Thursday, 10 September 2015

A hundred kilometres later

Last Saturday, I ran 100 km.

I ran from six in the morning to seven in the afternoon, alone, with only a couple of visits by J, who helped me keep my water bottles filled. 

I ran because I had put in the training hours and it was now or never. I ran because 100 km had been my dream almost ever since I started running. I ran because I could.

My thoughts drifted to all sorts of things during the thirteen hours I was out there, only occasionally to how mind-numbingly boring (and dangerous) running on roads was. Like the proficient introvert that I am, I kept myself decent company. With no one else there to dictate the pace, I ran when I wanted to and walked when I wanted to. I ate when I needed to and drank when I needed to.

Upon hearing what I had done, a colleague of mine said I was a machine. I suppose that wasn't too far from the truth. That is sort of what ultrarunning is about. Putting one foot in front of the other until you reach the finish line. Even when it hurts. You push the pain aside, you observe it from a distance and you keep going until you're done.

From dusk til dawn

And it hurt. Almost from the get go, it hurt. My feet took a pounding and I don't know how long it will be before they heal.

A brief smile as I was covering the last hundred metres to round up to 100 km was all the happiness and satisfaction I felt. I've heard people talk about the post-race blues, the emptiness you feel when you've finally achieved something you've been fighting for, but I'm not depressed about it. On a cognitive level, I am satisfied. I recognise that running 100 km is a big deal. I just don't feel it in my gut. It was this exact absence of exaltation after High Coast Ultra as well, only then I had already set my sights on running a hundred. Mentally, I was already moving to my next goal. This time I have no other goals. I don't intend on running any further than that.

With 20 km left to go

It's not easy figuring out where this almost flippant attitude comes from. But I think a clue might lie within the first thoughts that crossed my mind, regarding future plans. I really want to keep doing ultras. It's who I am. However I don't want to have to shoot for a certain distance. Perhaps what happened was that achieving my goal deflated the importance I place on numbers. After all, they are not what running is really about for me. I want to experience things. Discover new places. Explore. Learn. Grow as a person. Watch the sun rise and set in my running shoes. That's the kind of running that makes me happy, the kind that makes my heart swell with a sense of wonder for life.

If there is one gift running a hundred kilometres has given me, it is the confidence to know that I can. So was it worth it? You betcha.