Movement is life. Running my first 50-miler.
December 19, 2016
This year I went from playing frisbee a couple times a week to running a 5o-mile race. Here’s the story along with a few reflections on the keys to discovering a love of running.
In January, I somewhat precariously decided to run a marathon as my New Year’s resolution. Knowing full well that resolutions of this kind rarely materialize, I thought now was as good a time as any to accomplish this goal. Little did I know that in that year I would end up running two marathons, two 50km races, and one 50-mile race.
I played ultimate frisbee in a league here in D.C. so I was in decent shape but couldn’t remember the last time I went out for a run. I hated running for the sake of running and preferred running as the byproduct of playing a sport like Ultimate.
A few weeks into January, my New Year’s resolution was beginning to fade into a fleeting desire. Then, my housemate mentioned he might be interested in running a marathon and we decided to train together. We did almost every single one of our training runs together. On May 1, his 27th birthday, we “put 26 behind us” and ran the Pittsburgh Marathon at the slow but steady time of 4:47.
During training, I picked up a dusty book about running that had been on my shelf for quite some time and decided to read it for some extra motivation. The book was Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes. For those of you who know me, when I get into something, I can become engrossed in it. I went on to read Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run and Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra. I gobbled up another half dozen books along with blogs, podcasts, and youtube videos about running. I transitioned to trails and ultrarunning, and on June 25 I ran my first 50km race: Hell Hath No Hurry.
One of the books I read was Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell, which has training plans for ultras and I decided to use one to train for a 50-miler. While I hadn’t run much in the last 10 years, I was able to tap into the miles I ran in high school in track and cross-country. I began my training in Thailand and Myanmar in early July for the JFK 50-miler.
Then, just before my Comprehensive Exams for my doctoral program I ran the JFK 50-miler with a time of 9:47. Since then, I’ve taken the last month easy so my body can recover from a year of running, but I’ve already begun planning for next year with the Pittsburgh Marathon and the Oil Creek 100km race on my schedule for 2017. Anyone want to join me?
When I think back on it, the keys to discovering a love of running have been the following:
- Having a training partner to help keep me accountable in the early days. Also great for conversations. Thanks, Trey!
- Having a couple specific goal races in mind. What am I shooting for?
- Learning about running. Reading books/blogs, listening to podcasts, watching videos.
- Finding good shoes. I’m sure my housemates wouldn’t let me get by without adding something about shoes because I have tried a lot over this year, but the point is that finding a good pair of shoes that you enjoy running in is vital. For me, it’s the Altra Superiors and the Nike Terra Kiger 3s.
- Running on trails. This is the biggest one for me. Nature, ups and downs, twists and turns–trails turn running into an adventure in the woods.
- No headphones. This one is definitely not for everyone but I love being out alone in nature and becoming more mindful of my existence. I am able to connect with my body and my surroundings.
I am learning a lot from running. Here are two small lessons: Be outrageously patient. Above all, it seems, running takes patience. This was my mantra in my 50-mile race. I said it over and over. Patience has become a great source of joy for me. Movement is life. I heard this idea in a video of Bernd Heinrich on “Why We Run.” This idea has come to make a lot of sense the more I run. In many ways I agree that movement is life, and running is a wonderful way to move. Check it out: