During mile 1 of my first 50-mile race, as darkness lifted from a perfect Vermont morning, I did what a lot of people do when they think they might be in over their head—I started talking to strangers.
By mile 5, I had acquaintances. By mile 10, I had friends. By mile 12, I had advice. Lots of it. Be patient. There’s no rush. Walk the hills. Eat a lot. Eat gummy bears. Don’t stress. Just look at this as a day when you get to run for 10 hours without guilt. I obeyed all of it.
By mile 31, I put on a fresh pair of shoes and socks—taken from a bag we were allowed to send ahead to ourselves—in addition to a foil-wrapped bean burrito that I’d stuffed into one of the shoes the night before.
I was moving through the woods with the purest joy, deeply at ease with the elemental act of running. In fact, somewhere around mile 27, I decided that this was the kind of running I really loved. No more obsessing over pace. No strategizing except to finish. Lots of down time at rest stops. Plenty of socializing. Yes, from now on, this is what I would do. Ultra marathoning. I was converted.
I lay down in a field of grass and bit off the end the burrito. Considering the infrequency with which I saw port-o-cans, I decided that this first bite should be the last bite, so I shoved the burrito back into the humid well of one of my used shoes (which the race organizers would ferry back to the finish), laced up my fresh shoes, ate a Clif Bar, and ran on, now more in my head than in over it.
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