My 2016 Ultra Marathon Experience

OMG it is here and gone!  Well, not exactly gone. Nothing as eventful as an Ultra Marathon is ever GONE! But it is done, finished, in the books! What an experience. Looking back, it hardly seems real... but whoa I am getting ahead of myself.

As many of you know or maybe you don’t, I decided to do an ultra marathon last June when a friend commented after her Hatfield and McCoy race, which was very warm and took her almost 8 hours, that I could have done an ultra…. I said I would do it with her (thanks Judy for the inspiration,) and then another friend chimed in; I’m in. Now there are three (way to go, Lynn!) and we started talking about it…

Our walking coach Karen has done many ultras, and she suggested we do the Hawthorne 12-hour race.  We talked about doing the 8-hour Howl at the Moon as another option.  As time went on and the beginning of 2016 approached, we settled on the Hawthorne. I registered and Judy began to question her ability…. but she stuck to her word and signed up as did Lynn.  Jane and Kathy came on board, volunteering to be our illustrious ‘crew’.  Karen was on the fence, as this is her year to complete the 50 states.

Training for the Flying Pig began, and we all trained for the full.  Judy and Lynn are both coaches and they were out there all day helping others reach their goals. I did the 3-way with extra cheese (1 mile, 10K and 5K and ½ marathon.) 

And then I put in some miles. I read training tips for ultras, and Karen was so helpful.  Main thing: learn to walk tired! So I did 134 miles in May, and it paid off! Race day came and now has gone! No blisters. No aches and pains of any kind. And no sunburn.  And believe me it was a hot, sunny day!

Now for the real story!  Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were out for a 10-11 hour walk in the park?  What would you eat? Drink? Think about? Would you get tired?  And tired of the same 3.2 mile loop?  Judy, Lynn and I made a pact to stay together and we did!  We sang songs, (the bear song); we tried Row-Row-Row Your Boat, but didn’t have the air for it!  We made up songs for things along the way, like the dip just after the dam… Dippity do dah… and then thoughts of growing up and using dippity do! We prayed (sort of) going through the alphabet and naming off things we are grateful for.  And every lap I had a different mantra which I shared and we would talk about.

Runners would come running up to us and then walk for a spell, catching their breath and cooling down in the heat for a distance before they ran off again.  (I never saw one of them run the hill.) As the day went on, the crowd thinned and we were out there walking and walking and walking.  Laughing, when we could get the air for it. Singing, when Judy thought up another song, talking about what’s important in life and what is just silly and fun. 

At some point I was just about stopped in my tracks with the thought… who has friends like these friends of mine? Not just Judy and Lynn, who walked the Ultra with me, but Jane and Kathy who stood for all those hours at the RV waiting for us, at our very beck and call, with ice and water and fruit and cold salty potatoes.  Fresh shoes and socks, cold wet icy towels and cups of ice to carry to get us through the next mile or so! Who has that? I DO!!!

And what did I learn from my experience?

  • That I truly am never alone

  • That I have a village to support and love me

  • That when a thought is set in motion, it comes to completion, and

  • That any and all things are possible

susan wesley