Why I Run: Part Two

Team Pinhoti 100
Team Pinhoti 100: Me, Mary, Paul, and Andy

This is part two of a series answering the question of Why I Run.

We were traveling through the depths of the night with the frigid air of winter’s first cold front easily penetrating our thin layers of running attire. I was supporting my friend Paul by running the last 30 miles of the Pinhoti 100 with him. In the flickering fire light at the mile 82 aid station, I noticed another runner, sitting on a stump, hands holding up her head, elbows on knees, anguished eyes providing a steady flow of tears streaming down her cold flushed cheeks. “We won’t see her again,” I thought to myself. 26 hours, 51 minutes, and 58 seconds after Paul began his journey, he crossed the finish line at the high school in Pelham, Alabama, and not long after that, the girl from the aid station came around that final loop running strong, her face bursting with a smile.

I Run to Be Inspired By Others

Though the act of running is a solitary activity, there is also a strong sense of community surrounding it. That group includes fellow runners, the communities in which races are held, and the friends and family who lend support. The help and inspiration of others can be instrumental in getting through the tough times and completing an endeavor as difficult as an ultra-marathon.

Mary checks on Paul's feet
It’s a difficult job….

My experience at Pinhoti has been a big motivator in my own desire to to run a 100 miles. To watch a diverse collection of individuals, some of whom you would never peg as runners, attempt such a challenging event was incredible. Equally inspiring was the group of people who came out to support the runners, friends and family who were staying up all night, navigating difficult forest service backroads, and dealing with the inevitable highs and lows that their runner experienced in the course of the event. There were also the incredible people who volunteered at the aid stations, filling water bottles for runners whose hands had become too numb from cold to do it themselves, and providing words of love and encouragement to people they are likely to never see again.

Running long distances is not easy. I don’t have any idea what was going on with the runner at mile 82. Was she physically hurting or battling some internal demon at that late hour of the night? Most likely it was both. Regardless, to witness her resilience, and that of others who compete in these events inspires me and provides motivation to face my own struggles. The people who come out to lend aid also inspire me to be a more giving and compassionate person. If you are a fellow runner or someone supporting one in a race or the long training period leading up to one, thanks for all you do and for giving me another reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

If you want to read more about why, I run check out Part One of this series.

Why I Run: Part One

View from Greybeard MountainRegular readers of this blog might wonder what changed in the time between Committed: The Quest to Run 100 Miles Begins and the previous entry when I was questioning why I run. The answers are many, and I hope to provide them over a series of short posts.

I Run to Explore New Places

Running allows me to see places I would probably not get to otherwise. In early December I ran on a trail only 20 minutes from my apartment and got to see parts of the mountains here I had never visited before. I wrote about my experience during that run and the insights it provided me on the Dirtbag Way. It was a true adventure, and yet I was home by early afternoon. As a hike it would have taken me all day to complete the route, and unfortunately these days, I don’t often have that much time to spare. Running allowed me make the journey in only a few hours.

While traveling, running has given me an excellent opportunity to get to know my surroundings. A few years ago while visiting Portland, Oregon I looked up some running routes using Map My Run and discovered one that took me 10 miles almost entirely on greenways and allowed me to traverse downtown and the parks that line both sides of the Willamette River.

Running the Bryce Canyon 100 will be a great way to explore a new environment. I will get to see the sun rise and fall over the canyon walls, and run under a canopy of stars during the depths of the desert night. I will experience Bryce Canyon in a way that few others get the chance to.

For me running is about exploration, and that journey is not limited to the physical world I am traveling through. More importantly, running creates the opportunity for me to explore my inner landscape. I get the chance to know my internal peaks and valleys, learning along the way what my body and mind are truly capable of. Though this exploration can often be difficult and uncomfortable, it is also filled with moments of supreme joy and wonder, and those times make the journey well worth the effort.

Committed: The Quest To Run 100 Miles Begins

The path to the finish line begins now. Money has been put on the table, a running coach hired, a good friend to suffer through the later stages of the race with me contacted, and the blessings of Mary secured. I am going to try and run the Bryce Canyon 100.

This journey will occupy much of my time over the next six months. Even though it’s a 100 mile run, I will have to travel many times that distance in order to complete the event successfully. It will not only be me who hopefully crosses that finish line in the Utah desert. It will take a team to get there. Running 100 miles is not something I can do alone.

I hope you will come along with me on this journey. The more support I can get the easier the miles will pass beneath my feet. Words of encouragement can mean so much after a cold day of training in the rain, or after a tune-up race that does not go as well as planned. Friends to share the miles with as I train will be greatly appreciated. You want to go for a run? Call me. I’ll be out on the roads or the trails almost every day of the week from now until June 5th. Don’t worry, I won’t be going very fast. The concept of “running” a 100 miles is a bit of a misnomer; there will be much walking involved, both during the event and in preparation for it.

I plan on sharing my progress on this blog and through Facebook and Twitter so you can follow along if you are interested. I look forward to taking this journey with you. Thank you in advance for your support. Ultimately, it is the love I feel from friends and family that always comes to my aid and carries me through life’s most difficult challenges.