I was sort of assuming that most of my “People Who Make Me Look Normal” entries would be about runners I’d never meet: professional and semi-professional ultra-marathoners, world-record holders, other bloggers I’ve stumbled across online. However, I’m fortunate enough to have a co-worker whose husband’s recent running exploits make me look very normal. Of course, the standard has been lowered since I first started this blog: running 4-5 times a week, 3-4 miles at a time isn’t nearly as confusing to friends and co-workers as when I was doing 15 mile runs home after-work or running 17 miles in to school. That’s still my ambition, though, so hopefully I’ll be back to coming across as extreme sometime soon.
Back to Patrick. I first really took notice of Sarah’s husband when my running came up in conversation, and she mentioned that he’d done a few marathons, including one in Reykjavik. She runs herself, and has done a few half-marathons, and I always love talking about running, especially with people who like long-distances – running really is its own cult. At some point, I must have mentioned that I had this crazy ambition to run an ultra marathon, and it turned out that Patrick was currently training for an ultra. This was the first indication he was at least as crazy as myself, since he’s the only other person I’ve actually met who thinks running more than 26.2 miles sounds like fun. He edged me out slightly, however, as I’m planning on starting with a modest 50K, while Patrick was training for a 50 miler.
One day I asked Sarah how his training was coming along, as I knew his race was coming up soon. The intense phase of marathon training involve a handful of once a week “long runs” of 20 miles or so; the intense phase of 50 mile training involves doing “back to back long runs,” meaning a 20 mile run on Saturday followed by a second 20 mile run on Sunday. Sarah said it was going well, but:
“Patrick’s worried about the distance of his race. I’m more concerned about his being killed by drug runners.”
“Yeah. His race is in Northern Mexico, in a pretty dangerous part of the country.”
“Hold on – he’s not doing the ‘Born to Run’ ultra is he?”
“That’s the one.”
“On his FIRST ultra?”
“Okay, that’s crazy.”
For everyone who hasn’t read Born to Run, the book partially revolves around this somewhat crazy long-distance running gringo, known as Caballo Blanco, who lives a semi-transient existence in the Copper Canyon region of southwestern Chihuahua, Mexico. His life’s ambition was to arrange for the “ultimate ultra-marthon” showdown between the top ultra-runners of North America and a number of the Tarahumara, a native tribe that has this nearly mythological status in the running world due to their propensity for routinely running hundreds of miles at a time in leather sandals. Eventually Caballo talked a half-dozen American runners into taking part in a 52 mile trail run through the jungles of Northern Mexico. That was 2006, and since then it has turned into an annual race. The reason it seems an insane choice for a first time ultra-marathon (apart from the drug-runners) is that the course consists of isolated trails cutting through the extremely mountainous jungles of Copper Canyon: there are little to no aide stations, poor signage, and real dangers of losing the trail, wandering off into the jungle, and dying of dehydration (or drug-runners). While no one has ever died during the run, on average nearly half of the runners who start the race drop out without finishing.
So Patrick’s choice for a first time ultra was a somewhat dangerous, technically difficult, 52 mile trail run in the jungles of Mexico. That by itself Makes Me Look Normal. Then I had this conversation with my co-worker Rob:
Me: Patrick’s run is this weekend, right?
Rob: Yeah, did you hear that he met some famous barefoot running guy whose doing the race.”
Me: Barefoot Ted?
Rob: Yeah, that’s him! Apparently Patrick showed him the Fivefinger’s he’s running the race in, and Ted told him he was crazy to try running the race in them.
Me: Hold on. Barefoot Ted called Patrick crazy?
When Barefoot Ted calls you crazy, you definitely make me look normal.
Oh, and Patrick finished the race in slightly over 11 hours. So he must be just crazy enough, and I’m more than a little jealous. One of these days . . .