A few months back I ran my first ultramarathon, the HAT 50K. It was fun and a culmination of a careful, scientific training program. In other words, I just pretty much started running really long runs on Sundays with no regards for building up, injuries, or anything. Essentially, I just simply brute forced my way to my first ultra and got away with it.
So, now fueled by unearned success, I decided that that was all and I was done with ultramarathoning. Except... I realized that my normal training run was 22.5 miles. And I was turning 45 this June 30. And that if you run my 22.5 mile run twice, that's 45 miles! That's all it took. I was committed to running 45 miles for my birthday. Honestly, that was my thought process.
Well, my crazy dream happened Saturday. I modified the route to run around my block, because Sònia wanted to give me support. And I modified the date so the run would happen before Sònia and Daniel went on vacation and before the end of school. Because somewhere in there it turned into a fund-raiser for Oyster-Adams School.
I took off at 4 am on Saturday, accompanied by my buddy Jimm. I had gotten a solid 30 minutes of sleep the night before. Just impossible to sleep. I knew that was going to happen. Jimm had committed to seeing me to the end of the run as soon as I announced it. And he did, although he had to drop out for a few miles because his knee started to bug him.
In fact, I was never alone. At around 20 miles we started to pick up pacers. Oyster-Adams parents who came and ran a few miles with us, or eight or nine or ten. First David and Tim R., then Elizabeth and Mike and their dog, then Allison my co-worker and Mike my boss. Then Paco and Andrew and Claire and Mikelle and Diego and Wendy and Elena and Stefan and S'not... I lost count of all my pacers.
Sònia started to bring out a steady stream of peanut butter sandwiches and potato chips and gatorade when we hit the halfway point. Spectators started to show up at around the 30 mile point, when I was really starting to feel the run. Folks I meet for coffee in the mornings, and more parents, and their kids-- and then a group of kids joined the run. My son, Daniel, ran two and a half miles.
By forty miles I had a train of pacers with me. We picked up Mary and Till, some neighbors who didn't even have a kid in the school, who just wanted to see who all of these crazy people were. Jimm was next to me, telling me I could actually run up the hill when I wanted to walk it. And Sònia was yelling with a group of parents at the toughest point of the course. I started to choke up at how much these people were doing just because I had had this crazy idea. Mikelle was running next to me and got concerned about my breathing-- I laughed and said, "no problem, it's just that this is really beautiful".
The last few laps were a blur, and at the same time I felt every step. My hips had begun to hurt in the last 13 miles. Somehow, Jimm got me fired up to run the very last hill, and three turns later we were on the home stretch.
I have never won a race in my life. Not one. No high school track winning memories, not even a weird age-group win in a road race. And this was not a race. But I know what it feels like to win one now. The crowd at the last turn exploded as our group got close. Sònia ran to me and grabbed my hand, and we made the last corner together. When my Garmin beeped off the 45th mile, I yelled out, "¡Cuarente y cinco!" And then we stopped. We didn't have to run anymore.
I thanked Sònia for supporting this crazy dream that I'm sure she didn't understand. And I thanked my pacers and the people who contributed and the people who cheered and set up water stops along the way. I thanked Jimm after forgetting to thank him the first time through. I'm sure I forgot someone along the way.
So that's it. Except... I was thinking that next year I turn 46. And I kind of like the sound of "The Second 1st Annual Daddy's Crazy 46 Miler"...