Sometimes I find that the more limited I am physically, the more readily my mind accepts the possibility of wilder and wilder accomplishments. I’m still feeling under the weather, and haven’t been working out much in the past couple weeks. But my mind is full of fictional triathlon successes, marathon PRs and all-day mountain-bike rides. It all seems so easily attainable when there is no real chance of doing anything about it at the present moment.
I remember a few years ago, when my daughter was a newborn and I spent innumerable late-night hours affixed to the rocking chair in her room, comforting a sleepless child and thinking about all the grand adventures I wanted to tackle. Backcountry treks, marathons, expeditions and adventures – nothing was impossible from my vantage point in those moments, when there was no outlet for my energy. (It had been quite a shock to my system to go from marathon running in November to caring for a newborn in February.)
But at those times I was only thinking of how I felt at that moment – yearning for the freedom of a hard run and not necessarily remembering the pain, effort and frustration that accompany endurance pursuits. At that moment I was ready to run, but how would I have felt at mile 12, or even mile 5?
These thoughts returned to me today when, surfing the web in an illness-induced haze, I came across an announcement for the Instant Classic Marathon Trail Run, which is going to be held for the first time next month. Trail marathons always seem to be happening Somewhere Else, where fit endurance athletes crowd the coffee shops and organic food markets, places like Moab and Denver where the active way of life is pervasive. And now here’s one in my own backyard – in the park a few miles from my house where my brother and I tackled 14 miles on a snowy morning last month.
The funny thing is that I don’t even feel like running right now. I’m not thinking about the literal act of running 26 miles through the forest on hilly, root-encrusted trails. I’m just thinking about regaining the ability to try. I can’t wait to feel like running again.
Obviously a trail marathon isn’t in the cards for me this year – my singular focus lies on my triathlons. But I’m so excited about the prospect of tackling it in the future, perhaps even next year. I can see it now – coming off the Olympic triathlon in September and my annual half-marathon in November, all I have to do is stay in shape and pick it up a little in January and February and I’m golden.
The great thing about a trail marathon is that finish time holds no meaning (as long as you complete the race in less than 7 hours). It’s not like a road race where I would be chasing a goal time. Trail running is so unpredictable in itself, the terrain so different from what you find on a road course, that it’s impossible to compare the two. It’s less like a traditional marathon and more like an off-road adventure that happens to be 26.2 miles long.
For now I’m just happy to know that the trail marathon concept has made it to Richmond. Hopefully it will still be here next year. In the meantime, as I feel my sickness waning, I plan to get out this weekend for some workmanlike mileage, to let me know that, while it’s easy to dream about breezing through a long trail race, it’s another thing entirely to actually do it.