Running an ultra is kind of a big deal.
As is any new distance. But when you haven’t even run a marathon yet, doing an ultra is definitely a big deal.
Especially when you decide just weeks beforehand that you’re even going to do it.
I’m not one to suggest that anybody run a race without proper training but on the other hand, I am also a big believer that in some cases, your heart can make up for what your body might not be ready to do. God knows I’ve taken on runs that I’m not quite ready for but believed in myself enough and was prepared to go slow enough that I knew I’d get through.
So when my friend Stephanie asked if she should move up from the 23km to the 55km in Golden, I had to be honest. I knew she hadn’t exactly been training for an ultra and I knew that she’d never run a marathon before but I also knew that she’s a strong runner and a determined runner.
I told her very honestly that if she went into it at a safe pace, took it easy, was prepared to walk lots and even pull herself if she was struggling too much, she would probably be okay.
And I also told her that if she was willing to do it under those conditions that she could run along with me.
Truth is, I was training but not quite to the level I’d have liked and was nervous going into such a long weekend of challenging runs. My only goal on Saturday was to go slow and finish so having some company along for that was something I’d love.
I could tell she’d already made up her mind and I could see her getting exciting by the idea that yes, she was going to run an ultra.
We chatted quite a bit leading up to the race and the night before about fuelling and taking things easy. We had a good little strategy worked out and I knew that as long as nobody go injured, that we’d have a long day but a good day.
We talked about so many different things during that 12 hours but one thing she said really made me smile. She told me that her and her husband had been chatting and they’d said that if Stephanie was going to run with anyone on her first ultra, Nikki was the perfect choice. They knew I wouldn’t push too hard and would be supportive.
As it turned out, the day was very very long and probably the hardest thing either of us has done. We kept our pace nice and easy. We walked. A ton. We kept each other company. And when either of us got discouraged, we helped each other out of the funk. Turns out that Stephanie and I run really well together.
She ended up helping me out there as much as I helped her. Even though Stephanie had trained less than I did, she wasn’t the limiting factor during the race. We both had our times when we lagged behind and felt like we couldn’t keep up. But the other always made me sure we did.
Anyhow, when I got home on Sunday night she texted me and said that she had left something in my car and would I go check for it? Sure enough, I found a little blue bag tucked in with my stuff, so I told her. “Open it.” she said.
Inside was a shirt and a card. The shirt was a custom one she’d had made in Golden with a deer that I’d pointed out and said I liked. And the card was from a store we’d been browsing in on Friday morning and she had written me the nicest thank you note for being there and supporting her for her first ultra.
After what was already such an emotional weekend that little blue bag was the best finisher’s gift I could have possibly received. When Stephanie first asked if I thought she could do it, I knew we would make a good team. And after missing that cut off and feeling like I’d let her down, it meant so much that she’d taken the time to thank me.
I’ve said it so many times before but I think that the friendships I’ve made are by far the best reward for all of this running. We work so hard out there and so much of our success as runners depends on the people we’re with.
Being there as she tackled her first ultra was as much a reward for me as it was a help for her.