Let’s be honest, the prospects don’t look great for running our favorite races this year. I could be wrong. Perhaps all viruses will disappear, everything will open up, and the world will go back to its pre-COVID naïveté. That could happen. However, in the meantime, I am falling back on my standard racing procedure, make up my own races and suffer through them with a few friends.
Below is a post that I wrote back in 2010, when I was still toying with the idea of running long distances. It was my father who encouraged me to experiment with ultramarathons…and for that he has a lot to answer for.
“So, why am I doing this again? Forty miles seems a lot longer when you are running than when you are driving.”
We had been training in the frigid winter weather of Minnesota in order to run around the tropical island of Cozumel, a lush jungle paradise just off the Yucatan peninsula. The race was the “Tortuga Ultra,” which you probably have never heard of. I am fairly confident you haven’t seen any news coverage because my father, brother-in-law, and I were the only participants. You see, race coordinators have this annoying habit of only scheduling great races when you have a wedding to attend, work obligation to fulfill, or an anniversary to celebrate. It is for this reason why we have begun our own series of races called the “Around the World Run”. Our goal is to race some of the greatest terrain on this planet, whether or not the race coordinators want to cooperate!
Our routine normally goes something like this. “Hey, are there any good races in _______ (fill in state or country) this coming _______(fill in only applicable month that your boss will let you escape) because we are taking off for a week.” “No, the only races are _____(insert month which your boss threatened to impound your car and move your cubicle into the janitor’s closet if you try to ask for even a minute off). But wouldn’t that be a great race!” “Well then, I’m making my own!”
This contribution to our around the world run, the “Tortuga Ultra” started when my dad jokingly asked if I wanted to run around the island. “Who can actually handle a full week of beaches anyway? The paved highway around the island seems like a challenge.” A few minutes with Google Earth confirmed my fears and sparked my intense desire for adventure. “Forty miles! I have never run forty miles before. My feet will fall off!” a few days later I was muttering under my breath as I plodded under the rain and snow of our Minnesota residence, “Is he crazy!? We can’t run forty miles… I’m crazy!”
This wasn’t our first excursion. A year and a half earlier I had run my first marathon- the “Turtle-a-thon.” It was a response to Grandma’s Marathon and it’s audacity to schedule their little race on the week of our family reunion. We opened up “registration” to family and friends to participate. “You can run it, bike it, rollerblade it or crawl it! You just can’t drive it!” We had 30 something people and two german shepherds participate. Kids biked, parents pushed strollers, and dogs pulled for miles. We awarded cheap T-shirts and homemade medallions to all participants, celebrating together with a barbecue.
Earlier there had been a half marathon down the Sacred Valley leading to Machu Pichu in the Andes mountains, short runs through Israel, and hundreds of dreams about running the Great Wall of China, the Jordan River valley, an African preserve, and the Greenland coast.
“Who else can say that they have run around the island?!'” I wheezed. “You won’t either unless you finish.” came the loving response.
My brother-in-law, Tim, made it well over 20 miles, shattering his own personal best. My dad and I continued around the island at our normal “lop” (a mix of a limp and stop), finishing with a time of 8:26 – including breaks to collapse in the shade, beg water from compassionate “amigos,” and hail down the guy pedaling his taco stand to the next beach.
After a very long day of running, we triumphed. Who else could say that they had run the island? We could. Who cares if our “Tortuga Ultra” didn’t have big name sponsors or timing chips to put in our shoes. We had the taco guy and as many tortillas as we could eat!
So how about you? Where is your next world run?
*Postscript: Since the writing of this, eleven years ago, there have been many more ultramarathons invented and run, some even on purpose. I am looking forward to the “races” I have planned here in Spain over the next twelve months.