To say that I could write a book doccumenting all of the reasons I love to run would be an understatement. This blog is going on 9 years strong with 1,003 published posts, at this point I could very well author my very own encyclopedia set of “reasons why Heather runs”. Within those books, sandwiched among the sappy prose about how running has changed my life in more ways than I can count, would be an entire volume titled:
“SOMETIMES running SUCKS.”
Because sometimes, it truly does.
Remember two weekends ago, when we ran 56 miles through the swamps of the Francis Marion Forest? It was fun, in the most horrible way. For whatever reason, Geoff and I thought that a mere 6 days later, it would be a good idea to participate in an overnight, 12 hour, charity run here in Myrtle Beach. It’s easy to ignore everything you’ve been taught about proper rest and recovery when you can justify your reasoning in the name of charity. Plus this whole 100 mile portal I’ve stepped through has opened a whole new world of chaos, and has seriously affected my decision making skills.
Riddle me this: if you run two half marathons in 16 days time, you get to join the “Half Fanatics“ club. If you run two full marathons within 16 days time, you get to join the “Marathon Maniacs” club. So if you run two ultra marathons in a mere 6 days time, what club do you get to join?
The “you don’t make very good decisions, do you?” club? The “I have a really twisted idea of what ‘fun’ means” club? Or just the “welcome to the life of an ultra runner in training” club? I’m shaking my head in equal parts disgust and disbelief, while simultaneously laughing a the ridiculousness of it all.
Friday night we met up at a local running store with maybe 30 other people to start logging some miles. There was a brief speech and presentation of funds raised (over $1600 for Team Red White & Blue), some logistical talk, and we were off. The course was essentially a 3 mile loop through the Market Commons district, to be repeated as many times as you felt like it, over the 12 hour period. It was 8:00 pm, and spirits were high.
The first four hours of running went by quickly. Running for hours on end is all relative to me. If you tell me I have to run for one hour, the first 45 minutes will be fine, the last 15 minutes will drag. The same goes for a 12 hour run…the first half dozen hours just breeze by. In the beginning, the aid station at the start/finish was bustling with people, energy, and selfies early in the evening. But the occasional cynical side of this perpetual optomist came out, and I bet Geoff that by 12:30, it would be a ghost town.
I was not wrong.
Round and round we went. We made a few detours at our friends house (just a quarter of a mile off course), and a few pit stops at various port-a-potties spread across the Market Common. At almost 12:30 am on the nose we arrived at the now empty aid station to see that all but 5 other runners had signed out and headed home for the comfort of their beds, not that I can blame them in the slightest.
Less runners = more donuts and pizza for me.
Night running is an aquired taste, sort of like a fine whiskey. At first it’s different…uncomfortable even. But after awhile you begin to appreciate it, and even crave it. Night running into the wee hours of the morning while sleep deprived is a whole different taste. Almost like cold medicine: it tastes so awful it nearly makes you gag, and despite having taken Robatusin for 35 years now, you stil never get used to it. But sleep deprived running and ultras, just like cold medicine and an evil cold virus, comes with the territory. So you suck it up and get it over with. Down the hatch you go, miles!
A strong wind had picked up, and the 40 degree temps might as well have been sub freezing, considering we were sweating our tails off in 80 degree temps just a week prior. As if my legs saw the sudden diminish in people, warmth, and motivation, they decided to speak up and remind me that, hey, you never really run on pavement anymore, oh, and you ran FIFTY FREAKING MILES last weekend. *Cue ridiculous leg pain*
It was at that moment I said to Geoff “Sometimes running really sucks.” He agreed.
It actually became sort of hilarious to me, the ridiculous ammount of how badly my legs hurt. It started with nagging pressure in my right knee, then graduated to my hips and pelvis. Running really far on pavement leaves me waddling in almost the exact same fashion I found myself moving around in when I was 9 months pregnant with my kids. Every step reminds me of how unforgiving the road can be, and leaves me longing for my soft trails. The “principle of specificity” is something I preach often, and I’m quickly reminded that I don’t train on pavement nearly enough to be doing something like this.
But I’m doing it. 20 miles. 25 miles. Eventually 31 miles. Why? Beats me. Truly, sometimes I can put my love for running into near perfect words, and other days when I really stop to think about it, I have no earthly idea why I do this to myself.
And despie the hurt, despite the cold, despite the fact that I’d much rather be in bed because at this point it’s nearly 2:00 am and I’m exhausted, despite the fact that at this very moment in time running absolutely sucks…
Dean Karnazes, ultra-runner-extrodinaire, once stated “There is magic in misery, just ask any runner.”
Last Friday night I ran my first ROAD 50K. It was cold. It was painful. It was actually downright miserable, and frankly, I loved every second of it.