Thursday, April 1, 2010

Emotions and UltraRunning

I know I promised NOT to post anything more regarding the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run until results are posted on the web site--but I fibbed. After all, this blog purports to be about the "softer side of UltraRunning" so I'd be remiss if I did nothing but Chuck Norris posts, right?

UPDATE: I see that esults are now up!!

With that stirring introduction, I'd like to explore and share some of my emotions experienced during this 100 mile run. After all, I had plenty of time to think...22 hours and 36 minutes.

I think that many, if not most, UltraRunners experience some intense emotions during an ultra. Mine ranged from overt crying with real tears, thru choking up and being unable to speak, to peaceful going along with the moment, to outright euphoria.

I actually cried real tears as I crossed the finish line. It was the culmination of so many months and miles of hard work that finally paid off, and all those pent-up emotions came pouring out when the volunteer at the timing tent at the finish said "Well done!" and handed me my silver belt buckle (silver commemorating a sub-24 hour finish). I shook hands with my pacer, Rob, whom I did not know in advance, who had volunteered to pace anyone who wished a companion runner overnight. I was indeed lucky that he joined me for my last lap and I think that Rob also felt lucky to be part of my final lap (at least it added another dimension to pacing beyond just any lap of the course).

Earlier I had gotten choked up when I was telling the story to someone I was running with of my 6 year old granddaughter, Miss Doodybug, who had had a very rough landing during her birth. Among several problems, she had a hip dysplasia issue that necessitated a body cast being put on her, from armpits to toes, as soon as she came home from the neonatal ICU. This lasted some 3-4 months during which time we were not sure whether she'd ever even walk. The cast had a hole the size of your hand on Miss Doodybug's bottom into which a diaper could be stuffed, pad-like, to catch her waste. The cast was cut off and replaced every month or so as she grew.

Now Miss Doodybug not only walks, but runs normally. When they cut off her final cast, I kept one of the toe parts and attach it to my running pack for every race, for inspiration (note that at that time, it'd still be well over a year until we'd know if she could walk).

The cast reminds me NEVER to take my running for granted--it is a gift.

Also I got all choked up while running in Lap 6 with another pacer, Judy, when she shared the info that she was a left a widow by her healthy husband's unexpected death at age 53, and then again when we parted ways at the finish line with a hug. Her steady companionship truly anchored the middle of my run and enabled my strong finish.

Most of the time I was just cruising and enjoying the run. After all, what's not to like--running in the woods all day with 250 of my closest friends that I haven't yet met?

I did experience some feelings of euphoria during the late afternoon, shortly before sundown. I realized that I was running ahead of plan to the point that I was going to complete my 5th lap during daylight hours, leaving only 3 laps for the overnight.  Also that a finish was inevitable unless the wheels fell suddenly, completely and unexpectedly off**. As I was walking up the hill around mile 10.5 or so, just past the Sycamore Creek bridge, I suddenly felt supremely alive, vibrant, and full of the possible. I wanted to hug myself and leap and dance and stick my arms out like I was an airplane and shout just out of sheer exuberance.

Running ultras has so enriched my life, providing me a range of physical, mental, and emotional experiences far beyond what I would have experienced as a sedentary person.

**Note: it's interesting how your experiences affect what you think of as normal--UltraRunning truly gives you a different perception of distances and what's doable.  A measure of my insane confidence at this point was that I still had 36.5 miles to cover and felt like it was in the bag....

Like I said above, Miss Doodybug's cast reminds me to NEVER take running for granted--it is a gift.

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