Running 100 miles is hard, – short and simple.
My venture into running ultras started in 2009. Running 100 miles seemed ludicrous. I couldn’t wrap my head around attempting something so audacious. Prior to 2009, my longest run ever was 18 miles and, that was quite an agonizing experience. At that time, I was strictly a short distance runner with 13.1 miles being my favorite long distance to test my mettle. Then, a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer (her second bout with cancer in three years). I wanted to support my friend in a meaningful way.
As we all know, cancer doesn’t only attack a person’s health but also their finances, their family and friends. Cancer is ruthless and uncaring of it’s host. I decided that I wanted to help my friend, Cindy. I wanted to help her in someway financially, spiritually and, symbolically. So, I prayed for her. I set up a gofundme account (or whatever it was called at the time) and, I chose to run a distance that seemed insanely difficult for me. I wanted to do something for her that was going to make me hurt and push me into a discomfort level I had never been at before. I told my older brother, who was one of those crazy ultra runners, about my plan to run 100 miles for Cindy. He suggested I register for what was then known as the Boulder 100 in Colorado.
I registered for the Boulder 100 and paid what I considered an astronomical price tag for a race, – $200! Ha. I didn’t have much money back then. So, $200 was a hard pill for me to swallow for a race entry. On July 1, 2009, I started training for the Boulder 100 right here in steamy, sultry Savannah. Almost all of my training was done at the Savannah Rails to Trails (McQueen’s Island trail). I logged so many miles on that trail between July 1st to October 1st, 2009, that I swore never to step foot on that trail again after my training and when I began my taper.
I flew to Colorado on Oct 15, 2009, just two days before the start of the race. The day before the race, I ran 8 miles, just to acclimatize my lungs to Colorado’s high altitude. I felt good. I ran the first 50 miles at the Boulder Reservoir (Boulder 100 race location) in about 9 hours and still felt good. The race didn’t get difficult for me until it became dark and, with the sun gone, the cold October air of Colorado seeped into my bones. At mile 63, I literally quit in my mind. I had had it. I hurt so much. I was cold and, the idea of continuing to run through the night was just insane and stupid. “What do I have to prove”, I asked myself. “What’s the point?”, I wondered to myself.
Mentally, I had quit the Boulder 100. I got some warm chicken noodle soup and walked into an enclosed tent that had a heater in it. I was so cold and uncomfortable. The warm soup and tent was just what I wanted. I stayed in there for two hours! I then got a phone call on my little fliptop phone. It was from a former girlfriend. She had been following my progress but hadn’t seen a tweet from me in the last two hours. So, alarmed, she called me. I told her that I was done. She, in her calming voice reasoned with me. She said (I paraphrase), ‘Dan, you have done an amazing job! And, you should be proud. You’ve run more than you’ve ever run. You have raised over $7000 for your friend, who happens to be fighting for her very life. You can go home, knowing that you have achieved running more than you’ve ever run before and reaching the financial goal you had set for helping Cindy.’ She went on to say, ‘where you are right now, -you have achieved more than most people would even attempt. And, you should be very proud of that. I am very proud of you, Dan!’ And then, she hit me hard with what she said next. She said, ‘I encourage to think about this before you quit. You can go home and be proud of what you have accomplished. And, you should be very proud of that! Just think, though, what happens if Cindy were to quit her fight?’ I tell you, what my former girlfriend said struck me like a bolt of lightning. It was exactly what I needed to hear. It got me back on that 7.75 mile course and I fought for every step until I crossed that finish line after 24 hours and 7 minutes.
At that time, running 100 miles was the hardest thing I had ever done. The last ten miles were nothing short of sheer misery.
Since then, I attempted to run 100 miles a couple of more times and failed both times. My first attempt at the 100 mile threshold was at the inaugural Delirium 24 hour race. After 39 miles, I quit for no other reason than I just didn’t want to continue feeling uncomfortable. Later, I signed up for the Pinhoti 100. That race, by far, has been the most difficult race I’ve attempted! After 52 miles, I got swepped up by the sweepers for going too slow. Talk about humiliating and humbling!
Since 2009, I have not completed another 100 mile run. Running 100 miles is hard. I remember watching a documentary about Anton Kuprika where he stated, “a 100 mile run is an exercise in pain”. I couldn’t agree more!
What I have learned since then, is that running 100 miles is hard for everyone. Some may be able to run 100 miles in 12 hours. Others may take, 24 hours to complete. And others, 30 to 48 hours to complete the 100 mile distance. Whoever runs 100 miles, knows how hard it is to do so. The struggle is real. The pain is real. Regardless, if it takes you 12 hours or 48 hours, if you run 100 miles you have achieved an incredible milestone to be very proud of. And, the pain and discomfort that the 12 hour 100 mile runner experiences in their quest is no greater or lesser than that of the person that takes longer to complete it.
So, in my opinion, anyone that decides they want to run 100 miles prepare yourself for discomfort. Be disciplined in your training. And when the day comes to take on the audacious goal of running 100 miles, remind yourself over and over that this is your goal, your milestone, – not anyone else’s. Your struggle to reach that 100 mile threshold is yours alone and, when you reach it, be proud! You have achieved something that is very difficult to achieve. And, having crossed that 100 mile threshold will change your perspective on what you can accomplish in life. Do not let anyone take away what you have fought so hard for. Their experience and yours’ is different and absolutely of no lesser in value.
Go after what you want. Your why is going to be different from everyone else and that is perfectly okay.