So I just signed up for a 50 mile run.
I’ve never done a 50 mile run. I’ve done three marathons but only one of those was on a trail. (It said it would be soft and it wasn’t–it sucked, because I was in 8-mm huaraches.) This 50 mile race, like most of them, is on a trail. A very hilly trail. So.
Most of the reviews I’ve read discuss–and yes I know this is one of the least important aspects; no need to lecture me–what they chose to listen to on their various devices. I never listen to music during races. Even when they allow it. (During training, yes, but never during a race.) I want to hear the cheering. But with this race I’m torn. Because on the one had it’s going to take all day. Birdsong is great, but one might need a little more motivation than that. You know, Journey to Skyhold-type motivation.
On the other hand…bears.
There could be bears. There could be silent bears, sure, but there could also be snorting and scuffling bears, and I’d want as much warning as they could give me that they were there, so I could go into GTFO Bear Mode. Granted, I tend not to ratchet my headphones up too high because my mom got terrible tinnitus in college and never got rid of it–lost a job because of it–and I fear it. But still. If there are bears, I kind of want to hear them. If there’s anything to hear. So I can react appropriately.
Next there is the question of shoes. I can’t do heelstrike (and wouldn’t if I could): my pelvis got twisted up in a stupid accident and that jarring heelstrike twists it back into a bad position. So zero-drop would be ideal. Usually I go with Merrells, because I can get them for cheaper than usual, and they have a shoe they’re advertising as for “trail running,” but it looks a bit…heavy. Like it would be a pain to lift up and down for 50 miles. On the other hand, I know too well the pain of a shit ton of rocks under too-thin soles for 26.2 miles, so. Maybe I should err on the side of caution.
This is the not the race I wanted to enter. That one sold out hours after it opened. That one would’ve been a little cooler and with a lot more relatives to cheer me on. This one will be more of the same: lonely roads with only my loyal one-man cheer squad to back me up. And that’s okay. I don’t need little kids yelling my name, or signs.
(I would really like signs.)
All the race reviews I read were by guys, often who’d come back year after year. I know I won’t see them. They’ll be too fast and they’d probably be…a bit dickish. I’m built like a dockworker and always will be; the comments I get at races are “gee, you’re more light-footed than you look,” and “steady on there, honey.” Right. I get a good endorphin high from races (unlike my poor husband), so I usually don’t resent these kinds of remarks long. I remember them later, though. These guys with their look-at-my-abs running blogs, they probably don’t have too great things to say about people who look like me. Eh. I won’t be around to hear them, so.
Why 50 miles? I’m as hooked on Born To Run as the next person; I’d love to do Leadville. I don’t know that I’ll ever be at that altitude long enough to train for it, though. And even if I am, you have to start somewhere. I don’t like the competition of shorter races. The way people put stickers of such races on their cars. It’s not such an…external thing, to me. And I get that that’s silly; of course it’s internal; it’s your body doing the work, after all. It’s you who have to answer the question “can I do this?” and not anyone else. But I’m not in it to save the race to my Athlinks.com profile and compare it with…well, anyone. I’m not even in it to inspire any future offspring to feats of athleticism and general physical health.
It’s not that, but it’s a bunch of things.
It’s my dad telling me over Black Friday breakfast that he did it, once. As a 13-year old boy, passing trials to be able to hike the entire Appalachian Trail with the boy scouts. He made it. He hated it, but he made it.
It’s how running every day in Japan made me feel human the way the people there didn’t.
It’s the little lies you tell yourself as you run–if I can just make it to that tree, my dog will stop limping / my head will stop hurting / my mom will remember me. It’s not that you don’t use such little tricks elsewhere in your life; it’s that it’s more open, more honest, when running. You know none of these things will happen, but you’re so fried out and tired and desperate you can believe they’re true. Just till you reach that tree. And then the next one, and the next one.
It’s that maybe it won’t always be safe to do. Your own bodily decline aside, maybe the ozone will keep bleeding out into space. Maybe you’ll need respirators just to walk around town, in my lifetime. If that happens I’ll regret it. I’ll regret not having taken to the trails with no breathing tank, no mask, and run with nothing but my own body to hurl me forward.
It’s because I can. I think I can.
And because, on either side of my dad’s family tree were people who screwed off, generations ago, in that part of the country. Abandoning their kids in moonshine shacks, leaving them to abusive relatives both too distant and too close. And they survived and met up and made my dad. And he survived and met my mom and made me. And those people who took off into the hills? Fuck those people. Fuck their ghosts. I’m going to run through their mountains and tell them that. You tried to make your hurt echo down through the ages but it stopped.
Suck on that, asshole ghosts.