The Sun Also Rises...And Then Sets
So there I was, three miles from the finish line, and almost instantly what was dusk turned to near darkness. The sun goes down pretty fast here in northeast Florida in February and I had been running since sunrise. That meant that the next 35 minutes would be spent running in blackness along an old rail bed pitted with potholes and gravel the size of golf balls, and crossing an old railroad trestle with rotted out timbers. One false step and I would be knee-deep in swampy water, or worse.
As I considered my options I recalled some of the events leading up to that point. What a day it had been here on the old Norfolk and Southern rail trail!
At the starting line it became apparent that while the Iron Horse Endurance Run might have been billed as an ordinary ultramarathon, some of the contestants were truly extraordinary. One female runner had a prosthetic leg akin to what Oscar Pistorius wears. Another female runner had already qualified for the Western States 100. Yet another, Monica Scholz, was running thirty 100-milers in 2010. I overheard a male runner saying that he had run Badwater a couple of times. My history of 21 marathons, five 50ks, and one 40-miler looked like peanuts in comparison. On the other hand, there were a few others like me who were stepping it up, including Greenville, SC-based Jason Sullivan who was shooting for his first 100-miler.
After a quick invocation by race director Chris Rodatz we were off. Because there was no way to differentiate runners by race it was hard to tell what pace to use. I decided to go it slow with a ten minute/mile pace. Later on I realized that was too fast.
Pretty quickly I hooked up with a couple of guys running the 100-miler, Scott and Mike. They spend their weekends making the rounds of ultramarathons throughout the nation and were of terrific help to me. Such incredible positivism hour after hour. They almost had me convinced that I should forge on ahead with them and do the 100 miles, but after twelve hours of hoofing it I came to my senses and demurred. By sheer coincidence I met Thomas Eggars at the 50-mile mark; Thomas is a fellow member of the Charlotte Running Club.
My run was largely uneventful, other than having to use two Garmin GPS wristwatches because neither had a battery life of more than ten hours (total unofficial time of 11:48:53). I did manage to trip and fall once at mile 20. The 1979 movie Alien had a tag line of "In space no one can hear you scream." In trail running no one can hear you cuss loudly.
For Whom the Belt Buckle TollsSo with the stars shining and the clock ticking I reached into the pocket of my hydration pack and pulled out my headlamp, which I promptly affixed to my head and turned on high-beam. With footing illuminated I trotted to the finish line and announced my number and that I was done with my first 100k. For my efforts I received a really cool belt buckle.