By Rae Hedlund
When you see people simultaneously suffering and happy, you begin to wonder what you’re missing out on. At least, that’s how it was for me. When I first began running, I thought the marathon was the ultimate race, a distance that seemed out of my reach; unattainable, but a worthy aspiration.
Then I began hearing about races much longer than that. I read Born to Run and realized the world of running was much more vast than I had imagined. Again, it all seemed unattainable. When I joined DRC, I was about to begin training for my first marathon, which was exciting and nerve-wracking! As I began meeting other DRCers, it was amazing to see how confident they they were in my abilities! It was reassuring in a way. During this training, I tried to figure out what kind of “fuel” worked for me: Gu, Honey Stingers, Nuun, etc. I thought I had it down, though those things bothered my stomach at times.
Well, as I’ve previously written, my marathon happened. If you want to read about it, check it out here. About a month after this, I accompanied Meghan to her first 50-mile. It was a distance I knew she could run and I was excited to see her crush it! Watching her and all the others run that distance made me wonder what it was like: they looked exhausted when they were done, but nearly all of them were smiling! What?!
Let me pause here to say, I began my running journey when Maverick was six weeks old. My goal was to run a half-marathon before he turned one, which I completed. Since the next distance (the marathon) started with a two, I figured I should run one of those before he turned two! So this crazy goal perpetuated into this year, the year my son turns three. This is why I signed up for Ozark Foothills.
By this time in my running journey, I had met some incredible distance runners, many of whom willingly shared their advice and wisdom with me. From these people, I learned how to take uphills and downhills, that it’s okay to walk/hike, that eating real food was okay, and even found a drink that I loved! A little bit of everything. It took some time to figure out what foods my stomach liked, but it was worth the trial and error process!
As my race drew near, DRC had the pleasure of going to the Skunk Run. Stacey and I ran together for 27 miles, my longest run at that time; her encouragement and advice along the way helped me feel more confident in my ability to complete my 50k. Then, about two weeks before my race, our house was hit with a second round of a stomach bug! That whole week, I struggled through sickness, worrying about missing that week of running before my taper. Panic ensued. Friends talked me back down. I got back into running and found that the forced rest had made my legs feel awesome! Okay. Another boost of confidence: I was as ready as I could be!
The morning of the race arrived and I was grateful to ride there with Shelly and Molly. The first loop went much better than I expected, even with a small “detour” of about a half-mile. I was able to see friends along the route (at the aid stations mainly), and coming in from the first loop was exciting! With help from Meghan, Andy, and a few (awesome) others, I was back out on the trail as quickly as possible. Let’s just say the second loop was much slower than the first, but I really enjoyed (most) of it; I never doubted that I would finish. The aid stations kept me going with oranges, fig bars, and Coke (which I never drink but craved that day!).
|Yeah that's a smile during the race! It helped that I knew the photographer, so seeing him was a treat as I ran! Credit: Denzil Jennings|
That second loop was a struggle. There were points where my legs felt like they weren’t moving. The climbs were rough, the downhills more challenging than I was used to, and I was just plain tired. But I kept going. I kept going because I was, weirdly, having a great time. I was driven, determined to get to the finish line in the best time my body could manage. And I did!
|After the finish, this was my "Meghan, I swear I can do this myself!" face.|
My “burst” of energy for the home stretch was probably much more of a limp, and I’m pretty sure I fell into Meghan’s arms (sorry for the sweatiness, Meg!). Meghan helped take off my pack, Andy got me a chair and helped me get my shoes off and got me a beer, and Stacey kept snapping pictures. It was amazing having friends there at the end, it really felt like I was celebrating the accomplishment! In the end, I know I suffered and was deep down in that suffering. But I was happy, so incredibly floored at what I had done. I’m still floating on air a bit and can’t wait to see what comes next.
|My "sprint" to the finish!|
|"I think I'm losing a toe nail!"|
|One of my favorite pictures. Meghan said, "You did it!"|
|Getting to cheer on other runners as they finished was so awesome!|