Have you ever pushed yourself beyond your perceived physical and/or mental limitations and found out that you are capable of accomplishing much more than you ever imagined? There's a little place in your brain that tells you what your limits are, and understandably enough, you believe it. You think you can only go so far, whether it's related to athletics or stress or anything really, but it's only when you push the envelope past those limits that you realize how quickly the body adapts. An expansion of those "limitations" occurs and a whole world of new possibilities opens up to you. Sure, I'd call it a transformation.
Dean Karnazes, a well-known ultra-marathoner whom I strongly admire, in his book titled "Ultra Marathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner", quotes something that was an inspiration to him, that helped him realize that there's so much more to life than 12 hour days, a six-figure income, and the imprisonment of work pressures. Something that helped him realize there are people out there brave enough to push the body and mind past their perceived limitations and defy all expectations from the norm. Something that inspired him to break out of his mundane cycle, truly examine the void he felt in his life, and with incredible determination, explore the depths of his physical and mental capabilities. Here's the quote: "I read a story in the paper yesterday about the first mountain climber to scale Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Nobody thought it was remotely possible to climb the highest mountain in the world without using bottled oxygen, but this guy went and did it anyway. A reporter asked him afterward why he had gone up there to die, and you know how he responded? 'I didn't go up there to die, I went up there to live.'"
Admittedly, my daily runs of 6-9 miles are not always enjoyable, but I love the feeling I get towards the end of the run and after the run. Running cleanses your body in places a shower can't reach. However, I can say with all honesty that I ALWAYS enjoy the long runs - anything from 14-20+ miles. I've always been motivated by distance, and I think it's because of the feeling of accomplishment that follows a long run, especially when I feel good after the run. Even though I've been able to run that far for some time now, I routinely catch myself saying "Wow! I can't believe I just ran 18 miles." The feeling of self-confidence and pride and knowing that I have again defied what was once well beyond my perceived physical limitation is intoxicating and very addictive. It's true what they say, running is a drug. Why else would you voluntarily wake up at 4-5am every Saturday morning to get a "long run" in.
About 10 months ago, when I was highly motivated to run farther every time I ran, I wondered what would happen when my mileage got high enough that continuously increasing my mileage wasn't feasible. Would I be happy stopping at the marathon distance (26.2mi) or would I just turn in to a complete nutcase and start wanting to do 50 and 100 mile ultramarathons? I remember deciding that MAYBE one day I might be interested in trying to run 50 miles, but I'd never consider 100. Well, last weekend, I finally embraced the challenge of the 50 miler. Next month, I'm running the Oklahoma City marathon, and then I'll begin a 6 month regimented training program that will culminate in a 50 mile ultramarathon trail run in Palo Duro Canyon in October. I've been on a running high ever since I fully accepted the challenge without any reservations. I have been so pumped all week, maybe somewhat obsessed. In fact, this week I ran 45 miles, the most I've ever run in one week. I even woke up at 4am on a Thursday to get in a good run before my new 6am men's fraternity group at church. Jennifer sort of laughed at me when she saw that I had printed a 16 page "guide" on how to run your first 50 miler, but there is so much planning and strategy that goes in to successfully running 50 miles, you can't just go out there and hope for the best! You have to learn when and how to continuously feed your body a source of energy (food or energy gels). You have to decide when to walk and for how long (a 5:1 run:walk ratio is recommended, but a lot of people walk the uphills and run the straights and downhills). You have to plan a bag drop and decide what to include in your bag for the 2nd half of the race. You have to eat/drink electrolytes to avoid drinking too much water and getting the deadly hyponatremia. I'm going to love this challenge! If only I can remain injury free! I guess I'm so excited because it's another opportunity to push the envelope on what I think are my physical limitations, and I'm confident I can exceed them.