For as long as I can remember I have been running. As a small child, I would come home from school with nothing on my mind except running down to the creek behind our neighbor’s house. After all, there were turtles, frogs and crawfish that needed to be rounded up and then released. In high school I was a sprinter and ran the 200 meter, 400 meter and 4 X 400 meter relay races. I was fortunate enough to compete at the international high school level and quickly took to the comradery and competitive spirit of racing. Over the past twenty years I have run just a handful of 5Ks, but have always enjoyed the time outside with my friends and fellow runners. Last weekend I ran the War Eagle Tail Twister at Hobbs State Park just outside Rodgers, AR. It was my first long distance trail run and my first 25K…ever.
Over the course of that weekend I learned a lot about myself, the great outdoors, the importance of respecting nature and our beautiful state parks and the truly remarkable tribe of individuals collectively known as ultra trail runners. It was an amazing experience and one that I will not soon forget. Ultra trail runners are a completely different breed of runner. We push the very limits of human physical endurance and in doing so embark on a journey that not only tests us physically, but mentally as well.
Perhaps the most surprising thing that I learned last weekend was this. There is a huge mental, even emotional component to ultra trail running that plays out over the course of a race. As the time, distance, heat and humidity progress throughout the run it becomes more difficult to stay focused and the slightest lapse in concentration can cause a trip, tumble or fall. Several hours into the race self-doubt begins to emerge, “I hope I don’t cramp up.”, “It’s too hot and too far to continue.”. My point is that the mental toughness and raw tenacity that is required to complete a long distance 25K or 50K is truly significant. Only those willing to confront themselves, their physical limitations and the challenge head on will finish the race. For me personally, the most rewarding part of this journey was the unique combination of belonging, empowerment and sense of accomplishment that comes from successfully completing a long distance run. The natural beauty that we experience while trail running is awe inspiring, as is the relief when you finally make it to the next aid station or the cheers of support from your friends and fellow runners as you make your way across the finish line. It is a feeling unlike anything that I have ever experienced.
I am so very grateful to have embarked on this journey and to have shared it with my friends and my local running family (Go!Running/Team Honey Badgers). If you have not had the opportunity to experience a trail run, I highly recommend it. Get outside, get dirty and go see all of the natural beauty that Arkansas has to offer. I hope that I see you out there! I’ll be the guy covered in sweat and mud with a big smile on his face!
Live Fully. Live Free. Live Loud!