On Saturday (Friday in the US), I’ll be running a 50 Miler as part of the Great Naseby Water Race. It will be a very small field ~ probably only 40 people spread across the 100k, 80k (50 mile), and 60k events. It will be miniscule compared to the event I’m accustomed to doing in late August, the TransRockies Run. Several hundred TransRockies competitors are treated like royalty from start to finish, and pay quite a bit of money for this catered service.
Naseby is, well, on the opposite end of the spectrum: just a bunch of people looking to run a very long way amongst some gorgeous scenery. As you can see at left, Naseby is in the middle of nowhere, an old mining town that is distinct only in that it is the highest elevation for a municipality in New Zealand (2000 feet, not to be confused with its counterpart in the US: Leadville at 10,200 feet). It will be colder than Wellington there but should yield less wind. We’ll fly down tomorrow, and I should be on the starting line at 9am, hopefully improving on my personal best of 8 hours, 23 minutes.
The picture at left, from the finish of the Tucson Marathon in December 2008, is indicative of what I’ll be feeling like at the end of the run on Saturday evening. Essentially, everything will hurt, even my teeth. My head will ache and I might have trouble sitting for more than a few minutes, and getting up from sitting is like a nightmare. My best description is to liken it to a bad fever directly after losing a fight with Bruce Lee. And that’s if all goes well; sometimes it can be much worse.
I love this feeling. It feels like I’ve accomplished something. Like whenever Indiana Jones appears beaten, bruised…he always accompanies that image with a sort of a grin, like he knew how bad it was going to be and he did it anyways. That’s how I feel when I’ve finished a long, slow grind like a 50 miler.
And I know there’s something in that. Something special. It’s not just the discipline of it; that’s sort of an easy concept to fixate on. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but there are moments that have been great for my development as a person. Like the last mile of the Pikes Peak Marathon (where I fell twice) or the end of Stage 3 of last year’s TransRockies Run, when I towed my partner (Paul Terranova) to the finish so hard that I nearly passed out…but we held off the team just behind us for the last three miles. Finishing a hard, physical struggle like that is, in a word, pure. It’s just your own effort, entirely.
Every time I get to that point where it’s really hard, before I’ve crossed the line, I think about the severely wounded veterans that the Wounded Warrior Project assists. I know some of them. I can only imagine that my last few miles in a 50 miler would be, well, sort of an every day thing for them. And I’m just doing it for one day. That gives me strength…enough to get across the line…to that moment of personal triumph.