I ran a 24 hour relay. I agreed to run it about 2 weeks before it actually happened. I didn’t think much about it. I just did it. I ran/walked 29 miles in 6 hours, split up as 2 hour increments. I have not run more than 10 miles a week in I don’t know how long. So, thanks to Ryan and his team for letting me be part of this event. Our team finished first and banked 144 miles in 23:53:07. The lead lady topped out at 109 miles in 23:52:35 and the lead dude finished 110 miles in 21:31:32. What?!?! It was amazing to come back for my middle of the night running shift and see these incredible athletes running under the stars after we had just battled the tricky Oklahoma afternoon, hot/humid “fall” weather. And then, when I came back for that final run leg the next morning, to see the lead chick still running was emotional for me. I don’t know quite what to make of these athletes. They are calm, yet driven. They are humble, yet they have to be confident. They are severely under appreciated for their knowledge of the human body and their athletic abilities. (Oh, a 10-13 minute mile? That’s all? Yea, well I did that for 24-flippin’ hours.) They are typically called crazy, nuts, insane. What they do is “abnormal”. Well…not really.
I had the opportunity to walk a couple laps with Dr. Andy Lovy. I don’t know much about the ultra running world. Specifically, I didn’t know who Andy was until I met him. Initially, to me, he was a 79 year-old veteran out kicking ass at a 24 hour event. Turns out, it was his 222nd event. (Close your mouth.) He is a reputable psychiatrist who dabbles in sports nutrition and medicine. And by dabble, I mean is an expert in the field. He has heard, for much longer than me, that ultra runners are crazy. “They just aren’t normal.” Well, Andy and I agree, that there is no real definition for normal. But, in his attempt to define what, exactly, is “abnormal” about ultra runners, he conducted a survey of ultra endurance athletes. What he found was that, society is right, they aren’t “normal”. Three areas stood out to me from this study, wherein ultra endurance athletes were ranked as “abnormal”:
- They are “fake good”–Ultra endurance athletes, when asked how they’re doing, will say they are fine even if they are fatigued. They will then convince themselves and their bodies that this is true. They will then push on. This is not to say that a well-educated ultra endurance athlete doesn’t know when to stop, but that they can look past generalized, non-threatening pain. (This is also not to say that some of them don’t push beyond their limits…to their detriment.) “Fake good” is finding a silver lining. It’s beating that inner voice (and sometimes outer voices) that say that you can’t. It’s, more simply, remaining positive.
- They are leaders…kind of–The survey found that, if necessary, an ultra endurance athlete will lead; however, if a better leader comes along, they will recognize this and become a follower. And if the tide turns again, they will step back into a leadership position. I would hire this person, wouldn’t you?
- They are thoughtful and present. These people HAVE to go inside their own heads and find what makes them tick, maybe not even “them” specifically, but humans in general. From the outside, it looks like someone running/wobbling/walking/shuffling for entirely too long a period of time. However, if you could be inside their minds, you would see someone growing much more rapidly from a flood of life lessons and metaphors compressed into a short period of time.
If this is abnormal, then I don’t want to be normal. After this event, I am happy to report that I remained positive, I showed up to run my last 2 hour segment–even when it wasn’t needed to secure a win, and I had some beautiful moments inside my own head–moments where I didn’t even know my feet were on the ground, much less that I was still running. My last mile was a 7:30, just because it was still in me. I do believe this was my first, of many ultra events.
How did I do this on so little training? I will follow-up with posts on my current training philosophies. Keep in mind, I am not training for the Olympic Marathon Trials and my main goal is to run uninjured as fast as I can.