My running journey began a little over three years ago. At that time I would have never believe that I would one day even be able to walk 5 miles let alone run 31.
A few weeks ago, I finished my first Ultra Run, The Green Jewel 50K. The race capped an 8 month stretch where I ran two other marathons and my first trail race. I really don’t know where to begin to describe the feeling of of crossing that finish line. It was a mixture of pride, joy, relief and well to be quite honest complete exhaustion.
I had signed up for the race on a whim after finishing the LA Marathon (my review on Race Advisors) in March. While I had been researching the race over the winter, it was the race “high” in LA that made me want to give it a try. The ultra as you can see in the map above, winds through the Cleveland Metroparks system. What made it so enticing for me was that it was 100% multipurpose trail with not a lot of elevation change. There would be not technical trails for me to navigate or crazy inclines to struggle up.
My post LA Marathon training was a little hit and miss. I had been enjoying the accomplishment of crossing the finish line with a little less care for my diet, a little more beer and not as many training runs as I would have liked.
On June 2, I crossed the start line not knowing what the next hours of my life would include. Would my body hold up? Would my mind adapt post 26 miles?
I am lucky in that I have the best race supporter a runner could ask for in my wife. She helps calms my nerves and keeps me focused on accomplishing what I can without fear of failure. I know I lucked out. She is not very athletic but has been just an amazing partner on my running journey. So as I exited the car on race morning, she simply said, “Just enjoy yourself”. I can honestly say that was the best advice I could get. And, I followed it!
The first couple miles were pretty tough. I started out with some real pain in my feet. I knew that this pain tends to go away after a few miles but it still struck a note of concern. The first part of the Green Jewel Ultra Run are uphill. It is a tough way to start but I knew it would be over soon. I just had to keep my mind from veering into the “I can’t do this” thinking for the first hour. I knew if I could do that I would have some good downhill and also be warmed up pretty well.
That is exactly what happened. I began to hit my stride pretty easily. My goal for this race was to keep my run walk ratio to 2:1 so I would definitely have some energy at the end. This seemed like a great plan as the miles slowly and then quickly just flew by. Before I knew it I was in the teens and feeling very happy. It now became a mental exercise of getting to the next aid station.
The Green Jewel Ultra is a smaller race with some great volunteers but it only has aid stations every five miles. Five miles seemed like the perfect mental and physical distance for me. It keeps you from stopping too often and I was able to play some mental games to keep my spirits up.
It was really until mile 25 that I hit any sort of wall. I had was not too shocked because I knew I was coming up on the 26.2 mark. Going beyond the marathon distance would produce personal records with each step for my longest run ever. I vowed that at 26.5 miles I would stop an call my wife. I knew from their texts that her, my parents and my sister were headed towards the finish line. Of course, I hit the 26.5 mark and called — it went to voice mail. Ugh.
Believe in the finish
When I hung up, I realized that I had done it, run longer than ever before. It turned out to be the perfect motivation for finishing the last 4.5 miles. The last hour, yes it took me that long to finish, I spent most of the time just relishing how far I had come over three years. Crossing the street with a quarter of a mile to go, my legs found some extra oomph and I was able to finish strong.
Mom and Dad and my sister Rose, along with my wife, Ebie, were there at the finish line. I can honestly say, I have never been happier about a personal accomplishment in my life.
If you are reading this…know that we all have amazing things that we can accomplish. Just believe, surround yourself with genuine people, and work hard (really hard), and it can be yours.