Up until now though, I didn't quite realize that running those distances for the first time, I was drawing strength from a deeper well, what I shall call "the newbie well": I had to know whether I could do it. In my first races, it was an easy to understand, black and white battle. I either finished or I didn't.
Now that I have run those distances successfully, in a weird, counter-intuitive way the temptation to quit during a race seems to have increased. In the immortal words of Jean Chretien: "A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven." Well, I've proven it: I can run 50 miles. I can even run 100.
Last weekend, many things happened: I started too fast, it was hot, and finally, I had nothing to prove. Oh, I did have goals, but speed goals are a shady concept easily dismissed when sufficient excuses are available and I had plenty of those. As I got closer to 60k, my body started to tell me that I had made a huge mistake. Then it started. "JD, we know we can run 50 miles. This is too hot. You screwed up. You're going to have to walk. Actually, you're walking now! Really, what's the point? Look at you. What is it that you think you're doing? You call this running?". I knew I could finish, now the question was, should I? Where was that mental strength that I thought I had when I was sitting on the couch eating bon-bons? Out there in the "real" world, I was quickly crumbling under pressure.
There were two key moments where I thought about quitting: when I first felt (at 55km) and then knew (67km) that my race goals were slipping away from me.
As far as I can remember, here are the reasons why I kept going:
- The absurdity of quitting. How could I quit, 70km into a 80km race?
- Fear of regrets. I trained for this. What am I going to think tomorrow when the pain is only a vague memory?
- Respect for other runners. As I kept whining about whether all that (mostly mental) pain was worth it to finish with a crappy 10:15, I realized how stupid I was. Plenty of people were behind me. Plenty of people were suffering. Even though I was slowing down, very few people were passing me. Hell, I even past one or two. Who the fuck do I think I am, that 10:15 isn't good enough for me?
At some point though, I realized that this was EXACTLY what I wanted, why I was there. A mental challenge disguised as a physical one. Finishing although I can't think of a SINGLE REASON WHY I SHOULD. Those 3 reasons I mentioned above are really flawed logic. You have to have gone down the (ultra) rabbit hole before any of them make sense. You have to accept that it should be done at all. Most people would beg to differ.
That being said, we don't really care what those outsiders do think. For all of us who somehow ended up down here in Wonderland, wanting to do it is enough. We all run for reasons we probably don't fully understand and that seems to be ok with us. It's just fun to think about it.