“Why would you want to run 100 miles?” If that was the first thought that crossed your mind, you are not alone. Hardly a day goes by without hearing from a concerned and/or incredulous friend, co-worker or family member. Some are supportive . . . in a manner similar to when a former classmate with no discernible talent tells you they are working on a novel. Most respond that they don’t even like to drive that far and leave it at that.
So, why? The honest answer is I don’t really know. I am envious, yet skeptical, of those who can wrap a single-phrase answer in a bow and hand it too you. By comparison, my response more closely resembles the tangled fascia of an angry plantar. But with a little deep-tissue massage, it is possible to tease out some of the twisted vermicelli that will lead to 4 AM, August 18, in Leadville, CO:
- It will be difficult. Times 10. There are many talented ultrarunners…and none of them will say 100 is easy. Ultramarathon Man, Dean Karnazes (personal hero, friend and really good guy), DNF‘d on his first two Leadville attempts. This is appealing.
- All seasoned marathoners have hit the wall. It’s not fun, but we know how to work our way through it. What happens when the wall is 60-miles thick? Will I have the physical stamina and the mental cojones to dismantle it brick-by-brick? This is appealing.
- I turn 52 on the day of the race. The date and the age are not all that significant. But if you’re going to do something like this you will never be 100% prepared . . . so you might as well get on with it. And, besides that, do you really want to grow old without some good stories to tell?
- Extolling “follow your passion”, “don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something” and “clean your room” to my kids, I am compelled to take my own advice (on two out of three admonitions).
- Not everyone will finish. Historically, about 60% of those who register will make it to the start line. Of those who start, only 50% will make it to the finish within the 30 hour time limit. This is appealing.
- The race starts at 10,152 ft above sea level. I live, work and train at 590 ft above sea level. The difference? 40% less oxygen in Leadville than in St. Louis. Yup, this one is so appealing it has me breathing hard.
Can you make something out of all that? I do not know this thing well enough to make it simple. Yet I am sure I am not alone in the desire to explore the fringe. Maybe the world is flat and if you venture too close to the precipice all will be lost. But, as in most instances where we journey past the comfortable, we find the precipice to be illusory. And a new world opens up . . . along with a new perceived precipice.
This is a joyful chosen suffering. It is something we have inflicted upon ourselves for the sheer morbid curiosity of sport and what we are capable of. – Jimmy Dean Freeman
Jimmy Dean is an ultramarathoner. A surfer-dude runner with the experience and wisdom deserving of sensei respect. He makes a clear distinction between chosen suffering and true suffering. Running 100 miles is clearly a choice. When I hit the tough part of the training and zombie-march portions of the race, I do not expect sympathy. If I whine, if I complain, you need to put me in my place. I signed up for this. I paid to do this. Any suffering is my choice. And I do truly see this as a blessed, joyous choice even if I can’t quite explain it.
I get that anyone dealing with true suffering due to health issues or other significant loss would trade their position for mine in a heartbeat. They didn’t choose the hand they were dealt. I am running the Leadville 100 for many reasons, most of which I am ill-equipped to put into words. But the one reason I can clearly communicate involves my desire to support those dealing with true, not chosen, suffering. My wife, Tami, and I are putting our wallets where are feet are and pledging $5000 in matching donations to The Life & Hope Fund. These are good people helping cancer patients and their families through some very tough times. I hope you will consider making us pay.
p.s. I am also looking for a Leadville pacer or two . . . and any free advice morsels that experienced ultrarunners would like to toss my way.