In all my nine years of running ultras, I haven't ever posted a 50k race report. Not sure exactly why, and yet it seems probable that aside from my very first 50k race they have passed by as uneventfully as a marathon. "True" ultrarunners do honestly get pretty pompous about running marathons and 50k's as training runs for the 50-milers, 100k's and really long races like the 100-milers.
My elitist attitude has toned down over the years, though, as my training miles and race times have dwindled to slightly embarrassing numbers. It is now an accomplishment for me to finish a 50k -- as if I am hanging on by a thread to the runner I "used to be." That's what happens when too many Saturdays pass by of sleeping in, and too many late evenings at work and cold winter nights serve as plausible excuses to skip a training run. I guess I figure if I can still complete a 50k, I still have hope of becoming pompous again. But then the terrible finish time makes me sad for myself, for being so weak and incapable.
Yesterday morning, at 5:15 a.m., limping to the door, letting the dogs out, seeing the new fallen snow, I seriously battled with wanting to quit before starting. The Green Jewel 50k is a yearly event for me. Except for the initial year, May 2008 I believe, when it was a 100k/50k with maybe 15 competitors, I have run all of them. And yet going to the bus and traveling to the starting line and completing 31 miles on the pavement seemed just like torture.
I was ready to send a text message to Joe when I got a wake up call from a fellow runner, who basically told me to put on my big girl pants, suck it up, and get going to the bus.
Not many folks out there are really invested in my running any more. Not like many were invested in the beginning, but I have let my community down by not showing up to so many fun events and runs. I don't even know most of the folks manning aid stations anymore. I haven't kept up with my peeps; I didn't even know that a "good" friend got DIVORCED last year!
Why do I hang in the middle, in I-don't-much-care Land, and either DO IT WELL or QUIT?
Because of folks like Tim Adkins.
Tim is a 22-year old from Lorain who finished his first 50k yesterday. I had the honor of spending the last five miles or so in the race with him. I learned of Tim's health challenges as a child, when at age 7 he nearly died from drowning. Though his heart was revived through CPR, Tim was in a coma for four months. Doctors at one point told Tim he wouldn't ever do something so physical like run. But after three marathons in the last year, and now the Green Jewel 50k, Tim has another medal to show everyone he can and WILL do what he wants.
You see, being in the middle to the back of the running pack, I get a chance to meet special people like Tim. Inevitably every race I get to hear of a grand story of comebacks and strength despite the odds. We have heroes right here in Ohio, in fact. If you spend any time at all with running groups you will meet all sorts of ultrarunners who have turned their addictions to alcohol or drugs into an addiction that benefits them: running.
We have amazing folks all around us. Each one of them has a story, each one of them has a personal bucket of tears. Next time you are in the back of the pack just counting down the miles, ask someone "why this race, why today." You will see a hero next to you.
Lately, for every race I drag my unmotivated butt to, the Lord arranges my meeting up with someone TRULY amazing. The message to me: "You think YOU have challenges. HA. Listen to THIS. Get rid of your lame excuses and appreciate the life I have given you."
Tim Adkins could have looked outside at the snow yesterday and said, "Naw. It's too tough. Too uncomfortable. I'm not going." Probably most of the 132 finishers yesterday had some valid, plausible excuse for NOT starting the race. And yet each one of those runners, completely healthy, injured or sickly, unmotivated or untrained, energetic or lonely or sad or tired, accepted the challenge.
I know that no excuse is much better than a whole slew of good ones. I know I need to put my big-girl pants back on and get that tough Suzanne back in my life.
The heroes remind me.
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