from mile to marathon

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

Thursday, November 07, 2013

the day we flew in

We had a little mishap on the way, and had to take a detour to fix it. After all the driving around a couple of warning lights went on in the rental car (the cheapest we could find), and we spend some time trying to get rid of those, with partial success. The low pressure light never went out, no matter what we did (or didn't do) with the tires. After a while we decided to quit worrying, it seemed the tire pressure monitor itself was defective; the tires looked fine to us.

Between this and that, when we arrived at the trailhead for packet pickup it was dark. I could still figure out the race wouldn't be on a mountain - the landscape was hilly, but there wasn't anything like a mountain in sight. The course doubles as a ski-trail in winter, and this is where I got confused - when I read about skiing I imagined a mountain, in my mind that's where skiing takes place.

It was raining, and I had to think of the roughly twenty people who had started running the 200 and 150-mile races that morning and were now facing the long, wet night. My little 50-mile quest was low-key by comparison. There was also a 100-mile race, and a 50K (31.25 miles), we would start the next morning.

The trailhead had a big enough parking lot, a couple of tents as shelter from the rain, a camp fire where a small crew was keeping warm, and a lit-up cabin. This is where runners would check in after every loop. We entered, I said hello. No one was smiling. A man who seemed to be in charge got up. Stepping to the registration table he asked which race I was running.

"I'm doing 50 miles."

"Miles?" His voice carried an inflexion of surprise, as if he expected me to say I was doing the 50K. Then he got busy looking my name up on the list.

Do I give the impression I am someone who won't do 50 miles?

This was the evening before the race, and I wasn't wearing running clothes. Okay, so I look like a city girl. Hey, I am a city girl. Maybe my jacket was too pretty. Maybe I just imagined all this, and he was actually concerned about something else, one of the runners out there on the trail perhaps, so he absent-mindedly repeated the last word he heard, to center himself so he could address the business at hand.

People ask this all the time, astounded: you run 50 miles? Even about marathons: you run 26 miles? I am sure it happens to every runner. It happened to me before as well, but always somewhere in the indoor world, in places of consumption and leisure. Never at packet pick-up.

Maybe I was reading too much into the incident; it meant nothing. And it's actually not always a bad thing, when people doubt you a little bit. It's a great motivator. It makes you more determined to prove what you can do.

Later, finally in the warm hotel room, I shrugged it off. I was already determined. I already had my own inner motivation. Next evening, after 50 miles, I would come toward that cabin, on that path we had glimpsed in the darkness, I would come on that path from the north, running or crawling, whatever it took, I would come in after 50 miles.


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