By: Bret Stevens
Leading up to my 50th birthday, I felt like I needed to do something epic. I didn’t want to get drunk. I really don’t find much satisfaction in drinking anymore. I have an occasional celebration beer here and there. I didn’t want a huge meal with friends and family. Heck, I’ve spent the last 9 years losing weight, from 350 pounds down now to 193 at 6 feet 2 inches. Nope, I wanted to run 50 miles on my 50th birthday. That’s exactly my kind celebratory gesture for turning 50!
I have run 11 marathons and 22 half marathons, I knew running 50 miles in a row wouldn’t be a walk in the park. I ran the Monumental Marathon in November, and I felt like I was in pretty good shape. From there, I added some double long runs on the weekends and continued my normal training during the rest of week with Revolution Running. This got me to Christmas and I wanted to run 50K to test of my fitness.
I had some crazy fellow runners meeting at midnight on Christmas to run as far as they could at the annual Sufferfest at Wash Park. The path around Wash Park is 2.5 miles and a safe place to run. I like it a lot during the winter. Plus, they plow the inner road and if it snows, it is a great place to do 2.75 mile loops. Is it perfect? No, but the logistics are easy and runs there are not hard with the relatively flat terrain. On Christmas day, I ran 50K in 6 hours and it felt great.
I am not a speed demon, running 50 miles wouldn’t be about speed. It would be about reflection and endurance. I was ready to attempt 50 miles on the 19th of January. From Christmas to my birthday, I decided to taper a little and try to stay healthy for what I believed would be a true 12 hour sufferfest for me.
I told my wife and my coaches at Revolution Running what I was doing, I’m sure that they thought I was crazy. Which is probably true, but I didn’t really care. Most people already think that I am crazy for just running anyway, so to add a few more people isn’t a big deal.
I decided to start my 50-mile run on my 50th birthday at midnight in Wash Park. I hoped my start time would help people to not want to come out. This was to be a run in solitude for me. It was not meant to throw any kinks in other people’s schedules. Plus, I knew people would make a big deal about it, because who the heck runs 50 miles just because of a birthday. I don’t like a lot press or pomp and circumstance. I just like to work hard, accomplish goals, and get things done. Heck, I don’t even like it when people like my Facebook posts, and I turn off notifications. If people like it, they like it. It doesn’t matter to me.
My wife wanted to support, and there wasn’t anything that I could do to sway her. We headed to Wash Park at midnight and I would start to run. It had snowed a couple of days before, so the 2.5-mile outer loop was iffy at best. I chose to do 2.75 mile inner loops, which would mean 18 loops. I reversed direction every couple of loops to change things up.
Most of the night was uneventful, which is the way that I like it. I was a robot and I was just getting it done. The weirdest thing to happen during the night was a raccoon sighting, and for the most part, I was just a solitary runner, trapped in my thoughts, shuffling through the night in Wash Park.
Around 5:00 a.m., people started their daily running and walking routines in Wash Park. Everyone else was oblivious to my overnight journey, which was fine by me. It was just nice not to be the only one in the park. People and animals gave me the energy to keep going.
By 6:00 a.m., a few people joined me for a few laps and my wife ran the last 9 miles with me. This was mentally hardest part of the 50 miles. Physically, I felt great, but I had never run further than 50K before that night. I suffer from Imposter Syndrome and sometimes my brain would tell me to stop because I had no business running at all, much less running 50 miles.
I pushed the negative thoughts aside. Nothing was going to stop me from completing my 50-mile run at 50 quest. At 50 miles, I was so happy to have completed the quest with little or no problems. Now I can move on and start the next, better version of my myself, Bret.Version3.0. I hope to eventually qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I’m going to have to learn to run better and shuffle less. However, I’m confident that I can do it, and you can accomplish anything that you want to accomplish. Now go get it!
Bret Stevens is a long-time friend of the Roost and member of the Runners Roost Race Team.