Good friends bring insights, guidance, and challenge us with crazy things to better our lives. I must have really phenomenal friends because soon after I finished my first Marathon in October of 2016, my dear crazy friends presented me with this question, “Wanna run a 31 mile trail race?” Hmmm, our “crazy” must unite us because I said yes.
So, I joined a crazy wonderful bunch of CCR runners for the ultra marathon training. The training group targeted The Hat Run 50k trail run. I had run 26.2 miles one time ever and never in my life had I run on a trail. But good friends bring good adventures, so I set off on this mission with my seasoned trail expert friend, Georgene, and a handful of other ultra runners.
On day one of the training group, the group met at little Gunpowder Falls and I remember being super nervous. My stomach was tied in knots and my mind was pondering all the thing: I clearly look like I don’t belong in this group, can they tell? What if I trip and fall? What if I can’t keep up? What if I get lost? What on earth is this run going to feel like?
I kept the worry inside and quietly followed my new running friends. The trail was decently flat and as we started to run, I remember quick stepping, jumping over rocks and stumps and then thinking, “This is FUN!” At that moment I knew I had just found something pretty spectacular.
It only got better from there. Spending every Saturday morning with this amazing group, feet pounding the dirt, laughing, and feeling like you were on a grand adventure. Other running friends would inquire, “how is it?” with painful concern on their faces. I would answer with a smile, “Great! We laugh a lot. We run, walk, hike. We eat Pop-Tarts, beef jerky and pb&j sandwiches.” Puzzled looks were always returned. Then I’d laugh more because it was true. The ultra training group has a different flow than road running. It’s a training not only of your physical capabilities but of your physical and mental endurance. You are training to be agile, be aware and be prepared for a long, long day of being in the woods. As you learn and train you realize you never feel alone. You may be three hours into a run, going up a monster of a hill and in your running zone, quiet and focused, but it always feels like you are running supported, as a team. And it’s that connection to the other runners that I find actually pulls you through.
On March 25, 2017, the day of The Hat Run 50k, the field of 430 runners prepared to take off on a 31 mile adventure. I stood around with my group waiting to start… debating what we were wearing, was it too hot or too cold? Should I get in the bathroom line again? All of us from the CCR Timonium training group huddled together. Ready to start this race adventure as a group, just as we had started every Saturday for the last 18 weeks. We all stood at the start line together and waited for the gun to go off. When it did, we took off as pack, trying to stick together for the first four mile loop to get through the crowded field of runners. As the miles ticked on, the run packs thinned out.
At mile 17 I thought I was done. 80 degrees and sunshine had crushed me with body cramps all over. As I came through the first cut off, my friend Marie was there to run with me to the aid station. She refilled my water bottles, held my stuff while I ate some food for energy, and most importantly she encouraged me. “Eat and drink something. Once you get back into the trees it will cool off. Just keep moving.” If she hadn’t been there, I’m not sure I would have kept going. But her words pushed past the questions and worry in my mind and I did what she said. I kept going.
At mile 19 or so my training group friend Kendra found me. She and I ran and walked and talked as we concentrated on making it to the next cut off point. We kept each other balanced and moving forward.
As I left mile 21.6, I found myself alone. No one really near me and a crazy thing happened. I felt like I was running on autopilot. Nothing hurt, I had no oppressing thoughts telling me to stop and I felt good. I was happy. After I made the last cutoff station at mile 25.7 in the allotted time, I was feeling confident and decently strong. Just keep going I said. I talked to some runners on the course who were incredibly encouraging and kind. They kept telling me I was doing great. I thanked my new runner friends as I pushed on, looking forward to finishing the last 5 miles.
Around mile 28 I came upon two of my training group members, Andria and Deneen. We hiked and ran and complained about the never ending hill climbing. We laughed as we knew we were so close to the finish. We kept each other going.
When we came upon the finishing stretch, all I could hear was the cheering from the rest of my running group friends who had already finished. A lot of cheering and encouragement. I couldn’t help but let that fuel me and I sprinted my way across that finish line. 7 hours and 51 minutes, 31 miles… all completed with the help and influence of my running friends.
Surround yourself with great people and you will do great things! Who are your friends and what do they help bring out in you?
Ready to start training with a group and meet your new running buddies?
About the Author: Kathy Logsdon
After four years of not running or being able to finish two miles, Kathy joined one of CCR’s training groups and was able to “start running”. Kathy says, "I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by the best in coaching, running, and genuine all around good human beings. I’m taking what they’ve taught me and sharing it with others who may be stuck at the starting point, like I was. All things are possible. We just have to start together." Check out her personal blog here: runmindful.com.