For a short but delightful season, I worked at a publishing house and we used to have these rowdy, wonderful meetings where the team decided whether to pursue a manuscript or shoot it down. We had a series of running memoirs come our way all of a sudden, and I remember a co-worker wondering “why do people who are into running think everyone wants to hear all about it?” Maybe that’s why I feel compelled to write this journey down; I’m afraid of boring everyone around me to tears by blithering on about my 50k experience. I mean, if I haven’t already!
First of all, this race was a weekend-long event. We were BC-based, and the Baker Lake 50K is in Washington. So we camped, which was ridiculous fun. It sounds a bit outlandish, but there was something comforting about a post-race campfire with hot-dogs and our stash of junk food from the nearest convenience store.
Second, the Baker Lake Trail is a gorgeous monster. I’m serious. Even before our race we had heard all about how breathtaking it is. The entire gut-wrenching 25K, and the somehow-not-as-grueling-but-still-actually-disgusting run back to the campsite was filled with an almost eery enchantment. It was a bright green fairy-land leading to a waterfall and views of a crystal-clear lake, then a mountain hike leading to a lane laced with October tress that looked like it would bring us straight to a gingerbread-house. Bonus: we got to enjoy the scenery twice! #glasshalffull
Third, everything went wrong and also went off without a hitch. We didn’t train as long for this race as we should have. It took us a year to get to where we were, true, but by race day we had only been made it to 25k, and even that took six hours of blood, sweat, and tears (I’ve probably said it before but I would never have made it even that far without a running buddy. Never, ever, ever. I am NOT made of that kind of grit). We were technically not trained enough to handle this race, but we ran anyway. Mostly for the medals.
We wanted those medals so bad that even by the halfway-point when we weren’t sure we could face heading all the way back again, we ended up BOOKING IT to get ahead of the sweepers. They had taken off already not knowing that we were still in the bathrooms. If we finished behind the sweepers we wouldn’t get a medal (or so the story went), and we were sick at the thought of going through all this without a medal to show for it. I’m convinced the fact that we had to run to catch up with them was the push we needed to finish the whole dang race. We ran (in intervals) to the finish-line and, indeed, did get our coveted medals.
The whole thing took us eleven hours. ELEVEN. HOURS. An acquaintance had told me, with a straight face, that I could probably do it in 4. Yeah, buddy.
On the other hand, we crossed the finish line, we weren’t dead-last, and, most importantly, we had no sustained injuries. It’s funny how different our metrics for success are. We felt pretty discouraged by the amount of people flying by us, but, then, I had friends and family who were genuinely astonished that I finished the whole thing. There’s a metaphor in here somewhere.
My theory that the beginning of the race is hands-down the worst part still stands. Don’t get my wrong, the last 15k was Jesus-take-the-wheel-we-know-not-what-we-do brutal! But, as I’m sure other long-distance runners have discovered, some kind of magic happens by that point where your muscles are so warmed-up and exercised that running truly doesn’t feel like that big of a deal. It was only when I was walking that I felt I had been in a minor car-accident. Of course, by that time I was hopped-up on jelly-beans and chocolate-chip trail-mix, without which I would’ve been lost.
The truth is, I was dead set against doing anything like this when the idea was first floated to me, but, honestly, it has turned out to be the single most defining event of the past year, or at-least my favourite one to talk about. Training for the Big Run, and especially following through with it, turned out to mean a great deal to me. Cliché as it sounds, this journey has changed my perspective on myself, my perspective on my body, and my outlook on life. It’s been a breath of fresh air in so many ways.
So, what next?