The More I Run …. The More I Want To Run! My first 50 Mile Ultra-Marathon . . .
Posted On March 19, 2013
Author: Gordon McKernan
It was June of last year that I ran the ½ marathon in the desert. In some ways that seems so long ago. A month later I was signed up and racing in my first 50K Ultra Marathon. I knew once I recovered from that race, my next challenge would be to train, and then enter and hopefully finish my first 50 miler.
This past December, I registered for the Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi Trail Run … “The Mississippi 50”. Reading the description of the event, it seemed like the perfect venue to attempt for my first 50 mile ultramarathon. Held in Mississippi, just south of Laurel, in the DeSota National Forest, the details I read of the race seemed idyllic. “This is a relatively easy course and is a good “first” 20K/50K/50 Miler. The De Soto is characterized by gently rolling terrain covered by southern pine ridges and hardwood bottoms with clear, tea-colored streams meandering throughout the forest.” Sounded awesome, I was sold!
Over the past eight months, I have been training and preparing for this event. The races I have ran leading up to the Mississippi 50 have left me with bouts of tendonitis that at times made me wonder If I would be able to obtain my goal.
My wife and two of my girls rode with me to Mississippi the night before the race. We had a delicious pre-run dinner with friends and I turned in early as a strong cold front moved in overnight. I woke up early (4:00 a.m.) the next morning to 28 degree weather, dressed quietly, checked my emails and then left my girls sleeping at the hotel as I jumped into the car and started my 30 minute drive to the starting line. I was curious what condition the trails would be in after the recent rains and hoped that the extra pair of running shoes, ipod, extra clothes, my garmin 350, my visor, and a pair of gloves would sustain me through the day.
It was still dark, when I arrived, the sun had not come up yet, and as I stretched and tried to warm up I wondered how the bitter cold and wind would affect my race. There were over a hundred people gathered at the starting line for the 6:00 a.m. start and I couldn’t help but wonder how many of us would make it to the end.
My eight months of training had not prepared me for the bitter cold, wind and mud. Unlike some of my younger counterparts, I am more comfortable pavement running where my pace can be measured and methodical. I was not prepared for the condition of the trails and when I was not running in sticky, gooey mud, I was running through streams and standing water. The conditions were miserable, and by far the most difficult part of the race for me was from about mile 12 ½ to mile 25. That loop was a particularly cold, wet, and painful one and it was here that I ran my slowest time of the day. It was brutal and at one point, my shoe laces came untied and it literally took me 3-4 minutes to lace them back up because I couldn’t feel my fingers. Luckily my feet were so numb I could not feel the blood blisters that were forming.
Once I reached mile 25, I knew I was half way there and started to feel inspired. It was a difficult terrain, but beautiful. I had recorded over 10 hours of music to listen to while running, and listened to everything from Gospel to Dave Matthews. Along the way, I made a friend, and we enjoyed each others company as we trudged forward.
Runners run for the one moment during a race when you feel completely alive, your feet feel light and your speed increases. For me I felt this around mile 46 through the end of the race. It was incredible! I was at a point where I knew I would finish the race and every part of my body felt light. It’s like the one shot in a golf game that makes your whole day – I felt elated. It was such an incredible, spiritual experience for me.
To help put this into perspective, here are some statistics from the 50 mile run. There were 154 people from 25 states started the race. Of that, 80 people finished. 74 people either dropped to lower distances or did not finish. 49 people of the 80 finished 50 miles in time to qualify for any ultra-race inside the US including the Western States. Of the 49 people that qualified, I came in 24th with a time of 10:04.
I still have a few first I want to accomplish. My next goal is to run my first 62 miler, and then within the next six months compete in my first triathlon and then complete my first 100 mile run.
The more I run, the more I want to run.
Gordon McKernan graduated with his law degree from Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1992. Shortly thereafter, he joined McKernan Law Firm and has been practicing law ever since. He is the owner of the firm, and his primary area of practice is representing ‘ordinary people’ who have been injured because of another’s disregard.