I recently completed my longest "long run" in quite a while on the Virginia Creeper Trail. I purposely picked the Creeper as I was bumping my mileage up way beyond what is normally recommended & wanted to make it as easy as a ~17 mile run could be - i.e. not a technical trail & no hills. I have been hiking some big miles as day hikes & even with a backpack, but my running has not been as consistent as I would have liked. I had charged my MP3 player as I figured I would need it to get me thru the last few miles, but in my excitement to get on the trail I left it in the Element, of course. So I ended up with quite a bit of time to ponder all sorts of things....
Could not have asked for better weather though! Started out a little cool, but sunshine the whole way!
As I was "wogging" along (I say I run but to most people it would appear I am moving too slowly, so I call it a cross between walking & jogging) I started thinking about how much running has been a part of my life. I ran my first marathon in 1998 and soon after I ran my first ultra marathon in 2000. For my non-running friends, an ultra is any distance longer than a marathon, but "typical" distances are 50K, 50 milers, 100K & 100 milers. I was instantly addicted & eventually found myself running at least one a month.
Until my 1st knee surgery in 2005. Followed by my 2nd in 2008. And my most recent in 2012. All dealing with meniscus issues. Don't get me wrong, I was able to get some good runs in between - even my PR of 81 miles in a 24 hour race. Although I have never been fast, I do have endurance & can "wog" a long, long time. Perhaps I am just an impatient hiker? But I digress yet again....
Along the Creeper I eventually came up on the contractor working on the replacement bridge that was destroyed in the tornadoes of 2011. Being the geeky engineer I am, I had to stop & watch for a while.
And this is what got me to thinking about how when I would run I would sort through problems in my mind. Many times I would run at lunch & think about some design issue I needed to resolve. Many times I would have a solution by the time I was done. And thus the idea for my list was born...
So, without any further ado, here is my list of the top ten reasons I miss ultra running:
10. Creativity. The ability to clear my mind & come up with "out the box" solutions was never better.
9. Toenails. Do you realize how much time I saved painting my toenails when I had less than 10? Plus I never had to decide on a color as I had to use dark purple or black.
8. Gels.Okay, I am lying on this one. I don't know who decided the best vehicle for nutrition while running should have a consistency somewhere between frosting & toothpaste, but I guess it works. Besides, it was always fun trying to figure out which flavor was the least repulsive after 5 hours.
7. Food. Being able to eat whatever I wanted & still remain relatively slim.
6. Beer. Being able to drink whatever I wanted & still remain relatively slim.
I like beer. Hell, I will run for beer
( --//--> ON-ON!)
but I loved being able to drink good beer without thinking about calories.
5. Zen. Running was the only way to still my monkey mind - it was a type of meditation for me. Whenever the cadence of footsteps & my breathing would become my mantra & I could just zen out.......wow.
4. Freedom. Usually only when running downhill, but sometimes I could catch that feeling like when you ran as a kid. Not going anywhere specific, but just running because you could.....again, wow!
3. Getting Lost. Not just in the putting your head down & following someone the wrong way, but tied to #5 (Zen out) when you get so lost in your thoughts that you realize you don't even know where you are on the trail anymore. It's just indescribable.
2. Places. I have been some really cool places in the name of a race - from sea level at Tybee Island to 13,000 ft Mosquito Pass in Leadville, CO to the infamous Foothills Trail for Laurel Valley. And still so many places to see.
And the number 1 reason?
1. People! So many great folks I have met over the years....From the Runners from Hell (Some runners are tough. Some runners are insane. Some are both.) to my fellow Team SLUGs (Start slowly, ease off) to the great folks at Mangum Track Club (MTC). These are the people who have seen me suffer & pulled me along & inspired me. And damn, but I sure do miss 'em!
So part of this post is to keep pushing me to get back to the runner I once was. To get back to that feeling I once had & took for granted.
I am so grateful for what I have & what I can do, and I hope to continue this momentum.
Run on, my friends.....