Why this? Why a hundred mile run?
Mulling over an honest, and clear, answer to this question is difficult. I could say “because it’s the hardest runable distance” or “I grew up around endurance athletes” or “I like vegan cupcakes” or “I know how to suffer and not give up”. Those answers are true, but incomplete.
It is wholly impossible to talk about ultra-running, and an individual’s drive to conquer the seemingly impossible, without wading into the personal, murkier essence of what it means to be human, and keep going anyway.
I was raised by a Navy SEAL. My earliest memories are trying, and failing, to keep up with my father on runs, hikes, swims. You name it, I tried to keep up, and for most of my childhood, I couldn’t. And that feeling, being left in the non-proverbial dust, made me hungry. I wanted to be like these people who seemingly floated up mountains. Why wasn’t I?
How much training have you done specifically for this event? Turns out, all that was missing was a little more life experience, a little more literal suffering, to train my brain, and body, to, well, suffer efficiently.
Some serious life challenges drove me to take athletics seriously as an outlet for pain, stress, and grief in my early twenties. A career that exposed me to some of the ugliest parts of life led me to train for endurance sport events as a way to return order to my world. Further loss solidified my identity as an endurance athlete.
Years of relentless forward progress toward progressively more challenging goals took me from wanting to run a 5k, and thinking that impossible, to running my first marathon, to completing my first ultra.
There’s something about seeing the limits of what the human body can do that captivates me. And. Seeing that my own, perfectly imperfect body can also do those things? My body can run a 5k, a marathon, a 50k, a 50-miler, a 100k? My body? Wow. I am not special. And yet, I can do hard things. So, how far can I go?
When did the idea come to you? When did you take the idea seriously?
Perhaps naturally, wanting to see my limits, continued to drive my goals to progressively more challenging distances. But attempting 100-miles alluded me for years. I was too scared.
It wasn’t until my mother died after an intense battle with cancer one year ago, that the fear of the inevitable pain of running 100-miles was no longer a limiting factor. I can take care of my mother while she exited this world. I can run 100-miles.
Physically, I’ve been training since January of 2018. I checked in with my body by running a competitive marathon in February, a 50k in March, a 100k in May, and a solo 50-miler in July. All told I’ve run about 4,000 training miles in the past nine months, complimented by weights, swimming, yoga, cupcakes, and a LOT of sleep.
Mentally? I’ve been training for about eight years: by looking fear of failing at these goals in the face; by learning to expect intense physical pain but push past it.
I believe you mentioned you want this to be “your thing”. How do you know that and are you open to the idea that maybe you’ll hate it?
I mean, I kind of do hate it. It hurts. It takes me to some very dark places. It takes a lot of time. It costs money. It’s lonely.
But it’s also completely changed the way I perceive limitations, be they physical or otherwise. Yes, it sometimes sucks SO MUCH. But the suck never lasts. It always melts away into something less sucky. And, frankly, the feeling of pushing through the inevitable suck, to finish? It leaves me with an impermiable sense of accomplishment, of “you can do hard things-ness” and THAT is worth it.
Though, I leave room to grow out of that. Or, take a long break. Or, find something completely different that serves the same purpose in my life. If that happens. Cool. Bring it on.
What advice would you give someone who is inspired by you to try something like this?
A few things. First: People will believe in your ability to accomplish your goals with as much enthusiasm as they believe in their ability to accomplish their own life goals. Put simply: some people are going to scoff at you. Just remember that their response has nothing to do with you. It’s their own struggle projected on you. Keep your head down and keep pushing.
Second: A lot of ultra training is about time on your feet, not necessarily quantity of miles run.
Third: If you feel inspired by a distance, follow that inspiration. Scared by it? Even better.
Fourth: You. Can. Do. Hard. Things
Anything else you are feeling…
So many things :). I’m scared but as ready as I’ll ever be. I’ll actually attempt to complete this race on the one year anniversary of the day my mother passed. That wasn’t intentional, the race date was changed. But I can think of no better way to honor her life, than to choose to LIVE as fully as I possibly can. And this weekend that means running 100-miles.
Going Long: Brian Bunch
Going Long: Theo Hadjimichael
Going Long: Grant Barker
Going Long: Andy Howells