Training for the Pikes Peak Ultra has given me a lot of time to think and self-reflect. When running with guide, Tim Gore, there is plenty of time to be ridiculously silly and then still reflect some more. When I am out on the trail for 6 or 7 hours, sometimes I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” For those who know me well, you know that I balance a pretty hectic work and travel schedule. There are always chores to be done, laundry to be washed, Prada’s (my guide dog) to be played with, meals to be prepared, shopping to be done, books to be read, well… you get the point. There is other stuff to do!
I was once sitting with a group of elite ultra-runners and one of them remarked, “Why would someone want to run a 100 mile race if it was going to take 30 hours to finish?” The person asking the question was not trying to be rude or condescending toward slower runners. They were asking why someone would willingly put themselves through torture for such a long time. It is a valid question, and one that I have spent quite a bit of time pondering.
Since I have never run 100 miles, I am not sure I can answer the question with confidence, but I do know why I might try it myself one of these days. For me, ultra-running has little to do with the time it takes me to finish a race and everything to do with whether I have the physical and mental strength to make it through the challenge.
As a blind runner I manage to find every rock, root, toe trip, scree patch, rut, and drop off out there. I trip, misstep, stub my toe, slip, slide, and have to slow down so many times during my runs. It takes me a while to traverse technical terrain and after hours and hours of repeated bumbles, sometimes I do have to admit that I get a little flustered. But every time I pick myself up and dust myself off, I get a little bit stronger and gain a bit more confidence in my ability to navigate the trail and life in general.
I adapt and adopt new techniques that allow me to move a little faster and with a bit more grace over the terrain that used to trip me up. I may not be much faster or much more graceful, but every time I go out for a run I can see the changes that are a result of my hard work, dedication, and determination. I can feel a much quicker sense of calm and peace when I run into a situation that would have once left me in tears. I am learning to let go of my ego. After it gets bruised so many times, you begin to realize it hasn’t really served you too well. Learning to traverse my own emotional valleys and peaks has been a huge part of the process as well.
Hours and hours of ultra-training have taught me a lot about the person I am and the person I aspire to be. Every struggle and success brings me a little bit closer to the “me” I want to be. Today, I can run longer, faster, and stronger than ever before. I can handle days and days of back to back training without a rest day. I can climb. I can navigate almost any terrain. I may not be fast, I may not be lady grace, but I am STRONG through and will just keep getting stronger. So if it takes me a little longer to finish a race, don’t feel bad for my suffering. Just know, I am using the time to get a little bit stronger!
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