Posted on 1 Comment

Light 2 Light 50 Race Report


Ultra marathon running isn’t about winning, unless it is.

Ultra marathon running is subjective; a person’s journey through the darkness, down the Wicked Trail, is driven by his or her own passions, fears, and desires. This journey into pain is driven by his or her own goals.

If you run ultra marathons in an aimless soul-searching, without goals, you miss an incredible opportunity to explore the parts of your mind that see pain and massive fatigue as assets, darkness and fear and anxiety as welcome mental battlefields, and failure as an investment.

What is your goal in participating in these grueling endurance runs?

Is it just pushing yourself and living apart from the constraints of a society that feeds on comfort and opinion?

I challenge you to dig deeper.

I challenge you to Be Your Own Culture.

Look at your last race, or your first race coming up; where can you improve? What goal can you set that seems ludicrous? How can you push yourself beyond “pushing yourself?”

Something ultra marathon runners ought to think about. How else will we find the Taller Peak?

My first time looking past what I thought was possible occurred at my third ultra marathon, the Light 2 Light 50 mile run on the outer banks of North Carolina.

I wore just a loose t-shirt and shorts; no warm hat, gloves, jacket, or leg-warmers protected me from the 35 degree early morning breeze under the lighthouse on Corolla Beach. Immediately –and probably out of a desire to get warm– I led the group of ultra marathoners with two others.

One stopped to tie his shoe and the other greeted one of his crew on the side of the road.

Suddenly I was alone. Surely those two, and others, would soon catch back up.

Without a headlamp to guide them, my feet pattered down the winding asphalt beach road. I was running at a decent pace; again, I wanted to warm up and cover a lot of ground before the sun came up during the Light 2 Light 50.

I looked back a few times within the first 20 minutes and saw headlamps bobbing in the night around a quarter of a mile to half of a mile away.

Eventually I looked back and saw no headlamps; I turned up the speed even more.

I went into this race with the mindset that it was a winnable race; the fastest course time thus far sat at around a 9 minute per mile pace, it was just in its second year, and less than 60 runners were registered.

Could I win a flat 50 mile race?

Would any local, elite runners show up?

Would my legs blow up if I went out too fast?

I wouldn’t learn any of these things if I played it safe and decided to just push myself into discomfort and finish the race. Ultra marathons are never comfortable; could I go beyond discomfort and answer these questions?

My Secret Weapons

In any goal in ultra marathon running, I’ve found, you must establish an advantage over your adversary.

Who is your adversary?

Is it the ticking clock, compounding minutes and hours, at your first attempt of a sub-twenty-four hour 100-mile race?

Is it the elevation gain of a mountain ultra where you simply want to finish the race?

My adversary at the Light 2 Light 50 were the other runners.

Once you identify your adversary, however simple, complex, real or imagined it may be, you have to silently and patiently develop Secret Weapons in training. These are the tools by which you will wage war over 50, 100, or many more miles.

My confidence was rooted in my Secret Weapons.

I knew there were other runners on that course that had covered more miles running than I had in training. I also knew, however, that not a single one of the other runners had done more lunges than I had, stretched more than I had, or spent more time on their feet than I had. I work in a restaurant, after all. I walk for 8 hours, 5 days a week.

What are the tools in your arsenal that will carry you to victory over your adversary, that which threatens your goal? What is your answer to that ticking clock, those long climbs in your first mountain ultra marathon, or the other runners eyeing the podium?

Develop, in quiet patience, the weapons of fulfillment; what will carry me to my goal? What are other runners who would fall short not doing that I can develop? What will my strength be?

These are your Secret Weapons. Remember: ultra marathon running is subjective; each has his own goal, her own adversary, and his own weapons to see through his goal.

Time to start developing yours…

My Mental Edge

My goal, and perhaps yours, required another approach to complement the Secret Weapons.

I needed a mental edge over my adversary, the other runners.

I decided to Take Their Souls, right out of David Goggins’ playbook. 

I started the race with no headlamp and no warm clothing. This was no mistake. I knew the temperature was near 35 degrees on that dark, coastal morning.

Shorts, t-shirt, ankle socks, and a trucker hat.

No leg warmers or tall socks, nothing covering my ears, no gloves, and I started the race with no hydration bladder. It would be 17 miles to the first aid station with just a water bottle.

Bare minimum.

I wanted to be fast and I wanted other runners who were eyeing first place to see me and wonder what sort of competition I’d put up; when I started out fast, leave-those-headlamps-bobbing-in-the-distance fast, I wanted them to wonder how they’d catch up to him.

I wanted second and third place to contemplate first place and how far ahead he was.

I wanted in people’s heads. This is Taking Souls.

How else would I be able to answer the questions I had regarding winning the Light 2 Light 50?

Would my legs blow up if I went out too fast?

Would any local, elite runners show up?

Could I win a flat 50 mile race?

Start out fast and see how far your legs carry you.

Dress for speed and dress efficiently, even if it means starting out the race shivering.

Run like you will win the race, accomplish that which you set out to accomplish.

Otherwise, you’ll never know.

Take Their Souls.

When my mental state wore and self-talk became my medicine, I reminded myself of my Secret Weapons: my stretching and lunges and the many hours on my feet at work.

“No one has done more lunges than me.”

“No one has stretched more than me.”

“No one has spent as many hours on their feet as me.”

I am uniquely qualified to win this race!

Thoughts like these qualified me to accomplish my goal. They qualified me to experience greatness as I saw it.

And when I felt fatigued or wondered how close other runners were behind me, I remembered why I started out fast in so little clothing. “Take Their Souls. Keep going. Don’t let them consider catching you.”

These two tools, my Secret Weapons and my Taking of Souls, were complemented by the mantras of the Wicked Trail which I never took off my head.

I switched between my ‘Comfort Is A Lie’ and ‘Be Your Own Culture’ truckers throughout the race.

When thoughts of pain and discomfort and nausea crept into my mind during the race, I reminded myself of why I toed the starting line in the first place. Why do we run ultra marathons?

My goals, the highest fulfillment of my passions, are on the other side of Culture, this mass-marketer of comfort. Culture tells us to spend liberally, eat for pleasure, to consume and relax. Culture wants us to be just like everyone else aligned in it: mediocre, without goals, sitting in comfort as the mind rots.

An ultra marathon is the rejection of this Culture.

I am my own culture, and so are you.

We reject the lie of comfort; we experience and pursue. We see opportunity through adversity and mindfully reject complacency as the path to fulfillment.

Of Comfort and Culture I reminded myself when the fatigue grew massive. Of Taking Souls I pondered when I wondered if I could maintain my pace and lead. And of my Secret Weapons I thought when I questioned if I was qualified to win a 50 mile ultra marathon.

When I reached the last aid station at mile 44, I was 18 minutes ahead of the next runner. I maintained this distance until crossing the finish line in 8 hours 21 minutes and 20 seconds.

I learned many lessons during this race. I learned the power of confidence and strategy; I learned about switching muscle groups on those long, flat, beach roads. I dove farther into controlling pain, something I learned a lot about at my first 100 mile race.

I learned that each of us are qualified to accomplish goals we set for ourselves. It takes intentional thought about our goals and trial and error. It takes quiet preparation and risky implementation. It requires patience and decisiveness.

While not an elite time, I am happy to have won my first ultra marathon. I look forward to taking these lessons and applying them to future races as I grow as a runner and competitor.

I look forward to developing more Secret Weapons

I look forward to Taking More Souls

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

1 thought on “Light 2 Light 50 Race Report

  1. Awesome post. The mental game is a key part of ultramarathon success. Congrats on the win and the soul crushing

Have something to add?