It’s Tuesday. I’m sitting at a coffee shop looking out the window at the slush remaining on the ground after last night’s snow. Rain is coming down now–pretty typical for March in the Northwest.

But today is also four days from the Chuckanut 50K (that’s 31.1 miles, friends). Did I mention I’ll be running it this year? Well, I am. And signing up for this race has given me occasion for all kinds of worry and fretting. As a back-of-the-packer, I’ll be out on the trails for approximately 8 (yes: eight) hours, while the elite ultra runners in the crowd (750ish strong) will finish in half that time.

Since Bill pushed “enter” on the sign-up form and committed me to this race, I’ve been planning and ruminating and crinkling my eyebrows about everything from what to wear to how much food to carry on the route. You wouldn’t think I’d be inclined to all this obsessing given the fact that I’m a veteran runner. I have, after all, run full marathons on every kind of terrain all around the world. I even completed the Lake Youngs 50K a couple of years ago–and felt good afterwards. In addition, this Chuckanut 50K course is in my back yard, so I’ve had the advantage of training on the trails and getting to know their quirks and switchbacks.

That may be the problem, actually. I’m well aware of the three miles straight up Cleator Road and about the “Chin Scraper” incline at the end of the 8-mile loop on Chuckanut Ridge. I know all about the lengthy stretch of mud I’ll have to plod through after 700 other sets of trail shoes have softened it to quick-sand quality (if you never hear from me again, you’ll know it sucked me under). Too much knowledge might not be a good thing….

Also, my last couple of long runs (and subsequent cramping and soreness) have reminded me that I’m not genetically inclined toward athleticism. Committed I am. Determined I am. Patient I am. Audacious I am. But alas, athletic I am not. I’ve always envied my friends who have slim, streamlined, muscular bodies which are seemingly made to cut through wind at clipped, brisk speeds. I just don’t have one of those bodies, and to get one, I’d have to commit more of my life to the gym than I have time or inclination to do. So, in this upcoming race (as with all of them) I’ll make the best of the one I have.

The best this body will do will be about eight hours.

“Why take part in something that creates so much fear and trembling? Something that you won’t be very good at and that will make you hurt for a week?” you ask.

These are fair questions. Here’s my best answer: I was raised to be “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Over the years I’ve discovered that this cleaned up version of self-hood is a very unsatisfying way of living. Gritty and messy and pushy enough to move beyond my own and my family’s narratives are much more interesting qualities to try to live up to. Why not do what is hard or even ridiculous sometimes? No matter how the 50K goes on Saturday, I’m going to grow as a person during those eight hours in ways that a year of therapy couldn’t expedite if I went three times a week (and I’m a therapist!). Running this race is actually a shortcut to self-actualization.

It should also be a great chance to get mud-suckin’ dirty!


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