Since Colleen already wrote an amazing blog post detailing our getaway in backcountry Maine, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the trip. This blog primarily deals with recaps, reports, and training logs. I really don’t spend much time looking or writing about why I like ultra running, what drives me to run these insane distances, or the response I get from outsiders. With the Maine trip, taking the racing component out of an ultra-distance gave me time to think of all of these things and how important distance running has become to my well-being.
The first word that comes to mind thinking back to the trip a week later is grateful. I can’t describe how lucky I am to be able to run these long distances through nature or new cities. Without a doubt, I believe the best way to experience a new place is on foot, and being able to move swiftly and efficiently over trails is so gratifying. Usually I ignore how incredible the opportunity to do something like this is, but the Maine trip removed all the pressure of competition. Sure, we ran an ultra, but the primary goal wasn’t to finish first. It was to take in the inherent beauty of the lakes and mountains. We were able to cover everything the Maine Huts & Trails had to offer in one day, making the experience even more overwhelming. Hitting the trails more frequently in California, I find myself learning to appreciate this aspect of trail running more. Sometimes, it’s okay to break up your tempo mile to take in a stunning vista, or snap a picture.
Something else I always allude to on the site is how much I love the ultra running community. I think it is a pretty easy catch-all for saying I like hanging out with ultra runners, but there are some aspects that I can’t quiet pinpoint. Everyone on the trip was so incredibly supportive. I wanted to run trailhead to trailhead, so of course everyone said I should. Colleen’s knee hurt, so we all hiked to not cause her significant pain. For some of the group, it would be their longest run ever, so we buddied up so nobody was left alone. Regardless of our goals, experience, or expectations, we all had a group of 7 cheerleaders, encouraging us to achieve incredible things. Even though this was a very inclosed retreat, it was a pretty accurate representation of what I have experienced throughout the ultra running community. Every single person will help you push beyond what you think your limits are.
Finally, part of me just likes the solitude that comes with distance running. This extends beyond just trail running because it is part of the reason I like running marathons as well. Even with crowds cheering, other racers, and numerous distractions, it is impossible not to turn focus inwards. Listen to your body. Assess how you are feeling. One foot in front of another. As I ran the last portion of the trail alone, I was solely focused on my breathing and my footsteps. This trip alone would have been pretty awful, but the ability to just completely disconnect is so important to me. People often ask me what I think about when I run so far, and most of the time the answer is nothing. It borders on a type of active meditation that helps make the other aspects of the sport so appealing.