Ultra CRAZY Athletes
Whoever said “running isn’t a sport” has clearly never run. These days, running isn’t just a sport, it’s a social phenomenon! If it’s not a 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon, or marathon, it’s the Warrior Dash, the Zombie Run, the Tough Mudder, or Color Me Rad. Then there’s the toughest of all, the Ultra Marathon. These are designed only for the nuts who wake up a few hours early in the morning to do hill sprints, train with weighted vests, and run hundreds of miles each week. I had never heard of Ultra Marathons until I was in college, and for those of you who are still in the dark, here’s the skinny. There are two kinds of Ultras: 1) Any race over 26.2 (marathon length) miles, the most common being 50K (31 mile), and 2) A race that is timed and the person who has gotten the furthest in a certain amount of time wins. And of course there are hybrids of the two.
After my race last Saturday, Ben and I went to Penwood State Park for a hike and we hiked our way right into the middle of the Traprock 50K, a 31 mile trail run though Penwood State Park. For me, it was amazing! I’ve never run 31 miles, but I have run 26, so to a certain degree I could feel the pain of these runners as they passed me and was overjoyed to be able to cheer them on and give them words of encouragement as they trotted by.
In addition to having to run 31 miles, these dedicated runners were doing it through the woods. Some of the trail was “paved”, (I put paved in quotes because it was probably a road in about 1900, but is so warped and cracked at this point, it’s just as uneven as the forest floor) but other parts were not. Some of the unpaved parts of the trail included a climb up about 150 rock steps (some of which were loose). This climb was at least 150 – 200 feet. Then on another part of the trail, the trail was only about 2.5 – 3 feet wide and on the right side of the trail was a fairly sheer cliff. It was a great view, but I’m afraid of heights and when I saw that was part of the course, I nearly fainted. All I could think was if I was running I’d be thinking “OMG, I’m going to trip and fall over the ledge, or maybe I’ll faint and fall over,” either way, if I was running I’d fall over.
Along the way there was seldom spectators, which personally I would find a bit demotivating, but Ben and I filled in the gaps and cheered better than Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On! I may be a bit biased, but i think the runners enjoyed it! Tho moral support in the form of humans was lacking, there was a great fuel station along the way. This station had everything from carbs, to sugars, to proteins, to liquids and everything in between. We were thinking of asking if we could have a snack when we passed (just kidding).
For some reason when I think of people who would run an ultra, I think of an extremely fit 25-35 year old. This race included that…and much more. I was shocked and pleased to see the array of people who were enrolled in this race. There was tall, short, young, old, athletic, skinny, and even a few chubby people trucking along on this course, and none looked any worse off than any other! In fact, I was inspired by one couple who looked like they were in their 50s, and if I saw them on the street I would never pin them for runners, or any athletes for that matter. They were walking when we saw them, and we cheered them on. Their response was cheerful, “Thanks, we’re not moving fast, but we WILL finish. We’ll be here all day if we have to. We’re getting our money’s worth!” Rock on!
While I probably will never achieve such a accomplishment in my lifetime, I am considering doing the Traprock 17K, which is held at the same day and time as the 50K, but is only one lap (the 50K is 3). The 17K is a mere 10.5 miles to the 50K’s 31, but I still think it would be an awesome thing to be a part of!