Here are his Ten Commandments of Endurance, which any runner at any level can use:
- Expect a journey and a battle.
- Focus on the present and set intermediate goals.
- Don’t dwell on the negative.
- Transcend the physical.
- Accept your fate.
- Have confidence that you will succeed.
- Know that there will be an end.
- Suffering is okay.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Quitting is not an option.
The other book I’m reading, Running Through the Wall, compiled by Neal Jamison, is a gathering of various ultrarunners’ stories about ultras they have run. Here is a passage from the book that stood out to me:
In the process of completely exhausting myself, I connect with an inner part of me ordinarily veiled by the everyday distractions of life. During that short time spent on a trail in the mountains, my life is reduced to its simplest terms. Most ultrarunners are people who find goodness and joy in difficult times, who see beyond the misery to the beauty of nature, and who truly realize the elemental and important aspects of life.
Everyone has their reasons for becoming runners, and they may run long distances for completely different reasons. The reasons can change. I started running because I liked the challenge. I kept running because I fell in love with it. I continue to run long distances because of both the challenge and the love, but also because of the way it keeps everything so simple.
Move, breathe, sweat.
All I have to do is move my legs and keep going. Everything else is optional.
My hands shook as I stared at the “confirm” button on the computer. Was I really doing this? Was I crazy? I hesitated, then clicked the button.
I had just signed up for my first ultra. It was also my first trail race.
A double whammy of scariness.
Somehow I had managed to corral two of my closest running friends, Heather and Hari, into running it with me. Heather only wanted to run the 20K but I talked her into the 50K.
It’s only five miles longer than a marathon . . .
I haven’t run a marathon in over a year. I’ve hardly run on any trails.
My first trail run was down Sepulcher Mountain in Yellowstone at the end of a twelve mile hike. It was impromptu, and we ran because we were cold. It felt like flying.
My next trail run was in the Tetons with my daughter. Leaping over the rocks was like running an obstacle course. I told her, You could break some bones if you fell on these rocks. Tourists gaped at us as we ran past. I felt invincible.
I fell half a mile from the car. It happened so fast I didn’t have a chance to break my fall. I cracked three ribs.
My only other trail run was in Norbuck Park, part of the lake where I run. It has a killer hill where runners like to train. I had just run my last marathon, in Death Valley, and I felt strong and ready to try something new.
After that, I wasn’t willing to drive so far outside the city to run on trails. I told myself I would run trails when I moved to Oregon, or Wyoming, or Montana.
I was kidding myself. That day might never come. All I have is today.
People have told me for years that I would love trail running, that they’re more fun that marathons, more laid back. I know they’re right. My favorite places on earth are outdoors, in nature–forests, mountains, and deserts. Of course I would want to run there.
But I have to admit, running a 50K scares me.
It’s something I’ve never done before. Did I feel this way before I ran my first marathon?
It sounds hard. 31 miles.
Last night I dreamed of running in Palo Duro Canyon. It was beautiful, and the sky mirrored the rocks. I ran on a trail.
Gasp. I’m running an ultra.