Three days ago, I completed the Weymouth Woods 100 Kilometer Trail Run (or 62 mile for the non-metrically inclined). Here is my story. [insert Law & Order gavel sound]
God saw fit to draw me into endurance athletics, not because I illustrate athleticism (I claim very little skill), but as a means to reveal the completely untapped human potential that we all possess and the limitations of our own mindsets. The 100K Trail Run remains no exception.
The race consisted of a 4.5-mile loop that participants ran 14 times. A timing mat and a chip attached to each of the runners’ shoes kept track of the number of loops. Unbeknownst to me before race day, the trail consisted of mostly packed sand due to the topsoil of the region. Tree roots galore crowded the first half of the trail, and six, slippery bridges spanned small creeks.
The course included one main aid station located next to a building at the race start, which contained tables with food and drinks for runners and their supporters (they served soup and pizza later in the day). Camping chairs and race day supplies lined the surrounding sidewalks. A second aid station at mile 2.5 provided grits with their fare.
My coach, who develops my training plan, called me the week before for our pre-race conversation. He coached me to run my own race, to work the plan I had created for myself regarding nutrition, and to remember a few mantras when the going became tough. Great running advice; great life advice.
My mantras: Go easy. I’m okay. It will pass.
My friend, Rachel, and I started out behind everyone else, not wanting to get caught up in the excitement and fatigue ourselves too early in the race. The first few loops passed easily with good conversation and a relaxed atmosphere. We worked our pre-arranged run/ walk plan, being liberal with walking if any cramping occurred.
Another friend, Maria, arrived as a cheering section in the afternoon. She ambled onto the course with us (the race directors allowed pacers), and we walked half a lap together and visited. A touch of warm sunshine and 50-degree weather enveloped us. Both Rachel and Maria developed pretty severe blisters. I left them at the second aid station not wanting to get too relaxed in my race day goals. Rachel was very sore and finished the rest of the loop with Maria.
The 100K racers consisted of solo runners and relay teams. The young 20-something bucks on relay teams that sprinted passed annoyed me, especially the one that yelled, “Coming through,” for me to get out of the way. You complete one lap buddy, and I already ran six. I’m a work in progress.
I failed to catch up with Rachel for two laps. By the time I saw her back at the start, darkness encircled the main aid station and the trees beyond. Rachel decided to drop out of the race from fatigue and knee pain. I finished loop nine by this point. Five more to go.
I lost a lot of time at the aid station in between laps. I used the bathroom on almost every loop (so my hydration rocked at least), and I changed clothes three times (the temperature dropped to 20 degrees). One clothing change took me almost 20 minutes between loop 12 and loop 13. Rachel met me, shaking in the cold, grabbing me soup or whatever I asked for.
I developed leg soreness in the earlier loops, which alarmed me being so early in the race. My coach said, “If you feel terrible, know that in two hours you will likely feel something completely different.” So true. The pain worsened and then assimilated like a second pair of tights, and I stopped noticing.
I began loop 10 feeling good, however, I kept thinking how much more alone I would be when others started finishing. Loop 11 started becoming more painful, and by this time, I ran the desolate laps on my stubbornness alone.
I concentrated only on the race. The second my mind wandered, I tripped on a root. I literally had to focus my whole self on the sandy trail within the window of light from my headlamp. (The multitude of dark laps burned that vision into my brain).
Energy levels drained significantly on that loop. While I knew I could finish, I realized I had to treat myself. I decided to power walk part of loop 13. Running and landing on my feet sent sharp pain shooting up my legs, and the risk of tripping and falling increased. I power walked the first half of the lap and realized that I power walked faster than I actually ran at this point.
Part of me felt a bit defeated to resort to power walking, but I received a text from my coach that said, “You got this!!!! Make it happen.”
I power walked the last loop as well with intermittent running on the less root-strewn parts. I said goodbye to all of the big steps, the tree roots I nearly tripped on with each lap, and the burned stump that I thought was a person in the woods nearly every time I passed.
Arms in the air, I finished the 62.58 mile run in 18 hours and 4 minutes.
(My family waited up until after 2am for me to finish.)
- Run your own race. I cannot say this enough. Others follow their own paths at their own paces. Only you can run your race. Only you.
- Don’t automatically quit when the going gets tough (and it will). Time can change situations. Go easy. You’re okay. It will pass.
- “Relay-runners” will always exist, those people who take the short way when you choose a more difficult road. Let them run by; the wisdom you gain outweighs their speed by bucket loads.
- Sometimes you have to change your plan due to immediate circumstances in order to do what it takes to make it happen.
- Love and support your people. I received text messages all day, my family waited up, Rachel trudged out in the freezing cold to help me, Maria drove two hours to “hang out,” etc. The small things that people did out of the kindness of their hearts made a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. I’m so grateful to all of them.
- Know that you are capable of so much more than you could ever imagine. Step into that truth. If you ever forget this, I’m happy to call and remind you.
Much love, K.