from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Monday, January 11, 2016


I was out of town for a few days around Thanksgiving and again in the first week of December. By then my average weekly mileage was in the high thirties.

Not that much when training for a 100, but serious enough for me. I have never done consistently so much before. Aside from a lingering pain on my right side, sometimes radiating downward (I had a tight muscle in my buttock), I got to be comfortable doing 22 miles or so every other weekend, a little bit under 20 on the weekends in between. As a rule I still ran only three days a week, with the leisurely intent of adding a fourth day at some point, which would propel my weekly mileage in the forties.

I didn't want to interrupt this nice streak while I was away, so I used the exercise room in the hotel. I usually shy away from the treadmill - I started on one, but once I ran my first mile outdoors I didn't go back. This time the treadmill was convenient. I didn't need to negotiate distances, traffic, and weather in foreign cities. I could monitor speed and incline and experiment with it. I ran faster than I usually, just to see how fast I could go. I even played with the elliptic, which I had never done before. It was almost fun. I certainly had a few solid workouts.

A day after I came back I ran a slow 6.5 miles before work, not pushing too hard. The rest of the day I limped while walking. It was then that I understood that I don't have a tight muscle - I have an injury.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


One thing I like about running 100 miles is how it changed my perspective. I mean, of course, the idea of running 100 miles, since I haven't run that yet.

But even without having run it, the way I perceive distances has changed, radically, yet almost without me noticing when it happened. Before I ran my first marathon, a marathon was this incredible distance that I hoped to cover somehow, crawling if need be. Far out there. When I started training for a 50, a marathon became... duuuh, the halfway point. Now, thinking about a 100, marathons - I read this on a bumper sticker - are cute. A 50 is a warm-up run.

The body might think differently about this. But the mind, the mind has already adapted.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

signing up

I was monitoring the race on ultrasignup - it was 20% full, 22%, then 26% for a long time. I had already signed up for a couple of "warm-up" runs (a marathon and a 50-miler) but didn't yet feel compelled to sign up for the 100 miles as well. Mostly because I wanted to push the payment out to a later credit card cycle. Maybe I was still undecided - did I really want to do this? There was still a lot of time - to make up my mind, to train, to get ready, to pay.

I didn't want to miss it either, because it is a nice flat race with an indulgent cut-off time. Over a few weeks I checked it pretty often. It got to be 33% full, which meant 66 runners out of the 200 allowed had already signed up. Still no reason to hurry.

Then one day I didn't see my race on the site anymore. It was simply not on the list. I scanned the whole thing once more, clicked on this or the other link, couldn't find it. I imagined 134 runners signing up all at once. I thought for a few moments it was sold out.

Given my ambivalence I expected to be relieved. Hey, I do not need to do this race, it's sold out. This one was mine, easy, I don't want another one. Never mind.

Instead I was disappointed. I wished I would have simply signed up.

Later I found my race on a different list, of races about to open for registration in a few days. I didn't understand how it could have been more than 30% full if it was not open for registration yet, but I didn't fret about it. On the day it opened I promptly signed up.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


I once read in an article about running that it makes little sense to answer when someone asks you why you run an ultra, because they won't understand anyhow - if they would get it they wouldn't ask in the first place.

There are two implicit suggestions here, that as a non-runner you are kind of opaque, and that as a runner you are clear about your motivation. Not sure I agree with either. I am not into many things and I don't do plenty others (gardening, whoring, cake baking, scuba-diving, playing the flute) but I get it, why some people do it. On the other hand, I am not sure why I want to run a hundred miles.

Sure, I can give a list of reasons, all of them more or less in the target area, none of them hitting the exact mark - I long to do something bold, it's cool to engage my body, I want to conquer new territory, I want to be proud of myself, life is waiting and the start line, I need a new belt buckle, I want to see how far I can go. I can even paraphrase an old song, improvise on poetic meaning, "'Lord, I'm 100 miles away from home' so I thought I might just run home."

But I still don't know - why would I run a hundred miles? Why would I do that to myself?Why submit to all that rigor, why give up so much time, why go through all the pain and fatigue?

More than once after a big run, 20 miles give or take, hours and hours of pounding the ground, feeling I had more than enough, I ask myself: 24 hours of this?

24 hours in principle, that is. Might be more like 30 in fact.

Then the next week comes, and I do it again.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

I think

... I want to run 100 miles.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

nothing as powerful as imagination

The last two miles of the race, in the dark, I couldn't see much, and I was limping on my left leg, but here's the insane thing: I felt that, if it weren't for the limp and the temporary eye problem, I could have done another twenty miles or so. I mean, right there and then - I could have done two more loops, maybe.

Of course, that was sheer theory, after all I couldn't do away with the pain in my calf. I was barely walking. But I reasoned that, if the course were flat, I wouldn't have the limp. From here it was just a small leap of imagination to the next statement: I can do a 100-miler. Provided it's flat.

Before my first 50 I have admitted to myself, a few times, that I didn't actually know what would happen and if I would finish. After this race, I had no doubts: I can run 100 miles.

I seriously considered this. At the airport, before we left Wisconsin, waiting for the plane to take off, I was looking up flat 100-mile races.

Monday, March 24, 2014

left vs right

The day after the 50-miler I was limping, not because I was sore - I was - but because my left leg, the calf specifically, hurt much more than the right.

I had read that running uphill is hard on the calves.

Two days later my right leg wasn't sore anymore, but the left one still hurt, and it hurt for two more months afterward, or even longer.

Not sure why the difference - give or take one, I took the same number of steps in this race with both the left leg and the right, and I didn't strain or stretch one more than the other.