This weekend, I am running the Rocky Road 100-mile race. It will be my first 100-mile attempt.
I’m at a point now where all the training has subsided, and there’s nothing left to do other than try not to feel anxious and take each day as it comes.
At this point, I’m more excited than nervous. I feel this is a race that could really validate me as a runner and help put me on a level where I feel I belong.
I’ve been impatient with the progression of my races. I can’t shake the feeling of restlessness, knowing that I have more in me. One more push, one more mile, one more sprint that I never got the chance to leave on the trail. There’s a mild frustration, knowing I’m holding on to potential the world hasn’t seen yet. Faster. Longer. Stronger. I’m ready.
Across the Years had a strong effect on my psyche. I saw so many unlikely runners put up jaw-dropping distances, including my baby sister. It really made me realize that I have been holding myself back. Not because I’m injured or because my body can’t handle it, but because I know I’m not “supposed” to be running that well. Because I haven’t followed an acceptable slow, cautious progression.
I went from running in shoes to barefoot/minimalist almost overnight. I went from only street running to only trail running from one day to the next. I went from zero elevation in Toronto, to almost exclusively elevation runs in the mountains from Day 1 in San Diego. My first day on a mountain, I ran 20 miles. I had never been on a mountain in my life. I’ve broken all the rules.
These past few weeks I’ve been fueled by great company. I’ve had the privilege of hanging out with great runners such as the Robillards, Paul Hasset, and I’ll be driving up to the race with Rachel Spatz. I can’t imagine a better possy to fuel a belief in myself. These are all runners who “weren’t supposed to.”
Paul was more than 300 pounds when he found running. Jason’s “authority” as a runner was questioned when he started writing a book. Shelly just keeps knocking out ultras quietly in the background and don’t even get me started on the awesomeness of Rachel who is the youngest and most inspiring 100-mile finisher I know.
These are the Honey Badgers I need to be hanging with. The people who don’t know they’re not supposed to run with extra weight, not supposed to write a book, not supposed to try a barefoot 100-miler, not supposed to recover so fast. So they do.
And now I’ve registered for my first 100-miler. Less than 12 months ago, this was a distance that seemed like a dream. Shacky and I even discussed at one point: What would we do after we run 100 miles? What else is left?
We imagined that at that point, we’d be near-elite status. We’d be at the peak of our physical conditioning. We’d be strong beyond belief. What other challenge could possibly be harder?
But now I know better. I know that 100 miles is not a distance that belongs to the elite. One hundred miles is just ground and earth and mud and space. It is all the things that I already know, and it belongs to all of us. We can walk it, we can run it, and with enough time we can cover it. It’s public domain.
Earth and space and time will always be there. What’s after 100 miles? More miles. In different places and in different ways. Each mile better than the last.
Some have questioned the wisdom in attempting this 100, and I get that. The same questions were there when I ran my first marathon. When I ran my first ultra. When I ran a marathon the day after an ultra. My point is, those questions will ALWAYS be there. And I hope I’ll always be around to answer them with, “Yes, please.” Because we don’t say that enough. If we did, there would be more 100-mile finishers in this world.
Coming from a background where I frequently heard negativity about how unsuccessful my running career would be, these are actually the comments that light a fire under my ass. They’re the attitudes that drove me to run in the first place.
Back in Toronto, it was a constant fight to convince those closest to me that I could be a runner. I knocked out my long distances, often running 26 miles around the neighborhood on my own, fueled by the anger and doubt of others.
Since moving to San Diego, I’ve been smothered in support. I’ve blossomed in this environment as well—feeling encouraged and welcomed into a community that I didn’t know I could be a part of.
But anytime I cross a line or take on a new challenge, there are skeptics. And hearing skepticism again this week, I’ve felt that familiar old rush of motivation to “prove them wrong”—more powerful than any of the encouragement I’ve received. I’m ready to start running NOW.
I try to internalize that motivation because I don’t want to come across as cocky. I know that each race has a mind of its own. Anything can happen out there and there’s always a possibility, due to injury or other reasons that I MAY not finish. But like Paul says, “I’m not afraid to fail.” Trying is just easier that way.
And yes. I CAN do this. I believe I will. When I do, I’ll be that girl who didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to.
(Note: I went on to finish my first 100-miler in 29 hours. Read the report here.)