This weekend I ran my first night run. I participated in a 12-hour relay that took place from 10PM on Saturday night until 10AM on Sunday morning around a 2.01-mile loop in Morgan Hill, CA. It was quite an adventure that I’d like to share.
Getting the race put together was in-and-of itself a journey. It started as an idea of my friend Craig. Originally a few of us were going to run in a circle for hours just to do it. We talked about having our families provide support and putting a chalkboard in place to tally our laps. Then ultramarathon legend Pam Reed (who’s manager is one of our running friends) decided she’d like to use the loop to run for 24-hours. Once that happened, South Valley Endurance (SVE), owned by two other locals — Greg and Debbie Richards — took over to make it an official USTAF sanctioned event. It went from five ultra freaks running in a circle to a pretty big deal for our little town and running club.
My original intent on doing the run was to see how I would adapt to running at night. I wondered what my body and mind would do. Would I make it? The relay was a perfect option to test running sleep deprived, without having a 12 or 24-hour solo run at stake.
There were three relay teams of three runners. All nine runners were in our running club (South Valley Running Club – SVRC) and we are all friends, having run hundreds of miles together.
Here is what I learned.
It was much harder than I thought it would be. Our relay team (Jimmy, Carrie, and I) decided to run four hours a piece and split it by rotating 2 hours, 1 hour, 1 hour. I ran 12AM-2AM, 5AM-6AM, and 8AM-9AM. I thought this would be mentally tiring, but I wasn’t worried about my body. I have to admit, my 5AM-6AM run was extremely tough. The break between runs was not restful and only served to make my body tighten and my stomach cramp. I had no idea what I should be eating or drinking. Additionally, I have had bronchitis for a month, so my appetite was almost non-existent. During the entire 12-hours I ate one half of a banana, drank about 12 oz of water, 6 oz of Gatorade, and had two cups of broth.
The 2-mile loop was far more enjoyable than I expected. I must have said 100 times, “The idea of running in circles simply doesn’t appeal to me.” Turns out, I really liked it, especially at night. I found comfort in knowing the course so thoroughly, and I easily split the mileage up in my mind. I also found it extremely motivating to see the other runners and the SVE team every 20 minutes or so.
I was able to come back after a tough night. One of our club runners, Gar, bless his heart, showed up around 5AM to help us keep going. He saw I was struggling and left another runner, LaRene, to keep me company. He just talked with me for 2 miles, slowing down so I could keep up. I think it was possibly the hardest 2 miles I’ve ever run. My stomach hurt and my legs made me feel like the tin man. I knew I had to regroup. After passing the chip to my teammate, Carrie, it hit me that my car had seat warmers, so I sat in there for about 90 minutes with the heat blasted and the seat warmers turned up as high as possible. It was the most rest I had all night and it felt great. Pealing myself out of my toasty car at 7:30 was no easy feat, but then Carrie’s boyfriend, Chase, appeared with coffee and a scone. That did it. I found my second wind and took off at 8AM, albeit slowly, able to complete my final leg of the relay. It felt good, like I had managed to overcome.
Having 9 of us out there made a huge difference. There was something really fun and motivational about the fact that the three relay teams were all from SVRC. We encouraged, lamented, sat around freezing cold, and cheered for each other for 12 straight hours. I wonder what it would have been like to be out there without friends. Not as fun, I am certain of that.
Running with Pam Reed was not only an honor but extremely enjoyable. As counter-intuitive as this sounds, I actually found the start/stop element of the relay hard. So at 3AM, with my first two hours done, and Pam Reed right there, I decided to join her and keep running. I ran with Pam and her husband, Jim, for about an hour. I can’t say enough nice things about the two of them. Surprisingly, we didn’t talk much about running. We talked about our boys (they have five and I have three), the cost of living in the Bay Area, moving to new places, the state of public school, etc. I ran with Pam again after my final relay shift ended. At this point she had been going for 23 hours, so we talked about the blisters on her feet and we lamented the slight hill on the course. She told me I wasn’t eating enough, which was funny because she is famous for consuming very few calories. The best line from my experience with Pam was when, at 88 miles, she sighed and said, “This is taking FOREVER.” Sounded just like any of us on any long run.
I also want to complement our club member Lynn Astalos. He is Pam’s manager and was half of her crew. He really did our club proud. He must have ridden his bike next to Pam at about 6 miles an hour for about 12 hours. In fact, he showed me a blister on his hand from the handlebars. I think he slept 2 hours in total, and other than that he was in full crew mode. Very impressive. Crewing is not easy and I am certain Lynn was as exhausted as any of the runners.
As part of the relay team, I finished 24 miles, a little less than two miles shy of my 26.2 goal. Adding in my addition running with Pam, I totaled 30 miles. I made it through the night, I hung out with my friends, and I ran with a legend. It was an experience I won’t soon forget and it has given me the confidence to attempt a 100K.