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We Just Felt Like Running

Here’s the color commentary. We suffered some on our first ultra, but you don’t have to—tomorrow, our team captain offers up what he learned. Read “Advice from Novice Ultrarunners.” Click on the image below to launch a slide show from the race.


A few strides off the starting line at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, I’m at the front of the pack. It’s already clear that high school track meets and turkey trot 5Ks did little to prepare me for my first 24-hour running relay race. Five teammates and I face just one other team (with 10 runners) in the 24 Hours of Boulder relay division. I go out fast and hard, while everyone else slowly rounds the first bend at a measured pace that will carry them through 100 miles or a 6, 12, or 24-hour solo mission.


The drama builds slowly in a race that takes a day. We take a half-hour lead, which ebbs as two runners battle an afternoon downpour on the flat, 7.14-mile course. We rally with PBR and hot chocolate dosed with Dr. McGillicuddy peppermint schnapps, then start our second trip through the batting order while our competitors send out fresh legs. Dark falls, the coyotes come out, and ultrarunners start to limp and sink into zombie stares or twisted grimaces. We stare down a third lap. Will we see Jim Morrison, or will our bodies self-destruct on course? Backed by our secret weapon (The Stick) and fueled by endorphins, we catch back up.


At dawn, I take the plastic skull baton for a fourth lap with a 30-second lead. A funny thing happens during an ultra: Your mind accepts suffering. Exertion becomes homeostasis. But something about my mental state is altered. The run from mile 21.4 to 28.5 feels like a trip through Candyland, with the rainbow sunrise painting rabbit tails pink as they cross the course. At the turn, I see my competition closing the gap. Pride cuts the euphoric haze. Winning still matters. I kick up the pace, opening a three-minute lead that my team heralds with the opening bars of “Circle of Life” blasting from a Jammy Pack held high. Our final runner goes out, circling back an hour later to say, “My legs are going to fall off!” The spray of a PBR shower spurs him to the finish line and victory.


The 100-mile winner ran a time of 15:42, while first-place honors in the 24-hour race went to a man who clocked 114.24 miles. Our amateur crew tallied 149.94 miles. The biggest surprise? Two days later, with swollen feet subsiding and few lingering aches and pains, some of us can’t wait to run again. —Olivia Dwyer


For more about the 24 Hours of Boulder race, and results, visit geminiadventures.com.

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