How would you like to…
…prepare for an event by spending every Saturday for three months shuffling around your local trails and bike paths, causing passersby to wonder if everything’s okay?
…lose sleep for several nights before the main event, wondering if you’ll finish absolutely dead last and/or show up without any pants and/or have to run off course for an emergency poop?
…worry about something called “thigh rub”?
…eat weird goop (maybe even something called “Shot Bloks”) to keep yourself from passing out?
…hobble around for several days afterward?
…unironically refer to Ibuprofen as “Vitamin I,” then wonder when you became your father?
A couple of years ago, I got it in my head that I’d like to run an ultramarathon, which, technically speaking, is any distance longer than the 26.2-mile marathon. Nevermind that I’d never run a marathon, or that just the thought of all those hours spent training made me feel bored and listless, or that I’d struggled with chronic injury since running track in high school. It was mind over matter, I told myself, just like mountaineering or making it through a networking event where you don’t know anyone.
Of course, now that I’ve finally done it, I’m basically a sage. Along the way, I discovered that I didn’t so much want to run an ultra as to have run an ultra. It is my understanding that while lots of people want to have kids, no one’s really crazy about the part where you give birth; I’m sticking with this analogy for its melodramatic flair.
In the three-or-so years between arbitrarily deciding to run an ultra and Actually Doing The Thing, I: signed up for an ultra and switched down to a shorter distance the month before (hazy injury-like feeling + too nervous), ran my first marathon (very hard, not particularly fun), signed up for another ultra and dropped out altogether the week before (injury, for real this time), and subsequently saw a chiropractor (“Run if it feels good”), a neurologist (“Don’t run, period”), and an acupuncturist (“You might feel a little twitch but by all means go ahead and run after this”). Since I signed up for that first race, I imagine I’ve run a few hundred miles and spent at least as many hours training and thinking about what it would be like to finally have run an ultra.
And then, last weekend, I finally did it. I signed up and trained and showed up and finished an ultra, just like I said I was going to. I didn’t run it fast or place in my age group or feel particularly awesome afterward. In fact, when I finished, a very nice lady informed me that she was waiting for her extremely badass husband, who was running his first 50k since literally having half a lung removed, and who, it turned out, did not finish too terribly long after me. (I have two complete lungs.)
I don’t have a brag-worthy time or bigger, badass-er plans, or even plans to do it again but faster this time. I just have the satisfaction of Finishing The Thing I Started.