"Every journey begins with a single step." - This old adage recurs in my mind lately as the date of my my first 100 mile running race approaches in June. I tell people about it and often hear things like, "100 miles? Heck, I don't even drive that far!"
Then, after the shock wears off, the curiosity sets in and they ask things like, "How often do you train? Do you actually run the entire time in a race like that? How long would something like this actually take?"
Those are the questions from the people who don't run ultras. Then, amongst ultrarunning friends, this is a baby step, especially among the veteran ultrarunners who do things like run around on a track for 6 days in a row all day long or have run thirty 100 mile races and are training for a 200 mile race. It's all relative and all a matter of perspective. Yet, for me, it's a big thing, something I've built up to after starting to run ultramarathons 2 years ago.
Back to the quote. It's adapted from a saying attributed to Lao Tzu translated into English as, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." However, in the original text it actually refers to "1000 li". A li is an old Chinese unit of measurement which roughly equates to 360 miles. That means it's actually a journey of 360,000 miles. Like I said, it's all relative. Maybe the numbers get more digestible the longer you have been on the journey. The point is, unless you are on the path and have been on it for awhile, any of these distances could seem impossible.
Frankly, I am intimidated by the idea of running 100 miles straight without sleep as it's something I've never done before. In fact, I've only run half that distance in a race type setting in the past. It's completely unknown territory. If all goes well I will complete it in about a day. And, no, there won't be any time to sleep. The cutoff to finish and get a 100 mile belt buckle is 32 hours. Gonna get me one of those!!
Reflecting on when and where my single step towards the 100 mile marker began. Although I ran for fitness sporadically from my university years until my late 30s, I never ran more than 5 miles at a time, but when I crossed over the big 4-0 threshold, I decided it was time to start checking off some items on my bucket list, namely triathlon and marathon. I posted some thoughts about this process in the following blog post back in September 2015 - RUNNING A MARATHON AND BEYOND
Other posts on the journey to 100 miles:
Those last 3 posts link to photo diaries created from my 900 km+ completion of the Bruce Trail last September. The Bruce Trail follows the Niagara Escarpment from Queenston Heights Park on the Niagara River near Niagara Falls and stretches all the way to Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula at the Georgian Bay. Tobermory is the jumping off point for the Fathom Five National Marine Park, a haven for lighthouse buffs and scuba divers exploring shipwrecks.
It's hard to sum up what it was like running the entire trail in 4 seasons, but suffice it to say, it gave me a deep appreciation of both the rugged beauty of nature and the human impact on the environment in the province I reside. It also gave me the base mileage to consider running 100 miles. That distance was the next logical step my journey as an ultrarunner.
I believe we can rise to our personal and societal challenges by embracing the spirit of adventure and the enduring wisdom of nature.