Last weekend, I ran my first 50k ultra-marathon.
This was a challenge I had been training for and thinking about for about 9 months. In fact, most of my decisions and actions during 2015 have been made with this date circled on the calendar. This past Saturday, October 3rd, I crossed the finish line and completed the 32 miles of single track trail with a stupid 7,500 feet of elevation gain.
It was really hard.
Here’s the deal: I’m not a runner. Not by a long shot. I grew up in the home of a runner; my mom is an endurance freak. I know what runners look like, behave like, eat, do, think, say, etc. I’m not one of them.
However, at the end of last year I had a friend challenge me to try running an ultra-distance race with him. For some strange reason I agreed to this, and have been working toward this 50k ever since.
I learned a lot by running this 50k, and surprisingly (to me) the biggest and longest lasting lessons came during my training. All of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 9 months are way too many to document here. But here are the big ideas:
Community Is Vital To Success
Embarking on adventure like this is something that takes a tribe to accomplish. Thankfully, I was pulled in to this by my friend Bryan who introduced me to some great trails nearby and was patient with me early on when I couldn’t run as fast as he could. Then, my best mate Andrew moved to Chattanooga JUST to train for this race with me (not entirely true, but kind of). There were a ton of other people who I met and got to run with, but those two guys were there nearly every weekend to drag me out to the trails and help me build up the endurance I needed to finish strong. I definitely wouldn’t have done this without them.
My Family Is Awesome
My wife Sarah was 100% supportive of me during this process, even though it often meant less time with her/at home in general. While I know she enjoys the occasional break from my loud singing, laughing, yelling…my loudness in general – I’m sure there were times that she could’ve used my help on a Saturday morning when I was out in the woods for 4-6 hours. She doesn’t complain and she doesn’t guilt me for pursuing my passions. Thanks Sarah. I love you.
My parents and brothers were really inspiring to me as well. The funny thing is, I know they don’t understand why I did this (I don’t either sometimes), but they always called to check in on training, encourage me when I was nervous or doubting, and even surprised me the weekend of the race to be at the finish line when I finally crossed. It didn’t matter that they thought this was weird/unnecessary/masochistic. They still showed genuine interest and love. Thanks guys.
The Obstacle Is The Way
This was the biggest lesson I learned through many circumstances this year, but no experience was more tangible or meaningful as this race. There is no “life hack” that can help you progress to where you want to be in life. Even if there were, hacking a process that is meant to take time and effort will rob you of all of the incredible experiences, joy, laughter, and pain that change the way you live moving forward. For me, learning to “just take the next step” when my legs were screaming in pain and my mind wanted to quit, directly affects the way I handle tough situations at work, with friends, in my marriage, and in my relationship with God.
Coming through the finish!
I wouldn’t be genuine if I didn’t at least mention how much I’ve grown to enjoy running in the past year. If you haven’t tried it seriously – you should give it a shot. As I said before, I’m not a runner. I grew up playing sports, enjoying fitness and exercising, but just hadn’t fallen in love with running like the psychos in the short shorts at your coffee shop every Saturday morning.
That being said, for the time being, running has captured my imagination. The sound of twigs breaking, the feeling of my lungs and legs burning, and the silence/solitude that you can only find on a long run has become invigorating. This race has taught me a lot of things. Learning how to enjoy running is one of the lessons I’ll appreciate the most. One 50k is in now the books. Time to find the next adventure!
Who else has run an ultra? Any suggestions for future races?? Love to hear stories!