Back in 2006, before I’d run my first ultra, The North Face had an ad campaign called “Endurance Is” which introduced many of us to the mysterious world beyond the marathon.
The simple half-page ads consisted of the words “ENDURANCE is” superimposed over photos of scenes typical of ultramarathons: a runner asleep on the side of a road; a close-up of raw, blistered and bandaged feet; and my favourite, a pile of Western States belt buckles with the caption, “Silver buckles are awarded to those who complete the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run in less than 24 hours. Only Tim Twietmeyer has 24 of them.” (He now has 25 of them.)
I gotta get me one of those, I thought.
One hundred miles in 24 hours? I’ve run lots of marathons, lately in less than three hours. I could do that, I thought.
Then I read Ultramarathon Man later that year and a couple of stark realities hit home. First, the race isn’t run along some coastal highway in southern California; it takes place in the mountains of northern California. Mountains? Secondly, something important happens during any given 24-hour period in northern California that would make that run through the mountains that much more challenging — the sun goes down. Darkness? Running 100 miles in the mountains, partly in the dark… WTF?!?
Maybe it isn’t so easy, I concluded.
I’m set to find out next June. In the meantime, I’m trying to read everything I can to prepare. And sometimes ‘reading’ means staring at pretty pictures of silver buckles.