This weekend I had the opportunity to run in the Farmdale 50 in southern Illinois. Due to the government shutdown the race had to be changed to a new location at the last minute. An unknown course. Bow hunters near the race. 7 loops instead of 5. No one cared. People actually showed up to register on race day in spite of these "complications."
My friends Katerina Claiborne and Tony Silvestri were going to be attempting their first 50 mile race at Farmdale. It was a blast to ride down with them and listen to their concerns, fears and excitement about tackling a new and challenging distance in unknown conditions. I got to share my pre-race podcast with them and work out a good race strategy. They both rolled with the punches, they didn't get psyched out, they dove headfirst into the unknown. They impressed me greatly.
The vibe at Farmdale was unbelievable. Good people, good friends and a great trail. My friend Paul Wilkerson spent the day manning the only aid station (often by himself) and I know that without him neither Kat nor Tony would have made it to the finish. It was a bit warm and and trail seemed a bit difficult to me. I had a three-fold tragedy involving some late night Olive Garden, some friends (and RD's) who kept me up wayyyyy too late and a toe that went black and blue.
I pulled out at mile 30 with a DNF. It did not bother me one bit. I kept true to my promise to myself during Farmdale - no more suffering in 2013. I located my bag of Cheetos, my M&M's and my lawn chair and I plunked myself at the finish line to spend the next five hours cheering for other runners.
Let me digress for a second to tell you about my last DNF. Kettle Moraine 100 in June 2013. I quit that race (purportedly) because: 1) I wasn't having fun; 2) I had nothing to prove; and 3) I didn't have a good enough reason to finish. This is of course all total BS. I was a selfish wimp. To add insult to injury I committed one of the cardinal sins of ultra running. I left. I missed seeing my friends finish. Some of them finishing their first 100 mile race. I can tell you honestly in retrospect that the second biggest regret in my running career was pulling out of that race. The biggest regret - was not being at that finish line. I don't think I will ever forgive myself for that.
|Some of the friends I abandoned at KM 100.|
Tony and Kat both had heroic performances. They both finished their first 50 miler. I am so glad I was there to help and to cheer.
|Tony Silvestri - 50 Mile finisher|
|Katerina Claiborne - 50 Mile finisher!|
Sunday I spent watching the Chicago Marathon. I had a total of 37 people on my list to cheer for. I did not see them all, but I was glad to see as many as I did. I am proud of all of those who tried, who finished and who couldn't because of injury.
I am extremely proud of my best friend Aaron German. He has been training his ass off for a year on the lakefront path with the hope of finishing sub 3 hours. I was reading a book by Tim Noakes the week of the marathon which took the position that telling someone they CAN do something increases their chances of doing so. On Friday I did the unthinkable. I told Aaron he would run 2:50-2:55. He ran a 2:53. Although I didn't run one step I am still calling that an assist. Good job Aaron....you knock me out.
I still have a lot on my mind. Many people didn't bother to go out and cheer for the runners. Many people finished Farmdale, picked up their award, and went home. I saw a lot of litter on the trail. We cannot turn into a sport for the selfish or the self-absorbed. What I love about this sport is that we realize that we can't do it alone. The race doesn't happen without the RD's. No one could finish the distance without the AS volunteers. We need pacers, and crew members and donations and volunteers. We need people to stick around and cheer. We need to teach newcomers about the traditions and culture of this sport. We are a community and a family. Once we lose that, everything that is special about this sport is gone forever. These is nothing more disappointing to me than a self absorbed runner. ESPECIALLY when it is me.