When I first started running as an adult I was overweight and
out of shape. I signed up for a 5K at GA Tech. 5K. Five thousand
meters. 50 football fields. I'd run track in high school and
ROTC runs, but I don't think I'd ever run that far before. Over
three miles! But I knew I needed to drop the fat and get in
better shape. I ran one. And then another back home in Knoxville.
I kept training. Then I ran a 5K that was also a 10K, but they
did the loop twice. I didn't get passed by the Kenyan who won the
10K until I was almost at the finish line.
Then we moved across the country and I ran one along the San
Francisco Bay on the Presidio. I trained around the Motel 6 we
were living out of and felt like I wanted more. So I ran a 10K
from Napa to Somona. Breathtaking. Magical. Vineyard after
vineyard flew by and I ran it in under an hour, a time I would
not beat for almost 10 years.
We finally moved into an apartment in Sunnyvale and I ran there
and around the hills at SLAC. We went up to Lake Tahoe and I did
my first trail run 5K and down to San Diego to run a marine
obstacle course. Even at SLAC there was a race along the 2 mile
accelerator and back! It was too much running though, and I hurt
I scaled back and didn't run another 10K for 5 years. And then I
ran it in hiking boots because I'd been training during my trip
to Georgia and left my running shoes at my parents' house. That
was when we lived in Nebraska. It was my 36th race and I was in
my 30's by then. But running 10K, even in boots, didn't kill me.
So I ran more of them, 10Ks sprinkled in between my monthly 5Ks
for a few years. Then I decided to try a half. By this point we
were living in Fairview, TN and I had a 5K loop that I ran
regularly from my house. Do it twice and it's 10K. Run up to
Bowie Park and around the trails was 9 miles. I signed up
for a half marathon never having run that far before. It was
through downtown Nashville. This was 2 years ago, in 2014. My
legs cramped up and I ended up running the last half mile or so
backward because the forward going muscles were shot. But I
finished. Whereas 3 miles had once seemed like an impossible
distance I had now run over 13. For the next few weeks I ran
30+ miles a week as I hunted for a new job. It was one of the
best times in my life.
I knew having completed the half I could do a full, so in 2015
I signed up in the spring and started a training schedule to
build up the miles. By our midsummer roadtrip I was in the best
shape of my life, whether running through the 100 degree heat in
the deserts of Texas or glacial valleys of the Rocky Mountians.
But in Pagosa Springs, CO I slipped and fell in the creek breaking
two of my toes. The rest of my runs that trip were bloody affairs
because I'd also completely ripped off one of my toenails. The
longest I did after that I think was 5 miles up into the Tetons.
It was just a matter of powering through the pain. The marathon
was a month away and I cancelled my trip to Seattle. A couple months after
when the marathon should have happened I ran another half as a
consolation prize for myself. And then signed up for the
marathon in Nashville in April.
I can't say I stuck as strictly to the training regime through
the cold winter months, but I was still in good shape come this
past April when I ran my first marathon. I hit the wall at 20
miles and I took me 2 hours to complete those last 6, but I
finished. I was so hard that for a long time afterward I swore
I'd never do another marathon; that was a once in a lifetime
experience. And now I find myself wistfully looking at Ultras.
This morning I watched a
about a race through the Alps, a place I now know firsthand and
seems familiar, and I couldn't help thinking back to my uncle's
stories about running out his door and up to the top of Mount
Rose and back. I used to think that was a superhuman feat,
streching credibility really. But watching that video this
morning I realized I could do it. And now I really want to try!