This time last year I was already logging two- to three-hour runs in anticipation of my first 50-mile race at the end of April. I was nervous at the prospect of covering 50 miles in a day until I remembered that it was just a “training” race for the summer’s big goal — the Leadville Trail 100 in Leadville, Colorado, in August.
Leadville had been on my radar since I attended the 100-mile race several years earlier covering it for Trail Runner magazine. But 2010 was the year the Leadville Trail 100 went mainstream thanks to the New York Times bestselling book, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall.
This rugged footrace in the Colorado Rockies, which starts in Leadville at 10,000 feet in elevation and twice sends runners over a 13,000-foot pass, typically attracted fewer than 400 entrants. But last year, almost 800 people paid the $250 entry fee to see if they had what it took to finish one of the world’s most famous 100-milers.
Adding to hype were rumors of a movie based on the book Born To Run. Sure enough, the famous author was spotted at the pre-race briefing with actor Jake Gyllenhaal in tow, disguised with a thick beard, sunglasses and ball cap.
But celebrity spotting was not my reason for tackling this race. When I started training for Leadville, my son Reed was 10 months old. I was an exhausted mom with a part-time job and household to manage. Money was so tight that every hour I paid for daycare I had to be earning money.
Lunch-time runs were a luxury I could rarely afford. And yet I still needed running in my life. As world-champion marathoner Paula Radcliffe said in an interview after the birth of her daughter, “I had a baby, not a personality transplant.”
So with the support of my incredible husband Rob, I squeezed in just enough mileage to be somewhat prepared for the toughest race of my life. How did I do it? friends asked us during a recent dinner party. Rob and I gave each other a sideways glance and smiled as we shook our heads.
“It was nuts,” I said, explaining the 4 a.m. training time, three-hour runs every Saturday and Sunday, dragging my husband and infant to trail races in remote corners of the state, the housework going to hell and maxing out my body’s tolerance for sleep deprivation.
Was it worth it? In a word, yes. Finishing a 100-mile race was the experience of a lifetime (I was one of only around 50 women to do so that year), and taught me what it means to dig deep and find out that it is possible to do more than I ever thought possible. But I can say for certain that there is no 100-miler on the calendar this year, and that my husband is quite relieved, as am I.
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