I have never thought of myself as a runner. I ran to get ready for soccer season. I ran as fast as I could up and down the basketball court. I did “fun-runs” with my softball team, jumping into random people’s pools as we ran. Going back even further….I ran as I child. Sometimes for safety as my brother chased me. Sometimes as fast as I could around the block (1/3 mile) as my brother clocked me and other neighborhood kids seeing who could do it the fastest. I ran the mile testing in elementary school, always one of the top females. Not just because I was an athlete, but because even in 6th grade I was a competitor. It was all I knew. I HAD to be the best.
I guess I have been running as long as I can remember. However, once I ended my collegiate basketball career I became a little lost. Now what? My whole life I stayed in shape for the competition. To not puke during preseason. For the last 5 minutes of the basketball game. Now what was I staying in shape for? I would still run to stay in shape, but I never enjoyed it. There was no end goal. I wasn’t fond of running, and it became pretty miserable for me. Then I signed up for my first 5K. My brother gave me a goal of under 24 minutes. I did it. Okay. This was better. Now I am running as competition and with goals. Training for a reason. Then came the half marathon, then the marathon. The big kahuna of races. This was supposed to be IT…However, I still didn’t LOVE it. As I raced I would place in my age group, and sometimes overall, but I still dreaded every training run. I never felt like a runner, more a washed up athlete who still had a little speed left in her.
Then I learned about trail races. I had always LOVED the woods, and have even done some trail running while prepping for an Adventure Race and even the marathon. This was a whole new ball game for me. I LIKED this. Running in the woods made me feel like an athlete. Twisting, turning, jumping through obstacles. I felt free. I felt a sense of, “this is where I belong”. I started to LOOK FORWARD to runs. I did what I never DREAMED of doing on the road…I ditched my headphones. I wanted to hear the sounds of nature, or better yet, the sound of SILENCE. I was alone in the woods, away from the cars, cell phones, people, and the craziness of life. My mind went to a meditative state and my thoughts became so clear.
I signed up for a couple of trail races (you can read about them: Summer Solstice 2013, Bimblers Bluff 10K, Summer Soltice 2012 ) and started to read blog after blog about them. Not only did I love trail running, but I begin to fall in love with the community of trail racing. They seemed to have a more laid back mentality and also a very “green” approach. I am learning that many enjoy a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and also share many other beliefs as me. I think I have found my post-collegiate-athlete-calling. So, I took the next step. I signed up for my first Ultra-Marathon. 32.5 miles in the wioods.
So, I sit here a day after completing my longest (hours) training run (or run in general) ever. My brother will be doing the race with me, and we ran 24 miles yesterday through Case Mountain and Gay City. Over 4 hours. I know I risk sounding very corny and cliché when I write these posts, but whatever..It is what it is. Yesterday was a journey for me. A journey of emotions, physical pains, mental roller coasters, doubts, joys, etc. I’ll Explain..
There will never be a better training partner for me than my brother. He is a ridiculously good runner, but more than that, a mentally strong runner. His text he sent me the night before the run sums it up, “you are way more prepared than me, but what I lack in physical I try to make up mentally” I have learned so much from him in this category, and I still have so much more to learn. As we ran that 24 miles I had so many thoughts.
- “Okay, I told him we need to start slow, why are we doing a 9 min mile?”
- “Just tell him to go ahead, don’t risk your training run just to stay with him. Run your run. Dial back and let him go.”
- “He is pushing you outside of your comfort zone. Stay with him. Maybe you are capable of this.”
- “Why haven’t you been training with him more. He is what will make you ELITE”
I survived the run with him. When we crossed over to Gay City to do our last 6 miles I started to feel good. I picked up the pace, and the Garmin was reading a sub 9 minute mile. He told ME to dial back because we will never make it up the last hill if we maintain this pace. This was when the back and forth of highs and lows began. I would bonk, he would get energy. I would just try to stay with him. Roles would reverse. Back and forth. Then we hit that last hill. The one we had both been thinking about the last 6 miles. I hit that hill and just thought, “keep moving”. At this point I was leading (a little strategic move by me. I mentally couldn’t deal with him racing ahead without quitting, but also knew I would keep moving if he was behind me) Well, we made it to the top without stopping. And I would like to think it was a decent pace. Once we hit the top Matt said two words, “great climb”. Those words meant the world to me, because his words have always meant the most to me.
Later that night he sent me a text that summed it all up, “…The only way I made it up that last hill was literally by not looking up, but just staying fixated on your feet and thinking ‘If they keep moving, I’ll keep moving’ Good partners push each other at different times. One doesn’t dominate the other.”
I had no idea how much I was pushing him up that hill, but he has no idea how much he pushed me most that run and through life. I was the athlete I was in High School and College because of him and my father, and I am hoping to be the runner I think I can be because of him. After yesterday’s run, 24 tough miles at a sub 10 min mile, I can’t help but think, “why not me?”. Why can’t I be elite? If I can dial in my nutrition and stomach issues I think I can be. I KNOW this. Just admitting that is a big step for me. After this 50K I will have a better idea of where I am at, but maybe it’s time for me to start thinking the way I did my whole life, starting as a child running around that block.