DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Mar 24 2014

Athlete Wannabe

by Hope L

Born to RunI have never been able to run.

Sashay …  sort of.  Jog …  maybe.  Slog  …  definitely!   But,  RUN?  …   fogettaboutit!

Unless you count running to the bathroom during a really good movie or running across the street on a freezing-cold, wind-whipping day.  Then, I can and will RUN.

But, with the Olympics on television recently, I would still like to think of myself as an ‘athlete.’

Now, I have known people who have run 3 + miles (5k) and 6+ miles (10k), and I  hear there are people who can run 26 miles and change (in one outing!!!) in what we commonly call a ‘marathon,’  but I had never heard of a human running 50 or 100 miles (or more!!) in a single event.

But wait!  I had  heard of this before, a few years back on the television program “Live with Regis and Kelly,”  Regis was joshing with Dean Karnazes, an “ultramarathon” runner, via Skype.  (An ultramarathon is any sporting event involving running and walking longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometers: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during a specified time span.)

Phew!  My shin splints hurt just thinking about it!

In Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall, the author delves into this world.  I was on the edge of my (rather large) seat, panting with sedentary excitement (at times even reclining in my bed), reading about the author’s trek through the Copper Canyons of Mexico and across the United States, seeking these ultrarunners.

“… a long-haired mountain man named Gordy Ainsleigh, whose mare went lame right before the world’s premier horse endurance event, the Western States Trail Ride.  Gordy decided to race anyway.  He showed up at the starting line in sneakers and set out to run all one hundred miles through the Sierra Nevadas on foot.  He slurped water from creeks, got his vitals checked by veterinarians at the medical stops, and beat the twenty-four-hour cutoff for all horses with seventeen minutes to spare.  Naturally, Gordy wasn’t the only lunatic in California, so the next year, another runner crashed the horse race … and another the year after that … until, by 1977, the horses were crowded out and Western States became the world’s first one-hundred-mile footrace.”

The thought of this drove me to the fridge for a soda and a snack.  People—human beings—RUNNING 100 miles?  How is this possible?  And consider this:

“Ken Chlouber, a Colorado miner and creator of the Leadville Trail 100:  ‘Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone.’

“To get a sense of what he came up with, try running the Boston Marathon two times in a row with a sock stuffed in your mouth (Leadville is located in a valley two miles up in the Colorado Rockies and is the highest city in North America and, many days, the coldest) and then hike to the top of Pikes Peak.

Done?  Great.  Now do it all again, this time with your eyes closed.  That’s pretty much what the Leadville Trail 100 boils down to:  nearly four full marathons, half of them in the dark, with twin twenty-six-hundred-foot climbs smack in the middle.  Leadville’s starting line is twice as high as the altitude where planes pressurize their cabins, and from there your only go up.”

Ultra Marathon ManDean Karnazes, whom I had seen on Regis’ show, is an ultramarathoner whose Ultramarathon Man:  Confessions of an All-Night Runner is a bestseller:

“As the name would imply, The Relay is just that:  a relay race.  In my quest for the next adventure, I’d overlooked that central point.  This 199-mile footrace starts in Calistoga and ends at the beach in Santa Cruz, the course being divided into thirty-six discrete legs of about 5.5 miles apiece.   All members of each twelve-person team are responsible for running three of these legs at various points along the way, their crew van transporting the others up the road to the next challenge, where the baton will be passed along to a different runner.”

“For them, in other words, it was a relay race.”

“I’d opted to run a slightly different race, attempting to tackle the entire 199 miles by myself.  A team of one.”

He ran 199 miles and  lived to tell about it!

I mean, I do go to the gym and all, and currently  my “event”  is the stepmill.  Now I can proudly do up to an hour straight on this machine (which, by the way, for your info Mr. Dean Karnazes—and the rest of you—is 4 miles straight up).  I wonder if stepmill climbing will soon become an Olympic sport.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dea anne M March 26, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Great post, Hope! I have to say that I too have sometimes been forced to have a snack when exposed to feats of human athletic endeavor. Sometimes I even have to take a nap! Thanks for making me laugh.

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