November 15th, 2012

running 2009

Night run with Scott Jurek

Last night I walked to Sports Basement in the Presidio for a highly anticipated "fun run" and book signing with elite vegan ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek. I'd missed Scott when he was in town for his Eat and Run book tour this summer, so when I found out he was coming again I made sure to sign up right away.

Ultramarathon running has been a topic of great interest to me lately, although I'm very unlikely to run a distance much longer than a marathon myself. I was greatly excited to meet local ultramarathon legend Dean Karnazes this summer, and Scott is considered in the ultra community to be even more accomplished than Dean. Amongst other accomplishments, Scott has won the grueling Western States Endurance Run, 100 miles of trail running from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California, an amazing seven consecutive times, all on a vegan diet.

A headlamp was suggested for this night run, and boyziggy picked one up for me as I was still home recovering from the relapse of my cold. I'd never run at night before, and tested the lamp on the hourlong walk over. There was no direct bus route, so even though I'd already walked an hour that day (to/from my Free Farm shift), I decided a longer sunset pre-run walk would be better than a slow, crowded bus and a shorter walk. I was very glad of the headlamp as it was completely dark by the time I arrived at 6 p.m.

We headed out at 6:30. The one friend, Ryiah, who I knew was coming and might run at a similar pace to me, arrived just as we were heading out and still had to change shoes. I didn't want to wait and risk losing the pack, which she understood. We headed toward Fort Point, and I quickly fell far behind the others. I caught up when we hit a roadblock before getting to the intended turnaround point at Hopper's Hands. We turned around and I was quite literally left in the dust again.

I worried that a "fun run" pace for ultramarathon enthusiasts would likely be "race pace" for me, and I was right. I gave up trying to keep up, but had to struggle just to keep the pack in sight; I knew the general route we were following, but not how far we were going. After the turnaround the run became increasingly less fun for me. It was a good thing I was very familiar with the Crissy Field/Marina route, as I might have seriously injured myself had I not remembered that there was a big step down at one point, and literally leaped over it at the last second. The headlamp definitely helped but not being used to wearing it, I was still quite disoriented in the dark, especially with bright headlights shining in my face along the Marina.

The run was supposed to be about three miles, but was really closer to five. I made it back in about 48 minutes, just behind Ryiah who had rejoined the pack ahead of me earlier in the run. I sat uncomfortably on the floor, tired and sweaty, while Scott fiddled with the audio and eventually got his presentation started. It was fun to watch even though I'd already read the book and knew all the highlights. He did a Q/A session, then began the book signing.

boyziggy meanwhile had come to pick me up, since he was off that night and Ryiah had to leave before the Q/A so couldn't give me a ride. He did some shopping while I stood in line. Then he stood in line in my place while I sat and rested for a bit. After 25 minutes the line had barely moved, and I decided I was too tired and overwhelmed with the noise level of the room to wait anymore. I was disappointed to leave without an autograph and photo, but a couple of people took a group photo before the run and I was standing directly behind Scott, so hopefully that will be posted soon and I'll have at least that memento of the occasion.

This run was very humbling, especially following so closely after my 10K PR. I know I really shouldn't compare my fitness to that of the kind of people who run the same events as Scott Jurek (several in the crowd raised their hands when he asked who had run Western States), but I can't help but feel slow when I'm so far behind the pack during a casual run. I've seen posted on Facebook the saying, "No matter how slow you are, you're still lapping everyone on the couch." Well, I suppose that's inspirational to beginning exercisers, but I'm far past that stage. I'm healthy, I'm still relatively young, and I'm capable of doing a lot better.

It's good for me to celebrate the accomplishments I've made thus far, but I shouldn't use those as an excuse to slack off. This isn't about weight loss or even just fitness for me anymore. Running is an increasingly important part of my life, and I expect it to be for decades to come. I need to keep participating in events that challenge me, to surround myself with people who encourage me, and to keep fueling my body with healthy, nourishing food that enables me to perform my best.