A few months ago, I was toying with the idea of running an Ultra Marathon. For those who are not running crazed like me, the simple definition of an "ultra" marathon is a race whose distance is greater than 26.2 miles. The most common 'step up' distance to an Ultra is the 50K race (or 31.1 miles) but there are Ultras that go up to 100 Miles and even higher. My Marathon Maniac friends run these races all the time (they are amazing; I am but a padawan learner). To be honest, Ultras intimidate me.
When I first started running, I never had much interest in Ultras because I felt they were 'out of my reach' and most likely involved pain, blisters, and exhaustion. Why would I want to put myself through that? Then I decided to tackle my first Full Marathon. Then I decided to run the "unofficial" Dopey at Disney World (42.4 miles in 3 days). And then I decided to earn membership into the Maniacs by running 3 Full marathons in 50 days.
Clearly, somewhere in the past two years, I lost my mind (er, I mean 'fell in love' with running). And all of a sudden, the idea of running an Ultra didn't seem as crazy a goal as before. Not some 100-miler for which I am woefully unprepared. But maybe something more reasonable. Maybe a 50K would be 'reasonable'.
Then the events at last week's Boston Marathon made me look at life a little differently. First, it scared me to think something like that could happen during such a life-affirming event as a marathon race. But then that fear turned to anger. How dare someone inflict pain upon the participants and their friends and families - 'my' friends and family! I was determined to face my fears and continue to do what brings me joy and meaning.
And as I thought about all of this, a reminder beeped on my iPad. It was reminding me that registration for the "Howl at the Moon" race was coming up the following week. The race is scheduled on August 10th, which is the day after I turn 53 years old.
As I stared at the pop-up notice, I thought, "I will be 53 years old in August. Maybe issuing in that new year with a new challenge would be a great way to prove that I am not 'getting old'". Or maybe a way to show that you 'can' teach an old dog new tricks. Either way, it felt right.
The "Howl at the Moon 8hr Ultra" is an ultra marathon sponsored by the Kennekuk Road Runners and held here in IL (about 3.5 hours from my home) where each runner gets to choose their own 'goal' distance. Then they run as far as they can in the 8 hours allotted for the race. There are no DNFs (did not finish) in this race. If you reach your goal, you get an achievement medal. And you may qualify for Age Group medals as well (I am in the Grandmaster Male division). So really, this is not a 'race' at all, but a personal challenge to test one's own limits. I liked that idea.
So I registered for the race, selecting 50K for my distance goal. And, it looks like I will have several friends from my running club, as well as friends from across the Midwest, coming out to run this race as well. There is great comfort in knowing that I will be among friends as I attempt my first Ultra.
I am going to train hard for this. I am going to be Boston Strong. I am going to kick off Age 53 with a strong statement of personal conviction. I am not going to let fear dictate my actions or control my life. And, I am going to pray that God is with me on Race Day because I am going to need all the support I can get!
Have you been thinking about what new challenge you might want to tackle this year? Maybe connected with an upcoming birthday, anniversary, or personal struggle? Overcoming fear, complacency, doubt, and other obstacles all starts with the decision to 'Make it So'. So go, make a plan, set it in motion, and see it to completion. It may change your life.