Preface: the majority of this was written before I passed out in my car last Saturday night/Sunday morning.
I sit here writing this from my car. It’s 3:30am and my good friend (Ms. Trash Panda) is in the middle of her third loop on the Beast of Burden 100 mile course.
I just finished a Big Mac and am working on some Coke because let’s face it, being a race Sherpa is hard work! Slightly kidding — I’m enjoying this because it’s 3:30am and what else do you think is open? I have Honey Stinger waffles and chews in my car. After spending 3+ hours pacing and a couple more spectating, that wasn’t cutting it.
Before today, I was convinced these people who do this whole ultra thing are nuts. After about 3:45 of running in Chicago, I was so over it. I didn’t want to put one foot in front of the other anymore. To this day, I still can’t fathom running another marathon, despite all the times I say I’m considering it. Those last 4 miles or so were absolutely the worst 4 of my existence. They say you forget it? No, no you do not. At least I don’t.
After this experience though, I think ultramarathoners are less crazy than they seem. I think marathoners are crazy!
Each time I run a longer distance, the previous shorter distance becomes “the worst”.
When I ran my first half marathon, 5 and 10ks became awful. Originally, the 5k wasn’t terrible. It was two miles of moderate running followed by one mile balls to the wall. Then I ran a half marathon and that became the nice, easy paced long run, therefore the 5ks and 10ks became “the worst” because it’s not a leisure pace to race those now — it’s not stop, fast, and hard. Well, it’s the same once I ran a marathon for the half marathon. The marathon was a fun, but hard ass race. Now half marathons are “the worst”, nothing about that is leisurely! And because I’m a more seasoned runner now, I’m aware that to properly race a marathon, it’s going to be even harder than it was before and that was hard af (no, that’s not a typo, Google it — not at work.)
So now I’ve experienced the atmosphere of the ultramarathon. These guys have the right idea. As long as you can get over the loss of toenails, lack of sleep, and get yourself into a positive mental state, well, ultramarathons might be the thing.
You don’t have to run balls to the wall for all 50 or 100 miles. (Not that you “have” to for any other race, but it’s more likely you’re running straight through and your heart rate is going to be high. So high.) You can stop. You can walk. You eat grilled cheese, pizza, and candy. These people were right all along!
Sarcasm aside, doing this is no joke, at least this course — for the mental aspect, not the terrain. The Beast of Burden is a 12.5 path along the Erie Canal in one direction, then you turn around and go back to the start to finish a loop (25 miles). It’s really exciting. Each end has an aid station and there’s one a little off center, but kind of in the middle. They offer a 25, 50, and 100 mile race.
How do you keep yourself entertained for that long? Hot damn. When we ran, I played 80s and 90s music, talked about God knows what, and basically tried to keep moving forward — run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute; run through the chorus of songs, avoid all the effin’ frogs in the pitch black darkness. But that was only 3 hours of something like 26? Yikes.
Ms. Trash Panda finished in a little over 24 hours, with plenty of room to spare in the 30 hour timeframe and aside from some sunburn, she was pretty unscathed.
I’m also happy to report she beat the dude who commented, at mile 62.5, “Oh you could walk the rest and still finish in the timeframe. I mean, that’s what you’re going to do anyways, right?”