It was 7:00 in the morning as I toed the start line in the state park with about 100 other runners by my side. The sun had only just finished lighting up the sky on that cool Saturday, and we were prepared to start our race. Moments ago, a friend asked if I was ready, to which I answered with a quick laugh and a "no." I couldn't imagine that any of us were fully ready to start an Ultramarathon, and I didn't think I could ever wrap my head around a 50 kilometer (31.1 mile) run, even if I had just spent 5 months training for it.
But I've heard it said that we're never ready for the big challenges in our lives. We are only ready enough. The task ahead of me was daunting, but if I had been truly honest with myself, I was ready for an adventure. I had to wonder how I reached this point in my life.
I first discovered distance running in Junior High. I played tennis on the school team, and some of my favorite "off days" were the ones we spent running. Not sprints and suicides, just running. Sometimes our coach would point down the road to a driveway half a mile away, and we would head off for a mile. Other times, when weather kept us inside, we would run laps around the top of the basketball colosseum with the cross country team for most of an hour. I seemed to be the only one on the tennis team who enjoyed our running days.
I began using distance running to (literally) run off my pre-teen energy from time to time. I would put on my tennis clothes and take on a few laps around our neighborhood. My dad ran with me a few times, and this is when I learned that I didn't know how to slow down. I only had 1 speed when running, and while I could keep it up for about 2 miles, it usually kept my dad from enjoying even 1 half-mile lap.
He would tell me that he spent a semester on his high school track team and how slow his 6:15 mile was compared with the seasoned track athletes. I had never run faster than an 8 minute mile. I started looking up to distance runners, knowing that they had accomplished more than I had, and that they had all worked hard to get there.
By college, I was out of shape and hadn't run in years. Once or twice I ran a few 200 meter laps at our University's rec center, but that's it. I finished out my college years 40+ pounds overweight with no drive to exercise. I joined a gym after a while, and at times Katie and I kept up a routine of working out once or twice a week. A desire finally built up in me to get fit.
The next February, almost 5 years ago, a friend encouraged Katie and I to run a 5k. I could have accomplished this easily in my Junior High tennis days, but in 2009 this presented a challenge. I don't know whether I have more redneck in me than I realized or if it's just testosterone, but I can't pass up a good challenge.
This was February 1st, and the race was February 28th. Katie and I spent those 4 weeks running every other day, pushing back our first walk break farther and farther, until we were finally confident that we could (mostly) run for 3.1 miles.
The finish line was amazing! Even though I walked close to half of the race, I sprinted to the finish as hard as I could! I was greeted by cheers, congratulations, and even by a cold bottle of water. I was ecstatic when I finished that race, and by the next morning I knew that I wanted to make myself a runner just to experience that feeling again.
This is where my journey began. Years later, on November 9, 2013 at 7:00 in the morning, I started running my first Ultramarathon.
More to come,