A Marathon. My New Goal. On Trails.

Looking up on my last trail run
I tried really hard to ignore the magical lure of Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. It only took about nine months before I gave into that weakness. Now that I've read it, as a friend puts it, "I've drank the Koolaid." And she's not joking. Its taking everything I have to hold myself back, preserve my common sense and not do something completely out of my comfort zone. Um... as it turns out, that's not possible, but more on that later.

I haven't been able to get a good night's sleep for about a week and a half now. Since I've read "the book" I've been having some intense dreams and I'm not sure I like them. Each morning I wake up and I'm exhausted. No wonder, though, because I've been dreaming about running trails all night long. Not just ho-hum-I'm-running-a-trail-isn't-this-nice-and-pretty sort of dreams either. I'm talking serious trail running dreams. In these dreams I'm running really fast barreling down hills on the sides of exposed canyons with a scorching, hot sun overhead. In these dreams I feel like I'm standing tippy-toed on the fringe of my abilities. I experience a parallel of euphoria and fear, energized and paralyzed all at the same time. Weird. And even weirder because these feelings are seeping into my waking life. They're intense enough to make me irritable, on edge, and downright bitchy for most of the day.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my life experiences. In particular my running life experiences. I started running track when I was in junior high and started training with the girls high school cross-country team when I was in 8th grade. I loved running the forested trails up in Nevada City and I remember clearly the Half Moon Bay race with the hill of death. It even had a sign that said "Prepare to die." I loved hills. I always ran the hills and barelled down them as fast as I could heel striking the whole way down. Yeah. Ow. I don't ever remember a race where I didn't twist my ankles or tweak my knees on the downhills. My daily training runs were done in my ultra motion controls with hard plastic custom orthotic inserts but I always raced in my racing flats with little or no support. Looking back on that I cringe. No wonder I've been plagued with so many issues all my adult life. I would have been better off training in the minimal trail flats. And then there was the excruciating abdominal pains after every race. Yeah. I hated those. They would start to come on in waves about 15-20 minutes after I finished and had me doubled over in pain that I can only now compare with active childbirth labor. I never did figure out what that was. The coaches were perplexed as well and thought it might have something to do with an iron deficiency. Nonetheless, I still loved running.

Speaking of coaches. Our Saturday morning ten-milers were peppered with "GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF YOUR ASSES AND RUN!" Apparently that was supposed to be motivating. And when the coaches began to insist that we sign up for track in the off season to stay in shape for cross country I finally drew the line. I despised track and I wanted to try something new in the off-season like swimming (which, consequently, I really suck at). But, I just wanted to run trails and when I told the coaches that they gave me an ultimatum. I could only run cross country as long as I ran track. Seriously? They could "force" me to run track? That was a total sham. So I quit. At that point I was done with the coaches, done with the pain and done with the competitive side of running. I still loved to run, but by the time I was in college it hurt to run more than two miles at a time.

So I'm writing this and wondering why all this is relevant to the way I'm feeling today. Today I'm struggling with wanting to run a marathon. I've never had any desire to run a marathon before I started running barefoot. First of all, I never thought I could get past mile three without keeling over in pain and secondly I never had anything to prove to myself or anybody else. I'm just not competitive like that anymore. But now I'm learning that I may be able run farther and faster than I could in years. I'm rediscovering this passion that I inadvertently killed long ago. And now I'm thinking that I want to test my limits with it. I think I want to run a marathon now. Either barefoot or minimal. The only thing is I don't want to run roads. I want to run trails. And the few trail marathons that I've found around here are some pretty serious runs off the Western States trails along the American River. Not to mention I haven't even ran my half marathon trail run yet so I have no clue as to whether that's something my body can even handle yet. A couple days ago I found out about the Rock'n River 50 and have been teetering on the edge of registering.

So I sent a message to Seth asking him if he thought I would be a fool to sign up for a trail marathon as my first ever marathon race. In a strange way, I almost feel like he knows better what I can handle than I do. He's been programming my workovers and tracking my progress for the last few months. And really, until my race schedule starts up in mid-July, I have little knowledge of what kind of results all this training will produce for me. 

His response to me was all about perspective. What's the worst that can happen? You die? Well, that's really not very likely. It will hurt? Probably. It will be hard? Sure. But, so what? If I think I can do it then I can. If I don't think I can do it then I probably can't. I need to conquer this race first and foremost in my head and with that my body will follow.

The fact is, I know I can do this. I wouldn't have put it out there if I didn't think I could. Its one of those things that I can't stop thinking about lately which tells me its something I have to do or it will haunt me forever. I need to trust myself and my body more. For years my legs and feet failed me, but I'm getting that back now. September 2011 will be my one year runniversary for transitioning to barefoot/minimal running. What better way to celebrate that transition than a trail marathon? Fiyah!
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 BLOG UPDATE: I did it. I registered for the Rock'n River 50 Marathon Trail Run! I will do this! Bring it!


  1. You come out of a marathon a different person than when you started. It's a pretty amazing experience regardless of whether you rock it, or suffer through it. I'm excited that you considering trying one. I wish you tons of success!

  2. I think the marathon is calling to you and it's time to answer. I got the call in 2005 and ran my first and only in some pretty solid motion control shoes. After knee surgery, I decided there likely wasn't another marathon in my future. I'm rethinking that. I'm almost two years minimalist/barefoot and I believe a marathon is possible. I've signed up for a 25km trail race in the fall. I think you can do it!

  3. You gotta do it. At the start you'll be wondering why you want to train like this but by the end you'll be feeling stronger than ever. It's calling to you, why ignore it? The call won't go away, it'll just turn into a nagging, "I wish I had done that." It's all about deciding to do it, and then executing without questioning your decision. You got this.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, guys! Janice - That's awesome about registering for the 25k!! You go, girl!

    DB - you are so right. I don't want regrets. I'm way more than ready for the training. In fact, I am willing to put everything into it. I want to do this!

  5. Way to go! This is pretty exciting. It's hard not to wonder what you can really do after reading that book.

  6. YAY! Well I've run 3 trained for 7.. always injured in shoes. I'm trying to make it to a marathon without my body breaking down. I'm excited for you. The marathon is just a goal and it is just a distance to push our bodies that is all! Running it on a trail will be way more fun than the road. :)


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