Today I got up at 3:45 and did an hour of spiritual study. Then I went to the park and ran 10.8 miles. Then, I went to a 50k race and womaned an aid station.
This was my first experience volunteering at a race. I have run this race 3 times and I assure you it is brutal. The trails are highly technical, including extra mud this year and a need for ropes to get up one hillside. It was very hot, humid and hardly any wind.
Our aid station was at mile 5/20, but it takes the fastest runners nearly an hour and a half to get there. We had some casualties: some heat related, and one sprained ankle. We had a obstinate sixty something cancer survivor who was adamant about going on despite how it took her 3.5 hours to get to us. We let her go to the next station but called ahead so they could watch for her.
It was so hot, I was terribly happy to be volunteering instead of running. I actually could not imagine how I have survived this race. I got to see lots of people in rough shape. They were so grateful to have me pour cold water on their backs. In an ultra, people don't just run by and grab a cup of water and throw it on the ground. They usually need extended care and attention. We fill their hydro-paks, point out where various types of food is. Take a good look at their health. And away they'd go, leaving me in awe, and wondering how on earth they were going to make it (knowing they would).
I think that once you get running, the world shifts and what is impossible for by-standers is possible for you. Furthermore, you wake up the next morning wanting to do it again. This shift in reality is the beauty and agony of ultra-running. The ultra-race environment is very different from the marathon environment. It is small and quiet. Most people enter into intensely personal struggles. Everyone finds out who they are from the inside. Experiencing that other world where you can run and sweat forever leaves you with a call to return which is irresistible.
And we love it so we do it again!!