So I Guess I’m Running an Ultramarathon in 4 Months?!

Four months from today — Lord willing — I will be somewhere in the woods of Northeast Ohio, a few hours into my very first ultramarathon. I am signed up for the Burning River 50 Miler, an ultramarathon run in the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Going after this race makes me feel silly and crazy and dumb and curious and excited all at once. I truly have no idea how it will go, besides that I know it will be the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do! Ha ha haa aaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!

A lot of running literature will tell you that a big part of training for any big running goal is “finding your why.” So reader, you might be wondering: Grace, why?! Why did I decide to sign up to run 50 miles in July in Ohio? Well, I guess the short answer is three parts: friendship, fun, and time.

My Ultra Why

Friendship: For the last 3 years, I’ve been running with a group of dads from my church most Saturdays. They’ve become some of my dearest friends in Kent, and I truly look forward to our weekly long runs together. For years, I’ve known that Mark was hoping to run the Burning River 50 (BR50) the year he turned 40 years old. 2023 would be that year. And so as 2022 came to a close and Mark told us that he had officially signed up to run the BR50, I started to think to myself: what if I ran with Mark, too? What could be better than taking on a wild adventure in the company of a friend?!

Fun: While running 50 miles in the summer does admittedly sound not that fun, at least in the traditional interpretation of the word, there was something about the distance and the opportunity that really sounded fun to me! I have no expectation that I will hit a certain time or get a certain place, and I do expect that it will hurt like nothing I’ve ever experienced before in my life. I am curious to see what happens, and excited to learn so much about trail running and fueling for an ultra and the ultra community/experience, as well as learning about myself in the context of a challenge like this. I really do feel like it’s something fun to try!

Time: I’m in a time of life when my job, living situation, community, and responsibilities are quite stable and solidified. I have plenty of free time to put towards training, which might not always be the case in a future version of my life. I’m excited to spend my time training!

Four Months Out: A Report

With four months to go until the BR50, I have been all-in on training for…a marathon! As I began to log miles through the winter, I realized that I was in good enough shape to run a marathon by the spring. Given that I’ve only run one marathon ever, I felt like it could be a good mental and physical hurdle to do another as I will be trying to run…nearly two marathons in a row!

And so the last few months, I’ve been training like I’ve never trained before, logging close to 600 miles and ~80 hours running, plus an additional 35 hours doing strength training. I’ve been running 5 days a week, plus one cross-training day on the bike and one day totally off. I also typically do three strength sessions a week as well. It has been HARD WORK, but I really do see this work paying off; I’ve never been stronger or less sore doing this much running, and I feel really excited to see how the marathon goes.

I’ll be running the Toledo Marathon on Sunday, April 23, and I’m hoping to get a Boston Marathon qualifying time, which is under 3 hours and 30 minutes. I feel like this is within my reach as long as I can run a smart marathon and not get injured in the remaining weeks I have until the race! I’m excited to have a few friends also doing this race who will run with me for some of the beginning miles.

I Guess Running is My Whole Personality Now

Running has always been a big and important part of my life, but these days it feels like it has become like a marriage-level commitment. I don’t say this with any sort of complaining spirit; I’m really having fun! But it really is taking up a lot of my time and mental energy. Training this much requires going to sleep quite early, and waking up quite early. It means less ice cream but more bread! It means a lottttt of time for podcasts on all these runs.

Just recently, I texted the following to my good friend Brooke:

I need you to know that I’ve been feeling a little insecure that my only personality trait these days is running but then I ALSO spent 30 minutes creating a spreadsheet that breaks down the Burning River 50 into segments and calculates the percentage of the four types of terrain that the course features.

Soooooo in case you were wondering, the course is 24% paved path (12.75 miles), 42% single track trail (22.05 miles), 20% bridle path (10.05 miles), and 13% towpath (5.15 miles).

I will be back to share more about how my training is going and other things that come to mind, and if I don’t write before then, how my marathon went next month. I’m really excited to also share that after the Toledo Marathon, I’ll be going on a weeklong hiking trip to Ireland with my best friend from college — it’ll be a great way to get in some quality active recovery and the beloved ultra-runner training weapon known as “Time On Feet.”

Until then, feel free to give me alllll the kudos on Strava!

– Grace

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