Written By Scott Waldrop
Scott has completed numerous ultra marathon distance races (including a Badwater 135 finish and an Arrowhead 135 attempt) and is a father, husband, writer, and guitarist.
He placed first in the 2018 Charleston 100, 2 weeks after winning the crewed division of the Tarheel 378-miler. His story has been featured in The News And Observer, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Ultrarunning Magazine, and Endurance Magazine.
I hope I didn’t miss anything. Although, knowing Scott, I’ve hardly scratched the surface…
We all have God on our side.
Most of us are too blind or too numb to be aware of the presence; many of us have misgivings about what to call it so we choose not to call it anything. We stagnate in our inability to choose and in this moor we become fearful, angry, guilt-ridden, jealous and wanting.
In these negative emotions we lose our power.
Conversely, moving towards finding divine purpose creates new potential. Momentum and riding the crest of the present moment clears stagnant energy and opens the doors of circumstance to a veritable constellation of synchronicities which light our way. This requires one to surrender unto belief which is counterintuitive to the pragmatic ‘elbow grease & gumption’ paradigms bestowed upon us by our parents’ generations. The world is changing fast enough for anyone to find themselves estranged who spends too long looking backwards from the zeitgeist, back towards the familiar comfort of what was and will never be again.
You have to move with the changing waters as opposed to fighting their current, which is limitless in its ability break you.
It is ever-changing and doesn’t care about the illusionary concept that you may have even an infinitesimal sway on its ever-unfolding aspect. This movement begs the question, “Are we at least presently moving towards being someone we’re comfortable with being when we die?”
Drunk & Stoned
I grew up valuing a day spent outdoors.
My mother’s side were horse people and much of my childhood was spent on the back of a pony in the woods. My father was athletic, a marine, and made sure I was never a stranger to mountain nor sea. Growing up in North Carolina & Virginia, I spent a good deal of my youth hiking The Smoky Mountains and The Blue Ridge Mountains. My stepmother was from California so I also spent many summers in The Pacific surf as well as The Isle of Palms in South Carolina where my Dad had a timeshare.
During my formative years I lived in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Vienna, Virginia where my home was perched near a small cliff only yards from Difficult Run, a tributary stream of the Potomac River. In those woods I could ride my BMX bike for miles and miles in either direction, stopping to catch eels and crayfish.
In my early 20’s my friends and I would spend much of the summer in George Washington National Forest within The Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Here, we’d hike, fish, swim and –most importantly– get drunk & stoned.
We decided to spread our wings and set out to see America in its entirety by car and tent. This was the mid 90’s and we did it all by map. We went on epic hikes through Glacier Park, Yellowstone, The Black Hills, The Badlands, Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, Vail, The Grand Canyon and so on. This wetted my appetite for getting out into our nation’s vast wilderness.
Again, by the time I was exploring America by car & tent, psychoactive chemicals were integral to my journey. My aforementioned childhood was depicted as idyllic, but it was not without its events that perhaps lead to my alcohol consumption developing its own creeping momentum later in life.
To egregiously abbreviate a dark period, my drinking increased in my 30’s and with that I began to realize that I had some significant underlying mental illness. Mercifully, some unknown force came to free me from my own wreckage.
I prayed to return to that child who loved to wander and knew peace.
So, I started to run and I managed to run myself out of the depression and anxiety that caused my addiction.
To greatly simplify and encapsulate this process, I began running a mile further each week until I could run 70 miles from my house, down The Falls of Neuse River trail in Raleigh, and back.
This process included learning where to stash water and food along the river bank. It also involved learning how to cope with lightning, snow, hurricanes, rising floods, dehydration, near overhydration, and sunburn, when I was twenty miles from home on foot.
By early 2016 I had trained myself to be an ultrarunner but didn’t go out to meet any like-minded people nor allow the magic of circumstance to take effect. I was aware that I had done the work and it was time to grow in a new way.
I decided to jump into a new unknown.
I don’t know where it was ultimately leading me to, but I knew I had to start taking steps. I wanted to give others the gushing gratitude I felt towards the blue sky and sun on my face while running in sobriety.
I decided to get a running coach certification from the RRCA (Road Runners Club of America).
The only thing stopping me was the fact that the only class I could get into was far away, in Boise, Idaho. I was unsure about what to do but my wife catalyzed my courage saying, “We have the money; go after this. I believe in you.” It was her strength that propelled me to take the steps that would set forth a chain of events which quickly and beautifully reshaped my life.
In the true spirit of adventure, I flew out west with only my wallet and a hydration pack; there was no rental car waiting for me. As we began our final descent I saw the amazing desert plateau that would be my ‘downtime playground’ for the next few days; emerald Tolkien-esque hills rolled across the horizon, divided by The Snake River. From these myriad Hobbit Hills arose a yellow-orange rock which beckoned to me from the airplane’s little window.
These hills exuded mystery as they were (to me), a perfect romanticization of “Old West” ghost stories.
Once on the ground, I ran to my motel which was a few miles from the airport in the urban sprawl.
Boise is typical of an 18-wheeler interstate interchange area; a spaghetti tangle of swirling exits and road debris. As I ran, I’d look to the ground to dodge needles, bottles of urine, bits industrial metal, and all other manner of road detritus. Off in the distance I could see the rolling hills and prairie which clashed in stark disparity against Boise’s monotone infrastructure and right angles.
The first morning I woke up before the sun and ran the 5 miles from the hotel to the gym where the certification course was taking place. When class let out in the early afternoon, I literally began to run for the hills; in the remote distance I saw snow peaks which pulled at my heart. Along the way were historic markers for The Oregon Trail. I thought about ‘Indian attacks’ and bones buried under rock piles.
I was running along a path where daring hearts –far bolder than mine!– had faced undreamed hardship.
There had recently been a massive snow melt which left The Boise River violent and powerful beneath the rusted bridge I crested as I moved closer across a grassy field towards a dramatic ascent at Table Rock Trail.
I ran past innumerable amounts of ageless barbed wire which seemed to litter the countryside. It made me feel like a stranger as I had no personal history nor connection to ‘the lands of barbed wire prairies.’
As an Easterner, being in this environment was like finding myself in some childhood dream about “Cowboys and Indians” (please pardon the antiquated terminology as these thoughts are being reflected through the lense of childhood memory).
Delicate wildflowers sprouted from juxtaposing gnarls of rusted wire. This wire was made to harm, hoard, enslave, and divide. Its profusion was subconsciously unnerving. Large rocks jutted upwards from the hills arranged in strange caprice. They were gorgeously jagged and their exposed layers of strata were ribonned in warm hues. Some of them were conspicuously monolithic and stood like sentinels in the blowing tall grass. I passed a true ‘Old West’ prison which now stood as a museum.
It was as if so few men ever came this far into the wild, the facility was preserved from lack of interaction with the incarnate, and seemingly tended by the dead.
The dirt trail which ran along the hill just above it was encrusted with relics of the bygone. The dark yellow dirt was bejeweled with implements of the previous century which were rusted beyond recognition inasmuch as one could begin to decipher their original purpose. Misplaced structural stones carved into crude squares by the hands of The Prairie’s long-since departed inhabitants were dispersed sporadically about the precipitous and narrow path which loomed over the hoary prison.
As I looked over my shoulder the sun was setting and the vision of the compound was curiously monotone in its dusty desert yellowishness. I continued towards the snow peaks unconcerned about impending nightfall and being alone in the wilderness of this strange new land.
This exhilarated me.
I’d spent so many years under the influence of substances I’d learned to not trust myself.
I was learning that I could trust myself and that I was capable of so much more than I ever imagined. My self-assuredness that I would be okay as I journeyed into this bizarre and alien terrain was affirming this trust. I ducked under more barbed wired, surmounted several nearly vertical hills, and then went down again. However, I was surly trespassing and hoping I wasn’t being observed from afar by a rancher’s gunscope.
I felt strangely calm as if I had spirit guides protecting me. I felt very much in touch with my true self exploring this place. Adventure into to the unknown brings with it the promise of general weirdness.
The twilight lingered far longer than I suspected which inspired me to go out farther; the snow peaks being my north star. Along a valley floor where no one could possibly have recently been – save a ghost, extraterrestrial, or perhaps an ultrarunner – lay the scant and mysterious remains of some large animal. It was a fully intact stomach, a small bit of gut, and not a trace more. There were no tire tracks, footprints, nor animal tracks in the surrounding area. I hastened my pace to surmount the canyon wall and gain higher ground. Once I made it to the top, I found myself on a road so dramatically cracked in half and separated, it looked like cartoon-depicted Armageddon.
There were tilted signs reading Danger Zone and Do Not Enter dotting the obliterated road. I couldn’t resist walking into this area like I was be sung to by syrens.
It was truly one of the strangest scenes I’d ever chanced upon.
There was an entire neighborhood of unfinished mansions which had all been torn in half by cracked earth. The destruction looked biblical and it was fully deserted save me.
This was a hidden gem of urban decay tourism; a ruinscape of towering transom shards and diagonal colonnades in splinters. It was clearly all recent construction yet nestled in the middle of nowhere. The ruin eerily implied that some elemental force simply wouldn’t allow these superfluous monuments of avarice to stand in the sacred midst of this wilderness.
There was a clear and final demarcation with a particularly large sign erected by The State of Idaho. It extended the width of the road, warning not to enter.
I walked past this sign feeling very uncomfortable in my gut, and proceeded to raise myself several feet up over a layer of the cracked earth. In that moment my cell phone slid from my fingertips and shattered on the ground joining the sea of broken glass.
I took this as a sign from forces greater than The State of Idaho to turn around and start heading home. The snow peaks could wait for another time.
As I saw the lights of the city reappear in the distance, the sky was the most dramatic shade of amethyst I’d ever seen it. The darkening blue enveloped the firmament with a nearly imperceptible softness.
In this time of half-dark I came upon a valley where a hoard of ancient wagons and anachronistic farm equipment lay ochre-colored and corroded like giant red skeletons. Some were behemoth machines while others were simple and modest, but all slept in death-silence forever rusting in this twilight prairie.
It was like a dream.
It was a scene I never would have saw back East or in a parallel future in which I never started moving towards signs.
Leadville, Old Dominion, and Service
When I returned home as a certified RRCA running coach I felt confident that I could now pull off what once seemed foolhardy, so I decided to keep the dice rolling. I knew one of the things missing in my life and on my journey to betterment was service to others. My friend at the local running store kept telling me to volunteer at our local and venerable ultra, The Umstead 100.
For some reason I didn’t immediately take his advice albeit obvious now that it was opportunity falling on my nose.
A sign, perhaps.
I kept telling my wife that I needed to volunteer to figure out my purpose and she (again) pointed me to the obvious. She said, “They keep telling you to volunteer at Umstead, why don’t you start there?”
I had been thinking that ‘service’ had to mean volunteering at soup kitchens and my mind just couldn’t get around it.
At Umstead I volunteered to be a pacer for runners in the middle of the night which entailed being morally supportive, making sure they were taking in calories, drinking water, and not freaking out. The race director had the pacers do a night time training run on the course to make sure we knew what we had signed up for.
Before this training run began, I heard a loud voice punctuating the still night air and dominating all the other voices. It’s a friendly and excitable voice. It sounds like life is new again to this person. I’m drawn to it.
It is Sean.
We wind up running thirteen miles in the dark together and blathering like long-lost brothers. We had a similar history of alcoholism and a very similar envisioned future for ourselves.
The following week he invited me on a road trip to Boston to meet the charity team he ran for (and still does) called The Herren Project (THP). It felt a little weird saying “yes”, but I went on the 12-hour car ride with my new friend as heeding omens had done nothing but pay off thus far.
Meeting the folks at THP and the intricate synchronicities around this are another story unto itself, but in the spirit of keeping this particular story focused on relentless forward movement, it suffices to say that THP gave me the opportunity to run The Leadville 100; a goal I hadn’t dare dream of realizing for years to come.
The only stipulation was that I publicize my story and raise the funds. Again, taking this chance and its outcome was a force of wonder in my life but to pay it justice would be to take the reader down a tributary on the ‘proverbial river of chance’ and off the one you’re currently on.
It was April 2017 and in August 2017 I was to run Leadville.
A month earlier I didn’t even know another runner!
My life had taken a quantum leap to a level some people work decades towards.
Of course, we cannot know the future despite our anxious minds telling us the opposite.
I had signed up for The Old Dominion 100-miler a month prior to meeting The Herren Project. Old Dominion is one of the original races from the ‘golden age,’ or seminal time, of this sport and is a real deal 100 mile ultra marathon through mountains. Despite its lack of altitude, its terrain is as brutal as you could ask for on the eastern side of the Mississippi.
Sean and I took my Tahoe and some tents into the Blue Ridge Mountains, and then into George Washington Forest; my old watering hole where me and my college buddies would get loaded up on weed and beer every summer. This was incredibly venerating and beautifully ironic. I woke at 3 am in my tent, ate my cold oatmeal, took a shot of apple cider vinegar, and Sean drove me to the starting line.
In the dark of pre-dawn the pack of some 150 runners made our way out of Woodstock, Virginia and straight up the mountain. As the morning rolled on, I saw younger athletes flying up the ascents as I paced myself, hoping that I was making the right decision in conserving my energy.
The late morning brought me to quintessentially Virginian country roads flanked by precariously quivering grey-boarded structures, red barns, and mossy pastures in the bottoms of hollows. The multi-triangular mountain skyline zigzagged blackish in the approaching distance; I’d be inside them by early afternoon if I kept an honest pace.
I climbed Skyline Drive and spilled out onto The Massanutten trail which was sodden, rocky, and generally-cruel. Much of it was simply un-run-able as it was comprised of rocks of such varying size and shape; it was perpetual negotiation for several miles. As the rocks gave way to mud, I was able to pick up my pace and take in the scenery.
I had a panoramic view of the mountain range and lush forest presided over by ancient and unusually tall trees. The sky was a shocking blue in its springtime glow. The memory of that day is punctuated by exquisitely perfect weather with the familiar odor of Virginia’s flora which I felt so at home in.
Exiting the forest, I emerged onto Skyline Drive and proceeded to run down the winding mountain road with a pack of runners. I think we were all trying to impress one another because after 5 miles of dramatic downhill road racing you could hear the groans of people shredding their quadriceps into hamburger meat.
As the day wore on I was racing towards Elizabeth Furnace, a deep valley just below the race’s most brutal ascent. As dusk began to set I was running through an open field and something large flew inches from my face. I must be hallucinating. Then the blackish blur whizzed in front of me again, swooping a bit then soaring upward. I look up to see the silhouettes of bats against the darkening purple-orange sky. They were feeding off the numerous tiny insects which were swarming around my headlamp!
Innumerable obstacles conspired to make me face-plant in the dark should I turn the light off. I was going to have to deal with the unnerving dive bombers until the trail spilled back into the dense forest where they wouldn’t have the tactical advantage of air supremacy.
When I made it into Elizabeth Furnace I picked up Sean to help guide me over Sherman Gap. I was nearly 75 miles in, about to embark upon a phantasmagorical ordeal up this ‘hill.’
We began to ascend the nearly vertical climb and it was immediately cruel on the glutes, calves, hamstrings, lungs, and my core temperature. To my left was gaping darkness and underfoot were streams curiously dribbling across the steep rooted trail. The whole scene seemed to defy natural science as it felt like we were walking up some alien night-world dreamed by MC Escher. It was psychological calisthenics to continuously place one’s feet on wet obsidian-like river stones and not slip into whatever chasm was in the blacker dark at my side. By headlamp, deprivation, and depletion, these stones’ bright green slime coat seemed to take on weird phosphorus properties. Their stringy algae undulated wildly in the trickling brook like witch’s hair in some underwater tribal dance. Mercifully, dawn broke and reality returned with the rising sun. I made my way down the mountain, through the town, and across the finish line. My first 100 mile ultra marathon was complete!
With the coming of August, it was time to confront the infamous Leadville 100 which started at over 10,000’ in The Colorado Rockies. Two days before I left, I met with New Balance who hired me as their new coach. The fact that I was running Leadville that year made my resume “stick out” as they’re a major sponsor of the race and have their own trail shoe with its namesake.
This was another amazing synchronicity of 2017. If I had to summarize the entire experience in a phrase I would say it was like running with spirits under the bluest of skies. For this event I brought my wife and fourteen-year-old son. We flew out to Denver, borrowed my best friend’s SUV, and drove out to Leadville where we had a campsite served.
The moment we started to put up our tent it started hailing!
This place was unpredictable to be sure, and my beloved pack took it like champs. We had the tent erected, air mattresses inflated, blankets laid out, and cozy clothes on in less than a half hour.
I was so proud of us!
Once settled we took notice of our environment. The hail had passed. The air was noticeably thinner and my wife asked, “I can barely breath in this, how are you going to run in this?”
I told her truthfully that I wasn’t quite sure.
With the weather now calm again, we decided to walk to Turquoise Lake, about a quarter mile from our camp. Similar to how the hail storm had begun with such a fickle turn, the mists on the lake began to rise.
The swirling amorphic grayness contrasted ominously with the dark mountain range behind it. It was as if the weather possessed the mind of a neurotic human prone to violent mood swings, this one being a cold-calculated demonstration of its dominance.
The lake and landscape’s green-blue palette instantaneously fell pallid and ill into monochromatic grays.
The winds were domineeringly forceful, as a general malaise of bleak indifference issued forth from the water.
To say it seemed like the wind, sky, and water were personified as some supernatural being bent on petty demonstrative power understates the ethereal nature of the experience.
Despite the oppressive weather we were able to hunker down and enjoy our sleep in this beautifully rugged place. On the morning of the race I woke up to eat my obligatory oatmeal and geared up inside the truck with the heat blasting to temper my shivering. My family saw me off at the starting line with hugs and well wishes, then I began running with some 700 other runners into the black morning. After a spin around Turquoise lake the day broke and I was running up the Colorado Rockies in some of the crispest air, bluest skies, and divine sunlight I can remember.
I was staying ahead of the cutoffs as the infamous ascent to Hope’s Pass approached. I ran through a valley, across an open field, crossed a cold river with the aid of a rope, and came to the shadowy foot of the mountain.
The aspect of the forest here took on a pronounced feeling of primordial energy.
There were greens so deep you simply felt more alive by being near them. Everything smelled of earthen godliness and ancient moisture. At first the ascent was pleasant enough. Sunbeams shot out in straight white lines from the tree line above and touched the surface of a hurried mountain stream making it shimmer in a myriad of ephemeral bursts of angel-light.
As I progressed upwards the terrain became increasingly difficult. Soon, it became an all-out death march. I conserved my lungs, legs, and general homeostasis by climbing very slowly as if in suspended animation. This atmosphere, coupled with the extreme strenuousness of the climb, was putting me in touch with something undefinable.
I could begin to see where I would summit; once I burst upon the highest point, something in my heart felt like it was set free. I was finally walking amongst the snow caps. There is something unique to the feeling of summiting a mountain on your own legs and being in the presence of this sun-coated wilderness in the clouds that changes you. It’s abstract to contemplate but I suppose it could be described as “coming closer to God;” albeit I’m yet unsure if I mean that literally or metaphorically.
I was now at nearly 14,000’. The atmosphere dizzied me enough to make me cautious, but I was okay. I had to be mindful of keeping my balance after the taxing ascent.
There were many other runners bottlenecking the small rocky trail and you simply had to let one person pass, or the other allow you space, as the trail became narrow and dizzying. The run downwards was nerve-racking, even terrifying, when I looked at the drop to my left. You had to choose between running or possibly knocking another runner off the mountain.
As I heard other runners talking who were coming from the opposite direction, I began to realize that I was behind the 50 mile cut-off time. I was 7 miles up and a little over an hour away.
The prognosis was grim but salvageable. So I thought.
I started to fly downwards as skillfully and valiantly as I was capable. I was choosing every rock and root in sub-seconds; heading downwards with reckless abandon.
Then I hit a wall of runners who weren’t running.
As more runners coming from the opposite direction clogged the tiny artery, it slowly became clear that my chances of hitting the 14-hour cut off time were quickly waning. Runners coming back up were saying things to me like Never give up and I love your spirit. It became obvious that I was fighting a logistical impossibility as I looked to the aid station far below and the massive procession of runners squeezing the trail in every direction.
A girl near me began to petulantly cry after her friend ran up the hill and said, “There is no humanly possible way you can make it to the cut off in time.”
I’d resigned to my fate and decided this would be a humble learning lesson. Ultrarunning isn’t supposed to be easy and I was okay with not earning my wings without due process.
Without a “Why?”
After my DNF (did not finish) at Leadville, I needed to affirm that my success at Old Dominion wasn’t a fluke, a victory won by a once-in-a-lifetime conjuring of fear-strength.
A couple months had gone by and my thirst for redemption was so great that I couldn’t sit around any longer without taking action. I had to sign up for another 100 mile ultra marathon and it had to be now.
The Devil Dog Ultras in Triangle, Virginia was the closest and soonest option I had.
If I had to summarize this race in a few words it would be brutal, sleet, and rocks.
In the first few minutes of the start a girl wiped out and succumbed to this course’s sole aspect: a mind game where any break in one’s laser-focused and perpetual observation of the root-choked ground hidden beneath a blanket of rotting leaves clumped in hoarfrost, inevitably leads to a crushing impact on vicious terrain.
The girl was bleeding and crying.
Despite her friends’ remonstrations, she was already heading back in the opposite direction.
The ankle-breakers on these trails were so incessant in their repetitiveness it was almost comedic how much everyone was spilling.
50 miles in, I noticed my back leg muscles stiffening every time I hit a root. I went airborne only to readjust at the last moment and hit the ground with both feet running hard. Eventually my number was up and one of the roots got me, and got me hard. I hit the ground with a pitiful thud and my left calf muscle balled up with such quick and blinding pain I was certain something had snapped off internally. In a fractious second, I was buried in rocky mud as a tremendous howl began to well up from a dark chasm inside. I saw two runners approaching, and I instinctively grabbed the balled-up muscle forcing it back in place.
I stood up and to my complete astonishment, the calf stayed in place.
The runners passed by asking if The Mudman was okay; I gave the thumbs up and, feeling a little pukey (but mostly grateful), I kept running.
Night fell and the running was smooth past the 60 mile mark; then plummeting cold fell upon the forest with a disconcerting quickness.
Sleet started to come down and it wasn’t the sort of sleet that seemed like it was going say “hello” and scamper off.
This was tenacious Type-A personality sleet with no social filter and it was coming right at ya.
I’d experienced this before on my long training runs at home and was aware of how serious the various factors involved were. I made sure to keep my core temperature up by running hard and taking in the needed calories. To stop moving in this kind of weather was to surrender. I kept my fingers warm by stuffing them in my pants, armpits, and alternating gloves periodically. Still, my hands were frost nipped and would be numb days later.
When I came in from my 3rd loop the main camp was full of people that looked haggard and glazed; they drank coffee by huge fireplaces.
I turned around and ran right back out into the darkness and sleet.
There were certain outcroppings of rock on this course that were so ridiculously dangerous and awkward to maneuver around that by the third time you crossed them you knew them quite well. The problem was this: the technique you’d used the last time you passed this obstacle no longer applied when you see it again as you’re increasingly less limber and less intelligent.
I never stopped on this race as the thought of another DNF terrified me.
Why abuse myself to this degree?
I heard that if you don’t know why you run these races, you won’t have anything to dig deep from when you’re in the dark night of the soul.
This concerned me because I wasn’t totally sure what made me do this crazy stuff.
Nevertheless, I saw the sunrise and I made it to the finish line.
I was elated. I knew I had what it takes to get through 100-milers, even in punishing weather. But again, why? What did I really stand for? This bothered me a bit until the end of my next race where I figured out my answer to my question.
“I hate this.”
February 2018 found me in the outskirts of Houston, Texas.
The last time I was in this state was 20 years ago. I was thrown in jail in the little desert town of Alpine near the border of Mexico. I got pulled over with an ounce of weed and they locked me away for 48 hours without telling me what they planned to do.
I’m guessing that’s why I had no interest in returning. It’s different down there.
My return to Texas was a redemptive one; I’d be running the Rocky Raccoon 100. This is a qualifier for some of the more nefarious ultras on my bucket list.
Running this race is par for the course if you’re a developing ultrarunner.
The race started in the usual black hours of predawn – as all other 100-milers – where the runners are pinned together like sardines for the first couple hours. This seems to bring out as much nerve and weirdness as the end of the race; it just manifests in a different type of ‘the jitters.’
The shrill voice of an old lady cut through hundreds of mumbles and marching feet. She was talking to some youngsters about the good ‘ol days of ultrarunning, how she knew all these special people, and about how she herself was a legend.
The girl to my left mumbles “Shut the fuck up,” under her breath.
About an hour in, the pack thinned, the trail widened, and the rain started. It would rain and mist for the next 30 hours. The four 25-mile loops that comprise this race were rather ‘hard on the brain’ in the sense that I was very cognizant of the fact that I was running 4 marathons in succession.
This mileage is no different than any other 100-miler, but for some reason when divided into these marathon distance denominations, the numbers sound scarier.
As the day wore on, the rooted track turned into a glorious mud pit.
By now I was very at home in these conditions; they actually seemed rather benign compared to Devil Dog. However, more than half of the runners would eventually drop out.
Moisture seems to always bring with it a high attrition rate in these races.
As the night came down the tiny mist particles falling horizontally in the wind looked like Star Wars Hyperspace in the light of my headlamp. This weird visual effect wasn’t helping my sour stomach, but I trudged on knowing that the key to finishing 100-milers is relentless forward motion.
Towards the end, I encountered my reason for being there; I found my reservoir to tap into when things get rough. I had forgotten my reason and purpose in its simplicity.
There was a gentleman I encountered in the most remote part of the course griping in the darkness by himself. He was saying, “I hate this, I don’t want to be here, and I never want to see this place again.”
This guy showed me my purpose!
It was not only my purpose for running ultras, but my purpose in life: I never want to be the way he was then.
I will never again let the cycle of self-victimization thoughts swirl through my mind and hypnotize me into holding limiting beliefs. I will not wish things different and suffer in my inability to deal with things I cannot change.
What you say to the Universe is exactly what The Universe responds to.
The Universe does not play in semantics. If you say “I hate this,” it will be so.
It’s such a simple and profound truth that it’s lost in plain sight to most.
All you need to do is ask yourself, “Who am I and what do I stand for?”
Ask these questions in every moment and look for the signs. As the signs appear in response to these questions, we just keep moving towards them with relentless forward motion.
Written By Scott Waldrop