This isn’t really a race report, since I didn’t run it. However, I visited it four times, was blown away and overwhelmed and inspired, so I wanted to capture that experience and examine my desires to do this race.
Some people feel like a marathon is a major life accomplishment. It truly is. But after you do a few, you realize, yeah, it’s tough, but you want more.
Challenge me more. Try to break me – you won’t.
So you do an ultra.
A 50k. Then a 50 miler. Then a 100 miler. Then you’re going for time. Sub 24 hours. Sub 22 hours. Sub 20 hours.
You push yourself beyond your limits.
Everyone’s impressed. You’re seen as hardcore. Your legs are tough; you lift more weights on the lower body machines at the gym than the tough-looking steroid guys that sweat all over it (and forget to wipe it off) before you hit it up. You are proud of yourself, admire your body when you look in the mirror, feel like a seven-hour run in the technical trails of Bear Mountain in the pouring rain is normal.
But there’s more.
Multi-day races. Sometimes, you’re carrying a pack. Sometimes, you’re crossing a desert, a stream, a volcano.
Sometimes, you’re running a loop – in this case, a 1 mile loop. For six days. Or ten days. In Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, right next to our beloved LIE, Van Wyck, Grand Central. And here – this is where you really push past ego. This is where all the hard work pays off. This is where you dig deep into your mind. And this is where you prove to the world – even if that’s not your goal – that you are hardcore.
Ray K. was running the six day. Mark Dorian was running the ten day. They both were in good spirits every time I saw them, moving, smiling, telling stories, proving how amazing they were, showing me what ultrarunning legends they are. I went out there Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, to support them – and saw the changes in them, saw how strong they worked.
I was inspired.
I was impressed.
I was in awe.
The race is a pretty loop – though you do run right next to the LIE – by a lake, on pavement. I can see how the little turn-around (kind of an out and back at one point, just before you go into the entrance) could be a little frustrating – but I could also see the pleasure in how easy it could be to shut yourself off. How you could just push and push beyond what you think is normal – how you can tap into a deeper part of yourself or the world and reach a higher state.
But then again, I didn’t run it, and maybe it’s just pain.
(But no, I don’t believe that.)
Some people say it’s spiritual. Others say it’s painful. Others (like Ray the K), say it’s a blast.
I think it’s probably all of those things, sometimes at once.
In life, I wish to go beyond the ordinary. I don’t want the white-picket fence 2.3 kids dog in the yard casserole dish on the formica table houses all looking exactly the same. That’s why this was so appealing. Living in a dorm for 6 or 10 days, clothing piled on a table, endurolytes, pain pills, layers, multiple pairs of shoes in various sizes, some with the toes cut out, and even dog food…It is a simpler, yet more complicated life.
I found many aspects of the race appealing. The proximity to my home means if I did do this race, I could have friends, family, coworkers come and visit me, pace me. I also don’t have to spend money to travel. The race is affordable - $450 for the 6 day, $650 for the 10 day. (“That’s cheaper than a hotel,” Wayne pointed out to me.) It’s well-organized. The people are friendly. The food – and there’s a lot of it – is supposed to be really good. I can shut off. I can push. I can see what I’m capable of. I can run more in 6 days than many people run in a month, a year, their lifetime.
Sure, the pavement…the nearby highway…how painful it must be…but I think this would be a great way to test my mental tenacity. To see how physically tough I really am.
Yes, I could see myself out here next year – hopefully with Ray K. at my side, telling me stories. I could see my running friends visiting me as midnight, as I had visited Ray K., laughing, bringing me ice cream, bringing me good foods. And I can see myself falling apart, I can see myself crying, I can see myself hobbling – but more important, I see myself with a big smile as I cross the finish line, 100% stronger.