I always enjoy the responses of people (runners and non-runners, alike) when they hear about ultra-marathons. Most people understand the lure of the half marathon and marathon distances. When you tell someone that you are training for a half marathon or a marathon they are often impressed, and frequently share their own story or personal interest in attempting one of those distances. But when you tell someone you are training for a 50K or a 50 miler or longer, the responses are often less enthusiastic, and border more on confusion. “How far? Did you say 15K or 50K? How far is a 50K? WHY would anyone want to do that? I don’t even like to DRIVE that far.”
So why do I want to run 100 miles?
Well, for starters, because I still have chronic hip pain that is worst when I sit, so even I don’t like to drive the THAT far!!!
But the REAL short of it???
Because I think I can.
The 100-mile distance has fascinated me for well over a decade. There is a wonderful short video that chronicles the reasons that some runners gravitate towards this distance. I saw this video for the first time a few months after my first PAO and I have watched it obsessively ever since, including from my hospital bed about 6 hours after my second PAO. It gives me chills each time I watch it! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=h7fROiAj-PE
For me, the process of ultra-running mirrors the PAO recovery process. In ultra-running you set out to cover long distances on your feet over many hours, and there is a lot that can go wrong. The training and racing, just like PAO recovery, require patience, commitment, determination, mental and physical endurance, and the willingness to accept things outside your control. I am fascinated with the concept of failure, and there is something humbling and liberating about the idea of running a 100-mile race. For sure my hips could fail me, but there are many other circumstances that could fail me – inadequate rest, poor nutrition, a sprained ankle, extreme heat, snow, dehydration, poor navigational skills, getting eaten by a mountain lion…. There is an odd sense of comfort in taking on an event where my success may be affected by so many variables other than my hips.
Overall my PAO surgeries and recoveries have been incredibly successful, and the fact that I want to attempt a 100-mile race is partly a celebration of the fact that I CAN! There have been so many times since surgery that I have doubted that I would ever be able to run again, and each mile I get on the trails is a gift. But my attempt to run a 100-mile race is definitely not a defiant statement to overcome hip dysplasia, but also a willingness to live with the physical, mental, and emotional sequela of it. In essence, it involves a commitment to doing exactly what the runners in this video recommend: “being calm, quiet, and focusing on the task at hand. Just let stuff happen” (scary ideas for a “control freak” like me!).