It takes a special kind of crazy to sign up for your first 100 miler. Some folks run one and then move on to other things after getting their buckle. For others, though, it can be the beginning of a love/hate relationship with the distance. At any rate 100-milers are at once inspirational and enigmatic. What possesses a person to sing up for one? What motivates them to commit to the possibility of pain and the potential of the glory of completion?
After my tremendous experience pacing my friend Lynde for 50 K of the course in the cold overnight hours of early November in Alabama, I wanted to get inside the mind and explore the motivation of first time 100-milers who raced at Pinhoti. Considering a 100 miler myself, I thought this was a good opportunity to let these amazing folks tell their story while also compiling advice and tips for my own decision making process.
Instead of publishing a book-length post with all the responses to each of my 5 questions, I’ll post one question/response per day.
Here is question 1:
1) Why 100 miles? What tipped you over the precipice that is the 100 mile race?
Kandy Frey Ferris
Why 100 miles? I’d done five 50 milers and felt like I had conquered that distance. Wanted a new challenge. I wanted to see if I could finish it and do it well. Messner, first person to climb Mt Everest, said “I don’t go up there to die, I go up there to live.” That’s how I feel. Society has become overly comfortable and most people are content to coast through life, moving from one day to the next in a comfortable coma. Everything comes so easy, that people are miserable, just going through the motions. People don’t realize that even though they are breathing, they aren’t truly living.
It was on my bucket list and to prove myself and others that I could do it.
I saw a documentary on Western States when I was 10 or 11 (I was 29 years old at Pinhoti, so it has been a dream for a long time) and was amazed that people pushed themselves to the extremes encountered during a 100 mile race for no prize money or fame, but to prove to themselves that they could do it. I decided at that moment I was going to do that when I grew up. The desire to do the race never left over the years, as I got older, it grew stronger.
The 100 mile distance has been my mind for a long time. I was doing my long runs on trails, even when completing road marathons years ago, so it was natural to start considering trail races. Once I completed my first ultra, I started thinking more about the 100 mile distance but didn’t know if that would be possible for me, mostly because I was always fighting injuries. I have always read race reports, and this also kept the 100 mile distance on my mind. If you run ultras, the 100 mile distance is the Holy Grail of trail running races, and I knew I wanted to prove to myself I had what it took to complete a race of this distance. I knew others who had buckled, and I decided if they could do it, so could I. A year ago, I ran with a woman who was training for Pinhoti. We came to a clearing between the first and second aid station on the Pinhoti course, and you could see Mt. Cheaha far, far in the distance. Right then and there I said to myself that if I could stay healthy, I would run Pinhoti next year, and that is what I did!
It seemed like an attainable goal. My father is a Western States finisher and a longtime ultra runner, so for me it seemed only natural to hit that mark.
I had a sinking feeling right after I ran my first 50k 2 years ago that I would find myself running a 100. I enjoyed running trail ultras enough that I escalated 50k to 50 miles the following spring to a 100k the next fall. I realized after the 100k that I’d probably run a 100 in the next year. After a challenging spring race schedule I set aside the time to trail all summer and felt comfortably trained up for a fall 100 which wound up being Pinhoti.
Many of my athletic goals and bucket list items are based being able to say I accomplished something most people can’t or wouldn’t attempt. The feeling I get when I’ve pushed thru difficult times and finished a race is a type of adrenaline rush hard to find in shorter races.