Running with the Ultra Boys

Sometimes we make goals and surprise ourselves when they happen.

One of mine this year was to find some people to run with because lately I had found myself and my earbuds entirely too often… on our own. 2021 was the year I would branch out.

Friday night I opened my Facebook feed and up popped a message from a local running group – the Vågsbygd Runners – they had a run planned for Sunday – that would take them on a round tour to a neighboring city and back. I checked my weather app… no snow and slightly above freezing… why not? I messaged the guy who managed the group page and asked how fast they ran, he assured me it was an easy tempo…

Why not right?

I woke up Sunday morning at 5 am… anticipation prohibiting me from rolling over, tucking under the comforter, and sleeping some more.

I had never run 30 km. before. What in the world was I thinking?

I filled myself with water and a half a bowl of sticky-over-cooked oatmeal. Tried to figure out what to wear – Layers? Wool? One bottle of water? Bars? I finally gave up – threw on what I always wore. Strapped on my new neon vest that my daughter insisted on buying me – fearful that I would get flattened running on the highway. And my husband drove me to the meeting point… everyone else arrived on foot – save one guy who lived 20 minutes away by car… duh…

A few sporty guys were waiting so I got out kissed my chauffeur goodbye and said hello. One guy I knew a bit. And the others as they came, I realized (with trepidation) that I recognized them … These six men had participated in a challenge to go a million steps in the month of December. A big, hairy goal that they all completed. This is not Southern California… this is Norway… and it was December… not August… they managed this feat that most humans would not consider doable…

I said hello and sheepishly mentioned that one time I had run 22km – and that was my all-time record… I am quite sure by that point they were thinking that the run would truly suck because they were stuck with this woman who would surely slow them down…. I tried to stuff down my feelings of inadequacy… and, off we went…

First off, we hit a bunch of unavoidable puddles and within the first 3 minutes both feet were soaking wet… dread… I tried to gauge how the pace would be and just how many minutes it would be before I had to throw up the white flag and call my chauffeur back to save me in utter disgrace… but, surprisingly I kept up. I even managed to chat as we ran… digging into just how much they run and what they were capable of…. Within 5 kilometers I had learned that almost every one of them actively participate in Ultra runs… not just the 50-60 kilometer runs – but, 100 kilometers… and not just a one-off race… but, many races all over the world… my self-esteem sank… what in the world had I gotten myself in to…

I knew up ahead was a monster hill… and I was dreading what would happen as we approached it… to my delight I looked around… and they had slowed to a walk… I was overwhelmed with joy… “we walk hills” one guy told me… I sucked down half my water … and managed to pick up the pace with them at the crest of the hill…

As we neared the 23 km. mark one of the guys congratulated me on beating my personal best for distance. I was thrilled… and realized in hindsight that they probably wondered collectively if I could even make it that far. Maybe it was the fact that I whipped out my lip gloss at the first hill that gave them the impression that I might not be cut out for it… but, on we went… however the worst was yet to come…

As we crested the last monster hill – around 27 kilometers – they all suddenly picked – up the pace… “what?!?” I thought. As the last guy passed me, I asked what was happening… “they can smell the finish line” he told me… to which I could not respond as I could barely breathe let alone ask anymore…and he was gone by that time anyway… After 27 kilometers – I was not going to let them get away from me… no way… I pushed as hard as I could and either they slowed… or I actually caught them… I’m thinking the former… As we neared the end, I felt every muscle in my body tighten up… I felt like anyone driving by would wonder what that wooden woman running by was doing running with these sporty, amazing men… I was sure I looked like Frankenstein’s little sister, with a strange bend to my back and legs that barely bent… but the end was in sight… and as we closed in on 31 kilometers my watch said 2:59….

The Ultra Guys – barely breathing (forget panting hopelessly like me)– said their goodbyes and headed their separate ways (on foot of course) … I crawled into the car with the one driver… and grinned from ear to ear…. I am still grinning…

There was no award at the end. No one to greet us. No one who probably even cared. But, for me… it was huge… had I known it was the “Ultra Guys” I likely would never have dared to join…

Imagine not taking the chance because of self-doubt and worry… Maybe the Ultra Guys were just exceedingly kind to me and kept a pace that I could survive… but I’d like to think… maybe I am a little bit strong… and a little be better than I was the day before…. It is all about the journey… and I am truly grateful for this particular piece of it….thank you Ultra Boys… it was a Sunday I will not forget anytime soon…