Guest Contributor: Lisa Landrum
Read Time: 5 mins
For me, there’s nothing that makes me feel freer than trail running. It’s an opportunity to, literally, get grounded and focus on one thing … my run. As chaotic as the world may become, each run is my opportunity to control things. Trail or road, fast or slow, hours or minutes. I make the choices. I control the decisions. I like that.
I chose to run Rim to River as my first 100 miler in the event’s inaugural year of 2020. Once I stepped onto those wild and wonderful trails of the New River Gorge in Southern West Virginia, the only thing I had to do was to move forward until I finished. It was the pinnacle of a controlled training cycle, where I controlled the pace, I controlled the effort, I controlled the time, I controlled my destiny. It was attainable and straight forward and I accomplished my job.
At this year’s Rim to River 100 event, I had the honor to crew and pace a good friend in her quest to travel this same 100 miles on foot. I was excited, stoked and ready to revisit the newly established New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. I had no idea of the dichotomy waiting for me this time around.
For the duration of the race, which boasts a 32-hour time limit, my runner was out there on her own. I had zero control over the outcome. I was driving on decaying single lane, backwoods roads in the pitch dark with no reception, I was eating cold Nutella on white bread to pass the time, and I was anxiously waiting and waiting for my runner. I didn’t know when or even if she would arrive at each crew check point. When she did, I didn’t know what kind of shape she’d be in, or what she might need. I was helping my runner make decisions when I wasn’t exactly sure myself. I would send her back out on her own with my best words of encouragement and some fuel. It was unknown.
The experience I had on that course gifted me the ability to gauge, just a little, what my runner may go through. As a runner, I knew what questions endlessly pin-balled through my head. “Are we on pace?”, “Should I switch my shoes now?”, “Is the next mile uphill or downhill?”, and a million others. Now as a pacer, I knew that “not many” was not an ideal answer to the question “how many miles to the next aid station”. As a runner, I can remember feeling like time stood still between those calculated wins. As a crew member and pacer, I found myself wishing that we had a little more time to get from point A to B.
As a runner, I dug deeper than ever before in my 2020 race. The motivation was internal. Knowing that others wanted me to succeed certainly played a role in my internal dialogue, but when running, I knew the job was ultimately my responsibility. As a crew member and pacer, I wasn’t looking internally anymore. Everything was about external support for my runner. I found myself relying on small mental nuggets of encouragement that others gave me the previous year. I remembered the volunteer at an aid station saying “You’ve just got to get moving. You’ll feel better”. I said that to my runner. I knew the exact mileage for my runner because I remember asking that question myself roughly 900 times last year. My crew made me put on a warm jacket even if I said I wasn’t cold. I did the same for my runner.
As a runner, I had one job and that was to cover 100 miles. As crew, I was a part of a team that had multiple jobs all at once. We navigated. We trouble-shot. We guessed. We prepped the crew stop. We asked questions. We checked in. We reminded. We nursed. We assisted.
As a runner, I knew that things were happening behind the scenes but didn’t know the half of it. Being a member of the crew team that almost missed the time we were supposed to meet our runner (the 2021 race occurred on Daylight Savings weekend) allowed me to realize that there is an opportunity for any number of things out of my control to go very wrong over the course of 100 miles.
Part of what makes people successful in an event like this is the ability to recalibrate and continue to move forward even if things don’t go as planned. A lot of trust must be placed in the crew for the runner to be afforded the luxury of only thinking about one thing … running. The importance of a good crew cannot be underestimated nor understated. Going into this year, I didn’t know the other two in our crew, but our common goal of getting our runner to the finish bonded us instantly. It’s powerful to be a part of something like that — a greater objective that has nothing to do with what you’ll directly get out of it at the end.
I paced the last 21 miles of the race from 3:30am until 11:30am, after catching a whopping 3 hours of sleep since 4:00am the previous day. My runner was both mentally and physically exhausted. I wasn’t exactly energized myself but as soon as I started running beside her, my only job became to remind her to eat and to put one foot in front of the other. It was simple. I had control again.
Jeannette, “my” runner, finished the race running and with a beautiful smile on her tired face, weary arms triumphant in the air as she crossed the finish line and received her own belt buckle. I hung back and appreciated her finish from 200 feet behind. I took it all in. A broader vantage point was not something I experienced last year. The overwhelming feeling, though, was the same. There is truly nothing like it.
It’s been said that a 100 miler is like experiencing life in a day. The emotions, the highs, the lows, the planning, the mishaps, the hunger, the illness, the expectations, the reality, the excitement, the exhaustion, the invincibleness, the defeat, the love, the hate...it’s all wrapped up in a 100-mile linear route.
Being able to share experiences on both sides of the coin hasn’t just impacted me as a runner, it’s impacted me as a mother, a wife, a coach, a friend, an advocate for running … it’s impacted all aspects of my life. Some may think that statement is a little dramatic. If you’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of an experience like this, you know it’s not. Running has provided me so much more than freedom. It has provided me perspective that I never thought imaginable.
I love that.
About the Author:
Lisa Landrum is both a straight up bad ass and a clear authority in this space. Through her runCLTrun (Instagram and web) and Forward Motion (Instagram and web) platforms, she is unquestionably a positive driving force in the Charlotte, NC running community. Give her a follow and find out yourself.
Journal - Running 100 Miles for Perspective
Human Powered Journal
Writings and musings of an active lifestyle
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