I suppose I'm a runner. I first dabbled in this identity as a member of my high-school's cross country team. (In my estimation, that was the lesser of the sports evils in which I was mandated to participate.) I found I liked time on trails, at my best moving swiftly and gracefully through the woods like just another one of the forest's denizens. Running with others was always fun, and running on my own proved unexpectedly fine as excellent head-clearing time.
That foundation of formative past experience plus present proclivity meant I didn't outright dismiss my brother's invitation when he asked about a year ago if I wanted to run 50 miles with him. We mulled the pros (limited) and cons (abundant), yet still kept staring into what felt like an abyss. With clearance from our families, we signed up last May for the event that had caught my brother's eye, managing to rope in three other friends as well. Birds of a feather, you know, or masochists.
We did cursory research and mapped out training plans, the puzzle of it all proving a source of ongoing fascination for us: how to prepare our bodies to do something they had never done before, what food and drink would provide the needed -- and tolerated -- fuel. From June to early August, I took full advantage of a teacher's schedule, running 5-6 days each week and stacking up progressively longer runs. I noticed that while I wasn't going with notable speed I was able to go and go. My fitness was changing, demonstrably. Running marathon distances became an attainable routine. Best of all, none in our group experienced any breaking down physically or fatiguing mentally as the mileage increased. Runs of five miles or fewer, a friend of my brother's dubbed "snacks." We did the math and concluded the ultra-marathon would amount to 10 snacks. No problem, we bluffed. In our amateur judgment, we were on track for our goals -- even if I had to start tapering early, once the new school year started.
I'm writing about this today because my brother and I and our friends participated in the event exactly six months ago, on September 26. All five of us finished, feeling better than expected, and surpassing the times we had talked about as our ideals.