For years, marathons were IT for me. I trained and trained and trained, and if I bombed, I cried and was depressed for days, or if I did good, I still was depressed that I didn't do quite as good as I hoped (though my first Boston Qualifying Marathon was an exception).
Then, sub in 50 milers for marathons....
And I can't seem to get away from 100 milers, though I find them so brutal, so tough, so rough, so horrendous, so painful, so soul-destroying, so demoralizing...
...yet so uplifting, for moments here and there, and most especially, when you're done.
But really, I love 50 milers best.
Marathons sucked so much when they sucked. They can be amazing, but when they hurt, it's not fun. And it's not pretty and sometimes you can't get beyond the pain. And fast, yes, you have to run fast. Ow.
But 50 milers...they're just the perfect distance. You're over in a day. You start running early, and you finish early enough to get dinner with your loved ones and shock/appall/impress them with your eating capabilities. Maybe you'll even head out for a drink or two (because there will, of course, be an amazing party that night) and then you'll plead exhaustion, crash for a few hours, or more, be stiff the next day, but feel pretty good. You can run slower than a marathon, eat cookies while you run, see beautiful trails, bond with rad ultrarunners. Even if it sucks, it's only 50 miles.
But that last sentence - you can't explain that, you can't really feel that, until after you run 100 miles. And then it seems easy. You need to run 100miles to feel that. To appreciate it.
100 miles...why? Why do I keep going back? Why?
There's that point where it's dark (It seems like the middle of the night, but it might only be 8 or 9pm. You've been up for hours, you're tired, it is the middle of the night to you.):
And everything starts hurting. Your feet are swollen, you took off your compression leg sleeves miles ago because your calves were so swollen that your sleeves felt unbearable. You have a million blisters (or maybe just one). You are nauseas, you're hungry, you have go to the bathroom, right now, right now, can we please just stop, oh pacer, just let me stop for one minute, you feel like you're going to die, you want to die, you hate this, you hate everything, why did you sign up, you paid how much to run this far, you swear you're never running a 100miler again, oh, this sucks, your shins hurt so bad, this hurts so bad, you want to be in bed, it is horrible....
Or maybe that's just me? Yeah, I didn't think so.
But there's this glimmer. 100 milers are where - as my pacer Kathy told me at Rio del Lago - you learn to be tough, you prove just how tough you are. It's where you discover something deep inside yourself. I don't find that in any other race. It's where you learn to push past pain. It's where you learn to push past reasonability.
I do love running 50 milers best - they are my favourite race - but I still keep signing up for 100s. I do them as my goal races, my key races. 50 milers are often just training runs, build-ups. But I love them best. Should I focus on them instead? Should I enjoy my runs more?
Sometimes, I want to spare myself the agony and just sign up for a 50miler. Like, maybe I should do that for the 50 mile at the Santa Barbara Endurance Race instead of the 100. But I get this feeling that I'm being wimpy - I know the 100 is what will push me, what's harder.
It's not wimpy. It's a different option. I'll have to run it differently...
I think as I'm writing this, I realize WHY I run 100milers. They are the best way to challenge myself. With my writing, I challenge my creativity, my thought process, my view of life. But when I run 100 miles, I challenge my body, push it past pain.
You know what? When it's all over, and your body is aching and you're thirsty and exhausted and hungry and sore and in pain and everything hurts - YOU DID IT. You ran 100 miles and that is something so hardcore that so few people can say. You got to be out there in nature, running through beautiful woods, on lovely trails, bonding with amazing people (and of course, nature), bonding with yourself, thinking deep, thinking clear, thinking pure.
And so, I love 50 milers best.
But I will continue running 100 milers to challenge my soul.