What does running 50 miles feel like?

Today I ran my first ever 50 mile run. It ended up being 50.57 miles in 7:47:59 (avg 9:15 per mile pace). Yes, this time includes all of my stops as I never stop the stopwatch. Therefore, my actually running pace was faster than 9:15 per mile. I got up at 1:51am and started prepping for my run. I did most of my packing the night before but I still wanted to get up early to stretch out a little, get my gear on, and do some last minute checks before starting my run at 3:00am. I did not eat anything. I had some water and that was it. I was wearing a running vest so that I could carry 108 ounces of water, my gels, some cold weather clothes, and other items like my phone so that my family could track my progress on RunKeeper. I also wore a headlamp (because it was dark for the first four hours) and a lightest vest over my running vest.

The scariest part of the whole run happened in the first half mile. I only saw three vehicles while running 8 miles of country roads to the beginning of the Heartland Trail. The last vehicle was a truck which I knew saw me running and sped up as it approached and then revved its engine while swerving over to the edge of the road where I was running. Again, I was wearing reflective running clothes, a bright headlamp, and a lightest vest that blinks all of these very bright colors 360 degrees around me. I had to jump off into the grass to avoid it. I’m sure who ever it was got a great laugh at scaring me. This has happened a few times in my running career. I’ve even had people throw bottles and other garbage at me while running down the road so I guess this happening at 3:00am in the morning should be no surprise.

I ran all by myself the first 8 miles. At one time I remember glancing over to some woods I was running by and saw bright eyes gazing at me through the brush. Creepy! I decided to keep my eyes straight ahead from that time forward. I also had to just keep forcing myself to not pick up the pace. Today was not a race but an easy training run! I made one bathroom stop in the first 8 miles. I was definitely hydrated.

At the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail I was met by my friend Rebecca who volunteered to ride the remaining 42 miles with me on her bike. She is an amazing woman who does Iron Man Triathlons. Her life passion is to raise money for those adopting and she owns a business that makes and sells cookies for athletes and anyone else who loves cookies that are high in protein and gluten free. It’s called Clara’s Cookies (https://www.claracookies.com). I am so thankful she was there to keep me company in the dark and to read Scriptures, tell stories, share some jokes, and listen to me ramble on about things as I ran.

Honestly, about 10 miles in my legs already felt tired! I had done a 25 mile run the day before and my miles had been high for the past few weeks. I was not running on fresh legs so I decided to just stay slow and steady. For the first four hours I just sipped on water and added in some electrolyte salts here and there. The first 25 miles of the run definitely go by fast compared to the last 25. I made another bathroom stop at around mile 20.

About half way through my run my legs started to slowly ache more and more. Eventually your legs simply HURT. I think this is where a lot of people would just quit. You have to be able to endure the pain. My legs hurting is not the only pain I felt. I had some major chafing going on at about the 30 mile mark. It was happening in various places from under my arm pits caused by my shirt and the salt in my sweat, chafing caused by my shorts, and chafing caused by my running vest. I had pinky toe that was being squeezed and pinched every step of the way as well. This is what happens when you run distances like 50 miles. Expect it!

I didn’t have any GI distress or stomach issues. I am so thankful for that. Many ultra runners have to deal with this issue as well. Another issue runners who run long distances face is nausea and weakness caused by not being able to fuel properly. Both of those things I was able to avoid today.

Honestly, it hurts running 50 miles. Once your legs hurt they don’t really hurt more but they just nag on and on. This is what you have to battle with mentally because you want the pain to end. Running 100 miles will be very hard. It will be mostly a “mental” battle. The good news is I ran easy today and could have ran much faster. I held back a lot and could have thrown down a much faster time but today wasn’t about racing and time. It was about experiencing 50 miles and being healthy to keep training next week.

In all, I think running 50 miles is something a lot of people should experience if they have an interest and are in pretty good shape. It’s in the minimum a good opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and work on your mental game.

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