by Brian Whitehead
So on what apparently is the fifth anniversary of the day Nicole Whitehead and I started running with the Couch to 5K program I’ll tell you about my first ultra marathon. And when I say started running, I mean from 0.0 .
Yesterday I competed in the Holiday Lake 50k + in Appomattox, VA. It is a trail race with a scheduled distance of 32.2 miles. 6 miles further than I have ever run before. It was very cold and windy which added a little more stress to the race, but for the most part not an issue. My goal was just to finish, but I know quite a few people who have run the race right around 6 hours, so a sub-6 was always in the back of my mind. My friend and I ran a steady, uneventful race up until about mile 14. The winds had blown a very important trail marker down causing us to head in the wrong direction. Luckily we ran into another runner who had done the same thing and he got us to turn around. This ended up being a 0.8 mile mistake. So now my 32.2 mile race is 33 miles. The extra time and energy wasted was very frustrating to me. Only 4 miles after this issue, my friend suffered a very bad fall. I stayed with him until people more equipped to offer the help he needed took over. I was 15 miles away from the finish and very upset about what I had just witnessed. My will to finish this race was slipping away and thoughts of a sub 6 seemed out of reach.
The last 15 miles of the race I was alone, thinking of my friend, thinking how tired and sore I was, doing some serious math calculations. I could still do this. There were times I was flying through the woods passing those that were starting to fade. There were other times I was walking to conserve energy and then there were times best described as rumbling, stumbling, bumbling as my tired legs couldn’t get my feet high enough to avoid the rocks and roots. I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 46 minutes which was good for 93rd place overall. Pretty good considering the extra 0.8 miles and carnage along the way. Some local running superstars were there to greet me at the line and help me the best they could with my usual post race nausea. The photo is of me and race director, David Horton. Look him up, he is kind of famous. Check another one off of the bucket list, I am and will always be a finisher of an ultra marathon. #Couchto50k+