It was mile 25 and my daughter heard my plea: “I’m so tired. I just want to quit.” I was exhausted from four and a half hours of trail running in the Minnesota Northwoods and felt nauseous thinking about running the course again in reverse.
At 9 years old, Cady didn’t quite understand why, when I had just said I wanted to stop, I was about to turn around and head back. “Just stop, Mom.” Simple logic.
My husband, on the other hand, pulled me up out of the chair I’d just crumpled into and got me turned back toward the finish. “We’ll see you at the next aid station!” Somehow he’d tricked me into moving again.
The Minnesota Voyaguer Ultra is a 50-mile foot race on some of the most beautiful and rugged trails I’ve ever run. It’s rocky, rooty, hilly, and muddy with a few stream crossings, scramble-on-your hands-and-knees ascents, and slide-on-your-butt-descents. For the first 25 miles, it’s more fun than anything else. But at the turnaround it becomes a test of wills, an exercise in mental toughness.
So as I started to climb the trail out of the Duluth Zoo, I began thinking about why I was running this distance. What it was that was keeping me going. I came up with a few reasons that, even in my post-race return to sanity, sound pretty compelling:
1.) As a mom, there are few things I do that are JUST for me. This race, this weekend, was all about me. Like it or not, it’s something my kids need to experience. They need to see Mom as an individual, her own person with goals and aspirations. Hopefully it’s something they’ll remember (and replicate in their own way) when they have children of their own.
2.) Self-confidence isn’t always easy to come by for me. Running 50 miles reminds me that I am worthy and capable of much more than I sometimes give myself credit for.
3.) There is a sense of community I feel when running these races that is unmatched anywhere else. It’s not like a quick trip through a water stop during the marathon or 5K. It’s people taking the time to figure out what you need and get you back on your way. Each individual’s finish is really a group effort. I love that.
4.) Trail runs are beautiful. There is a sense of peace when running in the woods that I don’t get anywhere else. Trail runs are the perfect excuse to run through mud, and splash through puddles and streams. I get to “wear” the beauty that surrounds me, and that is pretty cool.
5.) I enjoy the solitude of the run. It’s fun to start out with a group of runners, but I really enjoy the alone time offered in the middle and late portions of a trail run when there isn’t anyone around me. It’s a great time to think, or as is sometimes required, to turn off my mind and just focus on what I’m doing.
As the day wore on and I got closer to the finish, I grew increasingly excited to see my husband and daughters at the aid stations along the way. My body was tired, but knowing they were waiting for me kept me moving at a steady shuffle. Maintaining that slow jog helped me catch and pass a number of runners, all of who offered enthusiastic words of encouragement.
I crossed the finish line with my daughters in 10:27:54 (6th woman, 1st masters woman). I’m a little sore, but feel much better than expected. Big thanks to my husband, Tony, who pushed food on me at each aid station (who knew potato chips on PB&J would taste so good!), and kept me going with salt, fluids and his amazing smile.