Monday, March 14, 2011

The 10 Hardest Moments I've Ever Endured as a Runner / What about You?

We've all had crazy-tough moments in our running. Well, here are mine, in order of difficulty from "easiest" (10) to "hardest" (1), with a few honorable mentions thrown in:

10) Finishing my first marathon--the Columbus Marathon in 2004 (3:22).

9) Finishing my first 50-miler in 2006. The last 15 miles was a death march.

8) Holding the lead at the 2009 Mohican Trail 100. With two very capable guys bearing down on me, I ran through the last aid station to break their will when all I wanted to do was sit down and refuel, and somehow I won by 22 minutes.

7) The last 20 miles of my first 100 miler--the 2007 Burning River 100. Running/shuffling past the rather foul-smelling compost plant in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio about sent me over the edge. I'm glad I'm here to tell about that great adventure. What an experience it was.

6) Staying on pace the last 10K of the 2008 Cleveland Marathon, when I broke 3 hours for the first time. The last 10K of a hard-run marathon are--how to say it?--painful.

5) Trudging up to the top of Mosquito Pass (elevation: 13,185 feet) at the 2010 Leadville Trail Marathon. The following video will give you an idea of why.

4) Enduring a blown-up knee and obliterated stomach the last 20 miles of the 2008 Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run, when I barely held off a late surge by Connie Gardner to finish 4th overall.

3) Post-holing through waist-deep snow and fighting acute exhaustion the last 1,000 vertical feet of Pikes Peak (elevation: 14,115 feet) during my first of two summits last spring. Below is a cool video of some mountain bikers descending Pikes during the summer, when the snow's gone. Love the Johnny Cash tune! Ladies and gentlemen, yes, it takes balls to ride a mountain bike down Pikes Peak, especially on the narly switchbacks above treeline.

2) The last 6 hours of the USA 24-hour national championship in 2009, when I was mentally fried but somehow kept the legs moving to finish with just shy of 131 miles. Here's a rather telling photo of me in the last hour of the race.

1) The last 13.6 miles of the 2010 Leadville Trail 100, after I'd been laid up in the Mayqueen aid station with altitude sickness and related maladies. It's the closest I've ever come to DNF'ing. Somehow, I finished.

Honorable mentions:
  • Trudging up the backside of Hope Pass at the 2010 Leadville 100. It's pretty steep in places, especially when you've already run over 50 miles at 10,000+ feet.
  • Just finishing the 2005 Buckeye Trail 50K, which was incredibly hot, muddy and humid. About four miles into the race, I got the hell stung out of me by three hornets swarming a deer carcass. It was not one of my better races or more enjoyable days on the trail.
What are some the hardest things you've ever done as a runner?

Challenge Yourself. Go Long. PushYour Limits. Discover Your Inner Champion.


  1. Great MTB video of riding down Pikes. I think I recognized every switchback...every rock and every tree. Very cool. Seemed that they somehow found a day w/ few other trail users (plus some active editing to be sure).

    Loved the "hardest" post, too. Good stuff.

  2. Jim: The Pikes video is very cool and makes me wish for summer to come! I can't wait to get up there again! My goal this summer is to summit all of the Front Range 14'ers. Can't wait!


  3. My summer goal is to do a run circumnavigating Mt. Evans (one o' those Front Range 14'ers) starting/ending (probably) at Echo Lake. Probably be a combination of trail and bushwhacking. Bring on the summer!

  4. Cool post ... definitely some food for thought. That video is sick. I'll take my chances running down versus hittin' it on a bike.

  5. This is awesome stuff on your blog...I just ran my first ultra (the Moab RedHot 55K), am signed up for Run Rabbit Run in September, and have Leadville in the back of my brain. Great to read accounts of living to tell the tale, and getting back out there for more.