I couldn't say it any better than Ashley Arnold in her race report for her 3rd place finish at Leadville. I will definitely be thinking about her words on my first try at 100 miles. This is an excerpt from her report.
I was amazed that I had really done it. I knew I could run 100-miles, that I have the ability, the fitness, but mentally, I’ve always struggled. I’ve never been tough or able to fight through pain during races, but here, I had just run 100 miles and I had at least proved to myself I could fight through some of it. I had fought the sleep, I had fought the stomach issues and the other aches and pains. Though, not as well as I would have liked, but I had fought them, I had overcome some bit of them all and I had made it to the end. If anything, this was a start for me; a first step at getting to the roots of my mental weaknesses, learning where they are, when they arise and how to contain them and work with them.
It’s funny, because now, I don’t even remember how bad I really felt during the low times. I don’t think my legs were hurting all that bad, I don’t think I was having trouble breathing, but who knows? It’s interesting how quickly I let myself forget what bad really felt like – and I did so almost immediately after I crossed the finish line, as though crossing that yellow tape gave me the powers to forget most of the suffering and I was left with a euphoric nostalgia about the day past, a strange feeling of relief and accomplishment, exhaustion and bliss. It was the kind of complex emotional state I’ve never experienced at the end of any race of shorter distance. I felt like I had done, for myself, something epic.
I don’t think you walk away from a 100-mile race with any huge philosophical understanding or revelation about the world and I don’t think it is in any way a total life-changing experience, as not many things are. But what I did find, is that I walked away from a 100-mile race feeling a sense that I had uncovered a lot about the underbelly of my mind, my will, my heart, my ability to push past discomfort and the importance of having people who care about you there when you need them.
The thing is, when we run in a race that lasts from dark to dark or longer, we choose to run it. We know it is going to be hard and we know it is going to be painful. We go into it knowing we will have to push through if we want to succeed. And that level of “push” is what takes us where we do or don’t want to go. But the mere fact that we choose to put ourselves here and experience a distance on foot, that is not to be taken lightly, is something we should never take for granted. The fact that we can run, that we have friends and family to support us in our endeavors, makes us all very lucky. And on top of this, choosing to suffer, as we do when the countdown begins in a 100-mile race, we allow ourselves to become stronger, and more understanding. This, above any time goal or podium finish, is what makes the 100-miler so incredible and the lessons we take away, so invaluable.