I have no idea what makes a man attempt the impossible, only that I have seen the mountain and decided, I wanna to try… I wanna to do more than just wonder, “what if.” My mountain, a 50 mile foot race through the hills and woods of Schuyler County.
I’m not a runner, not an athlete, but someone who thrives on pushing themselves to see what they're made of. Being a foolish old man of 57 I have become obsessed with the notion of running 50 miles. It seems impossible, it seems intriguing, it would be an adventure that most would not even attempt. It is something I am willing to fail at, if it holds even the slightest chance of me reaching the summit of my mountain.
July 1st, 2017 is the date for the Finger Lakes Fifties, which is put on by the Finger Lakes Runners club. I have only competed in one other race with the club, which was a 20K race, called the Danby Down and Dirty. It was 12.4 miles of hills and woods, it took everything I had to finish.
Why would I think that I could do a 50 mile race… cause I am an optimist, because I believe that you can push yourself further than you ever thought possible. I don’t expect it to be easy or comfortable, but for it to hurt. Mentally you can do more than the body is willing to do, this is a philosophy I blindly subscribe to. I am excited to see if I will break, will my old body give out? Will get tired and quit? Will I start training for this, to only realize I am a foolish old man?
On New Year’s Eve, my first test, a 17 mile run to bring in the new year of 2017 it seems like a good place to start. I have never run 17 miles in my life. Could I manage this, or will this be a wake up call ending a foolish adventure before it even starts?
The excitement of a new adventure, the sleepless night the evening before; call it race day jitters, call it anything you like, it is part of the experience.
On the day of New Year’s Eve, I started out, there was a fresh snow fall from the night before, an inch of snow covered the ground and the temps were just below freezing. I left my house, jogging down the side of the road, my destination the Catherine Valley Trail. It would not be the first time my journey started out here. Six months earlier, I ran down this trail with the goal of training for an 8 mile Spartan Race. I made it ¾ of a mile back then before having to slow down and walk, to catch my breath. I walked and jogged the remaining distance of four miles. I would have an additional 13 miles to run today.
The first seven miles went by pretty easy, as I got closer to Millport the snow got deeper up to 4 inches in spots slowing my progress. My knees hurt a little, my calves were tight and the realization that I had ten more miles to go was starting to sink in. I pushed forward. I would have to go a mile and a half past the Millport post office to get to my turn around point. I wear a Garman trail watch, it tells me how far I have gone, it gives me my average time per mile and how many minutes I have been running. I got to the turnaround at mile 9 at just under two hours, not bad.. Not good. All I had to do now was get home. As I jogged up the ramp to the bridge going over Rt.14 My body was starting to feel the miles. Common sense said “This would be a good place to stop running and walk.” My only goal in this adventure was to be able to run the whole distance without walking like I had to do 6 months earlier.
I looked at the Garman more often, mile thirteen.. Four more miles to go… I think I can make it. Mile 15 came and each step hurt, each step had to be planned. My breathing was a little more labored and it took what seemed like a long time to reach mile 16. I crossed the road at Genesee Street, thankful I had only one more mile to go. This took a lot of effort, I looked down at the Garman frequently, counting the steps. I was really tired, just thought of collapsing in the path was very tempting.
I hit my 17 mile mark and did not take another step, I don’t know if I had another step in me. For me to finish a 50 mile race I will have to run the equivalent of today’s run, 3 times. Can I do it… I don’t know? I do know I could not do it today. I know my goal of 2017 will be to do things I cannot do now. I am planning on climbing my Mt. Everest in July, I may not make it… but I am going to try.
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