Originally written 09DEC2006.
18NOV2006 Boonsboro, MD
50 Miles... Why does one run 50 miles? Insanity, peer pressure, boredom, lack of anything better to do, and/or just to see if they can. For me it was all of the above, but especially the insanity and having some great friends crazy enough to do it me and offer fellowship and support along the way. So goes the story of my adventures in the 44th JFK 50 Miler on 18NOV2006.
I will tell you that going on leave and then moving to a new location a couple months before the race is not recommended for training unless you are familiar with the area you are moving to and know of some good places to run. I was not so lucky, but if you know me then you know I was going to do the race whether I was properly trained or not. Shelley kept checking to see if I was going to back out, but there was no way I wasn't gonna go through with this. Shelley was in the same boat, though hers was due to injury, but the way Shelley and I saw it we were just coming into the race with well rested legs.
I met up with Shelley Caywood and Leaf Hales from HIMC before the start. The start was smooth. Not far from the start we came to the first hill, which we walked, as we did all hills later even the little ones. At the top of the hill we made a stop at the port-a-potties before hitting the first trail section. Lots of narrow sections so we got separated from Shelley here and again on the next trail section which had alot of rocky footing and roots. You had to pick your steps carefully and walk on many sections of the towpath. Shelley was just being cautious and saving herself for later, which was good cause she did fall though, thank God she was not seriously hurt.
It was about Mile 16 that we hit the long flat 26 miles of the race that trace the river. I hate this section and call it the marathon in the middle. Leaf was a Godsend here cause he helped keep me moving forward. Eventually we(probably just me) had to start doing 10 minutes running and 2 minutes walking. I wouldn't have had the discipline at that point to keep it up by myself. After awhile I had to send Leif on ahead as I could not keep up the 10-2 routine. I caught up with Leif at the next aid station and Shelley caught up with us here. I moved on before they left, but it wasn't long before they met up with me again as I was just doing 7 minutes running and 3 walking. I was pleasantly surprised that they joined me at this pace and it definitely made the miles go by easier. At about mile 38 while in the middle of 7 minutes running it was as if someone flicked the OFF switch on me and just cut off all my energy supply. I had to tell Shelley and Leaf to go on without me as I could only manage a slow walk, but fortunately the next aid station was only about half a mile away. I chowed down there. I had fruit, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, candy, GU, bagel pieces, soup, hot chocolate, and 3 glasses of Mountain Dew. Most of you probably would have been sick after all that, but it was exactly what I needed. It was the last I saw of Shelley and Leaf until the finish. I continued on at a fast walk as I could not run anymore right then.
About a mile after that I had just got done telling someone that I could not run anymore when a voice/thought ran through my head that said "Yes you can." I figured I better step out in faith so I said "OK Lord." Praise God he gave me my legs back and I was running again even if it was just a 5 minutes running and 5 minutes walking schedule. Shortly after mile 42 we were back on paved roads with the welcome sight of rolling hills. The terrain was back to dictating the running as I walked all uphills and ran the flats and downhills all the way to the finish. I passed 77 people from this point on and had only 3 passed me. I knew how passing people gives you a little boost, but I was also surprised to find that offering encouragement to each one of the people I passed in that last 8 miles gave me even more of a boost and hopefully helped them a little as well. Amazingly I even had a nice sprint to the finish after 50 miles. I ended up being about 10 minutes behind Shelley and Leaf at the finish. My time was 11 hours 34 minutes 05seconds.
I want to thank God for giving me the ability to run 50 miles without dieing, Shelley and Leaf for their encouragement, support, and fellowship in suffering, Shelley's brother, Jess, for driving Vicki to the different meeting points along the route, Leaf's wife, Tracy, for her help and support, the great race organizers and volunteers for all they did that day and leading up to it, and my beautiful wife, Vicki, for her love and support during the race and the next couple days while I stumbled around like an elderly crippled man.
All in all it was a great experience and fun. I would recommend it, but then again following my recommendations is probably not recommended. Walking around funny for the next couple days is worth it all.
As for how you run 50 miles.... You just keep putting one foot in front of the other as to be constantly moving forward the same way we go through life and other races.