Ever since I got sucked into the crazy world of trail running, I always considered the Run 4 Kids Challenge The Race I Could Not Do. Running more than twice around a track makes me twitchy. Some days, running for more than half an hour makes me tired. This race just seemed impossible.
But having not raced since last July, I knew I wanted my comeback to be good. And it doesn’t get much better than raising money for kids and running in a circle for 12 hours. So I signed up. And survived, loving every single second of it!
If you’re like me and hesitant to step into the world of timed runs, stop being a wimp and just do it! Here are some tips to keep your feet in motion and the smile on your face:
Food yo’self—Figure out what works for you ahead of time and stick with it throughout the race—12 hours is a long time to be battling your stomach. Chances are your race is a short-loop course (not conducive to private pooping!), so you can pack a drop bag full of your own digestional delights to dip into when needed.
I found my new super fuel—Tailwind. This stuff is a powdered drink mix full of calories, electrolytes, sodium, potassium—basically replacing all food, plain water, or salt you’d consume during a race. As their tagline says, “All you need, all day. Really.” I drank only Tailwind (plus some beer and whiskey) and ate less than a handful of chips the entire 12 hours, and felt great! No stomach issues, no bonking, nothing. It was magical.
Don’t speed—Unless you have a very specific goal in mind mileage-wise, there’s no sense in killing yourself by going fast early in the day. We all remember the children’s story of the tortoise and the hare—slow and steady survives the race!
I ran nice and easy and logged 47 miles. Which is so close to the big 5-0. Am I sad I didn’t get 50 miles? Meh. It’s only a number. I know that if I had run seriously and tried to pace myself for a 50-mile run, I would have gotten it easily. But I own my decision to goof off. This was a 12-hour race, not a 50-miler, and by running every moment of those 12 hours I accomplished what I had set out to do.
Bring friends—If you can, drag your friends around in circles with you when you start feeling tired or bored. Voila—instant pick-me-up! The beauty of a short-loop course is that anyone can run 3 miles with you. Fresh faces will keep you entertained and your mind off the hours of circles.
I was lucky to run almost every lap with friends, whether it was running hard, walking and chugging beer, or run-walking while on the phone with Rachel and Brady. I also received an onslaught of texts from friends wishing me luck and entertaining me with jokes and memes. Disconnected I was not, but I had a hell of a good time!
Play mind games—A 3-mile loop can be positively mind-numbing—if you let it get to you. To keep yourself out of the nuthouse (or to secure your place there), play some mind games. Name that small hill that suddenly seems gigantic after the 8th hour. Pick a spot on the loop to pick up the pace for a few minutes. Sing along with the birds.
I did all of the above, plus some. By the end of the race, I had “The Hill Tanya Should Walk,” “The Deceivingly Tricky Root,” and “The Forest of Baby Pine Trees.” When I used my headphones, I would run the verses, walk the chorus. When I was alone, I sang out loud.
Take mental breaks—Remember, the goal is to cross the finish line half a day later, not to get bored or tire out and go home after a few hours. If you don’t want to or can’t run every second for 12 hours, don’t. Sleep, eat, relax—do whatever you need to still be moving at the end of the day.
I went into this expecting it to be my most difficult race, physically and mentally. 12 hours is a long-ass time run in circles. So I threw some fun in there. When I felt good, I blazed through the aid station. When I needed a break, I did handstands, took shots of whiskey, hung out at the Hammock Village. Those antics were enough to recharge me and get me through a few more hours of running. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Do good—Strongly consider using your race to give back to the community in some shape or form. If it’s a charity run, raise all the money! If it’s a regular race, take the opportunity to find a charity you believe in and raise awareness or money for it. Either way, you win and the people you help win. Plus, all you need to do when you get tired is remember the reason why you’re running, and that’ll give you a swift kick in the shorts to keep moving.
As I mentioned before the race, Run 4 Kids donates 100% of its proceeds and fundraising to Camp Smile-A-Mile. I asked people to sponsor my race and donate money, and boy did you guys respond! Because of your kindness and generosity, I raised $2,173! That is just…wow. I am still speechless. Together, the race raised over $16,000 for Camp Smile-A-Mile!
My very favorite part of the race (besides being able to help all those kids) was the fact that my sister Natalie and her boyfriend Blaine came to crew and cheer and run with me. Let me tell you how amazing this girl is. I woke up one morning wanting to run the race, texted Nat asking her to come, and she did. Zero hesitation. Nat and Blaine drove through the night from Jersey, coming just in time for a whirlwind weekend of a ton of food and laughs. I could not ask for a better cheerleader or sister.
I can’t thank everyone enough for their support and encouragement before, during, and after the race. While running is technically a solo sport, it’s great to know that you have a team behind you every step of the way.