By Eric Noel Roman
Butterflies, they kept me awake while driving to my friend’s house. I walk in the door, after an hour and a half on the road, to a commotion of people packing hydration bags, cooking dinner, and shouting over each other’s laughter. I join in the happy chaos, deep down I get more nervous. Tomorrow morning I run the longest race I have ever run. Up to this point thirty two miles has been the pinnacle of my distance. In just a few hours I will shatter that by a long shot. Once dinner was over and my supply bucket was filled, I quickly made my way to my sleeping arrangements and fell right asleep.
Just a few hours later, I awake to gear up. I throw on my comfy running clothes and trail shoes. Breakfast is quick oatmeal and left over coffee. The drive to the race venue grew more tense as the distance shortened from me to the start line. Welcome back the butterflies.
“Ready, set, go!” shouted a race director. The beginning of a life changing event just occurred. Fifty miles until the finish line. I was running for the next, minimum, fifteen hours. As the race began I was confident, I was solid, and my pace was quick. The first aid stations I passed were quick stops of smiles, great energy, and incredible snacks. Followed next by the first quarter stop with my well-prepared bucket. After a quick stop to restock my nutrition and hydration pack, I set out to loop back through The Dunes of Hell. Yes, this was a race run on sand, “Down to Run,” hosted at Jonathan Dickinson Park, an ultra marathon weekend.
The return loop to the start/finish line was equally fun. That was also the midpoint of the course. As the day progressed on, my second timeout thoughts crept in. I questioned each step. I did not let my will cave, I smiled listened to my music and danced the miles away. The heat was treacherous, and extremely unforgiving, the sand dunes seemed never ending. More and more the thoughts began to echo, “You will not finish fifty miles.” I kept singing.
At this point, I was well into the second loop approaching the final aid station before the turn around. About forty two miles into the race. “Thirteen more to go,” I hear randomly.
Off to the Dunes of Hell. The heat took its toll. The return felt blissful. I fought all that was negative and maintained a positive attitude. My feeling of relaxation, meditation, and confidence is what allowed me to push through the race with no fear of failure. I never let the thoughts of failing bring down my energy.
Each time you set out on your journey, remember you will be beaten up. Keep in mind attitude helps keep energy up. Stay happy and look forward to that finish line. The reward is worth it.