As of late I have been reading books written by top ultra marathon runners (distances exceeding 50 miles). I am currently fully engaged in Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich. His story isn’t as colorful or motivating as Dean Karnazes but it is a realistic and relatable tale. He gives a unique look into his life which is completely unfiltered (from his verbiage to his experiences). So far I have gained respect for him and lost it all at the same time. I am in all of his running career which started late in his life but disappointed in his ability to put his family first (again his story is very realistic). He started running to cope with the stress caused by his wife’s terminal illness. Soon after she passed away his addiction morphed into a full time job.
The individuals depicted in each book seem to have a few things in common; middle aged, lost, excessive personalities (they do not half ass anything), determined (they push pass any wall 100 times over), a true love for the great outdoors, enjoy living outside of their comfort zone (somehow this makes them feel alive), introverts (they are not flashy nor do they need a trophy or medal to prove they have completed a task) and their love affair with running started small. Most of them started with 5k’s or running to improve their health or running through a drunken stooper. Most of them were never the track star at their high schools or colleges. They are just people who set high expectation for themselves. Running starts much like a small seed, which seems to grow slowly at first but soon cultivates out of control (almost like a weed). The addiction becomes unruly. I have always thought I was different until I started reading books profiling “normal” people who are runners. Their lives on the outside are no different than the people I am friends with, work for, and meet daily. On the inside however they have a secret, a passion for running. Whether they admit it or not they spend most days checking the weather, looking for new adventures to push pass a pervious mileage or pace, day dream about completing a mission no one has tried before or few have succeeded in, and live each day for the moment they can step outside and begin putting one foot in front of the other. I know because each year I run and each goal I meet I crave for more (something bigger and better).
Compared to the runners I am reading about I am young. Their running addiction started later in life (typically due to a tragedy or some sort of an awaking). I am no different. From a young age I experienced loss and no one taught me how to cope with it (mainly because I didn’t want help). I pretended as if all those who left me went on vacation. At the age of seven my mom was diagnosed with cancer (given a 1% chance to live through surgery) and my best friend was killed in a bus wreck. I remember going to his funeral and not being able to cry because he didn’t feel gone (his mother passed away recently which makes me smile because she is finally at peace with her baby boy). I had a very hard time understanding death and the afterlife, which forced me to ignore it. In middle school I lost another friend to drugs, in high school a close friend was hit by a car while waiting for a ride, and my senior year a friend ran off the road and hit a tree. I continued to bottle all my fears of death and anger up. I drank my despair away, until there was no more pain to feel. I was throwing my life away because I had no idea how to live without those I cared so much about. By the time I began picking the pieces up and putting myself back together I lost a relationship I once valued. This was my breaking point, I began running. I took my anger out on the pavement beneath my feet and it felt incredible.
I ran Chicago, Louisville (many times), Philadelphia, Columbus and Boston. It seems the more I run the more of a challenge I want but I have no idea how to go about it. I am reading about the great ultra marathoners in hopes to figure out how to make it happen. My thoughts tend to get a head of where I am physically. How can I run 100+ mile race and hold my family together? How can I train and work? How do I get the appropriate funds and still save money for my daughter’s future? We are young, which means we have little disposable income to support my habit. Today I realize I have all the time in the world and I can do things one step at a time (I no longer fear death, my heaven is running). At this point the farthest I have run is 27 miles. I log about 35-40 miles a week currently (mainly because that is all I have time for if I want to see my husband and child). This week I am doing something I have never done before which is run two marathons within 10 days of each other (this is the beginning of my ultra marathon addiction, I can feel it). Following this I plan to run a 50 miler, 100 miler, run from Louisville to Lexington, run across the state of Kentucky, and maybe one day run Western States. My plan or list (whatever you want to call it) may take me 1 year, 5 years or a decade, who knows. The one thing I do know is I will complete any and all challenges I set for myself because that is who I am and that is what I do.
I look forward to meeting you (meaning the Kentucky Derby Marathon) head on this weekend. I will show no mercy as I move across the 26.2 miles of our city. Here’s to determination and pushing your internal limits to their brink. There is no stopping the truly determined. This is what I live for.