When You Hit The Wall…and Keep Going

Last weekend I participated in a 24 hour run in NC. When I signed up at the beginning of the year, my intention was to train and reach a crazy goal of 40 miles during the 24 hour race.

Yeah. I’m laughing about that too.

Because January became February, which became April, which became August. And I had done absolutely no training whatsoever. My Runtastic app said my last workout was in early January.

But I decided I was going to do it anyway – how hard could it really be? A friend of mine was going to do the race with me (in fact, she is the one that talked me into doing it in the first place), but a few days before the race she fell and hit her knee on concrete, causing a lot of pain and the need for an MRI. And while she had no damage, they advised her not to run on it for a while.

So it was just me doing this thing, not knowing anyone there.

But I was game. I could do it.

Oh, one note? It included camping. Sure, some racers were booking hotels, but I didn’t feel like forking out the $80+ when I’d spend most of my time on the course.


Yeah. I’m laughing about that too.

I arrived Friday afternoon and set up my tent. Now, we have two tents – a big one for 4-6 people, and a small one for 1-2 people. I stupidly decided to take the small tent. BIG mistake. BIG. The smaller tent doesn’t allow you to stand up. It is barely big enough for a twin-sized air mattress and a couple small bags. Changing clothes? Hope you don’t mind doing it laying down. In a word: disastrous. But I got everything set up, although I had to sit my fold-up chair outside the tent because it wouldn’t fit inside the tent.

Oh, and did I mention that it was about 100% humidity?

Once everything was set up, I had nothing to do for a couple hours until the pre-race pasta dinner that was being offered. So I laid in my tent, sweating and feeling miserably hot because the tent had no ventilation whatsoever.

At the alloted time I went to go grab dinner, which was tasty and what I needed. I met a couple very nice people during the dinner, and once the meal was over I went back to my tent. Since it was getting dark I opted to just watch a movie on my phone and then go to bed.

It was NOT a restful night. It began raining, it was windy, it was still humid and hot, and my air mattress was NOT staying inflated. *sigh*

Finally, morning arrived. I managed to change into my first set of clothes (they had called for rain the entire weekend, so I brought several outfits to wear when I inevitably got soaked). I had a small snack for my breakfast, and started to get mentally ready.

The race location was at a lake, with the course being a 1.5 mile loop around the lake. Beautiful location, for sure. At the appointed race start time the few hundred of us participating huddled at the start line, waiting for our go. And just like that, we were off. I let everyone go ahead of me. Literally everyone. I waited a good two minutes before I started walking. and walking. and walking.

At mile 3 (2 laps) I felt great. It was raining, but the tree canopy around the lake was surprisingly helpful at keeping the rain off me as I walked. At mile 6 (4 laps) I officially matched my previous personal best. At mile 9 (6 laps) I was tired, but was feeling okay. A bit stiff, but I knew I could go on. However, at that point I needed to charge my phone so that my GPS could keep tracking my progress. I took a 90 minute break to sleep and let my phone charge, then hit the course again after changing clothes.

And then I hit mile 12 (8 laps). And I hit the wall. Y’all – hitting the wall is no joke. Just as I got to mile 12 I realized how badly my feet hurt, my hips hurt. Out of nowhere I got emotional and wanted to quit. I hopped on Facebook and announced that I thought I was done, and immediately my pals encouraged me to keep going, to not quit, to make it to 15 miles. “Two more laps,” someone texted me. “Surely you can go just two more laps! You’ll regret it if you come home not having done those two laps.”

So I kept going. Step after step, yard after yard. I passed 13 miles. I thought, “Two more and I can go home.” Somehow I made it to 14 miles. My pace was at its slowest (32 minutes per mile!).

When I hit 14.25 miles, I was at another breaking point. I knew I only had 3/4th of a mile to go – the end was in sight! – but I was exhausted. I didn’t have blisters, I didn’t have chafing, but my feet and hips were d.o.n.e. done. But then something wonderful happened. A young runner, in his late 20s, clearly an ultra-marathoner, came up alongside me and slowed down to match my pace. He turned to me and said, “I just want to tell you that you are doing a great job.” And then he sped up and continued on to his own 50- or 70- or 100-mile goal. At that point I lost it. My eyes teared up, and it was all I could do not to start crying as I called out, “Thank you!” to his quickly shrinking figure as he jogged away. And with that I continued on, and made it to 15 miles.

Fifteen miles.

I was thrilled. I met a goal, and met it without injury. And it meant I could get out of the rain and go home!

Uh….that’s when I realized that now that I was done I had to pack up my junk. I had to repack my backpack, roll the air mattress and sleeping bag, break down the tent, fold up the tarp. AND get it all back to the car. And so despite the painful feet and hips, I slowly began packing up my stuff and taking laps to get it into the car. It took me an hour. An HOUR. For the little amount of stuff I brought, that is a very long time. But I got it done, and once in my car let out a quick prayer of thanks that I was finally headed home.

Two hours later I lurched into the house, very slowly made it upstairs and ran myself an epsom salt bath in which to soak away the aches and pains.

I’m proud of how I did, and when asked whether or not I’ll do the event again next year, the answer is, “Yes.” I will also do some actual training so that I can go 25 miles next time around.

And lastly? I’m booking a hotel. That $80 will be totally worth it.

My Signature

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  1. Fifteen miles! I think that’s amazing. I love the runner who gave you that much needed encouragement. And I love that you’re doing it again next year! 😀

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