Yes, I, a 55-year-old man who has not yet run a marathon, would like to go off road and attempt an ultramarathon (any race longer than 26.2 miles). Shortly after I read Scott Jurek’s book Eat & Run, ultramarathoning has been in the back of my mind. Actually, it may have been even before that. It might have been when I read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run.
But what really opened my mind to running an ultra was Ed Ayres’ The Longest Race, a book in which he recounts his running of the 2001 JFK 50 Mile, a race that was run just two months after 9/11. Ayres, the founder of Running Times, was 60 years old when he ran the 2001 race. Ayres also worked for Worldwatch Institute, a think tank devoted to raising awareness of the perils of global warming.
I found his idea that human beings evolved to be runners, long-distance runners, intriguing. McDougall covered much of the same ground in his book. Both Ayres and McDougall write about the Tarahumara of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, and the incredible distances the Tarahumara run as hunters.
Ayres writes that the idea of the JFK race came after President John F. Kennedy challenged Marines to walk 50 miles in a day. In fact, he writes that the president’s brother Robert F. Kennedy walked 50 miles in a day. When the last of his aides dropped out after about 35 miles, RFK chose to continue. He was asked why he continued alone. RFK’s response was that the aides weren’t the president’s brother and he was.
Can I walk 50 miles in a day? I think I can, but I haven’t attempted it. Can I run 50 miles in a day? Not today. But a year from now? Ayres says you need eight to 12 months to train for an ultra. In our fast-paced society with lots of things pulling at us in all directions, is it possible to set aside the kind of time needed to train almost daily? I don’t know. But I’m going to try.
There are two ultramarathons at Chain O’Lakes State Park in Noble County. One is a 50K run the Saturday after Christmas. The other is a 50-mile run in April. The April race was brand new this year. I don’t know if it will still be around in 2015. The December race (the HUFF), is well established, even if Chain O’Lakes is its second home. The race started years ago at Huntington Reservoir (thus the H in its name), but had to move a few years back when the reservoir went from being a state rec area to a fish and wildlife area. As a rec area, the trails were maintained. As a fish and wildlife area, the trails are no longer maintained.
So that’s my idea — run an ultra next year or the spring of 2015. Now I need to get my arse outside and out on the trail.