A lot has been said already about the race last weekend, but the truth is that we’re regular people who run a lot. Nothing more. But we also run really hard when we have the chance. Saturday was a good example of that. I ran harder than ever before, and called on every bit of experience I had in the sport to run beyond my limits. What would last year have been an inconceivable level of pain was instead an exciting challenge of endurance – the kind of effort that is mentally and physically exhausting but highly fulfilling as a result.
Competition brings out the best in us. Sometimes I relish the beauty of running alone in the mountains, while other time other times I revel in the challenge of extreme competition. The best is being able to combine the two, and the races in Marin County have proven to be the purest representation of that ideal: the sickest competition amongst a landscape of unparalleled beauty. That area doesn’t have the striking prominence of Chamonix nor the untouched wildness of the San Juans, but it does have some pretty big mountains next to a really big ocean, and I think that’s a good compromise. The trails are steep and difficult but not enough to prohibit hard running most of the time, though by the end we felt like we could barely move at all. Here is a summary of my race: I ran really hard for a long time, then took second place. That’s basically it.
Sure, there’s more. The pack at the start was huge, way too huge to be realistic. I knew most of those guys wouldn’t hold on later in the race, but I let them push the pace anyway. We all did. We fed off each other because we’re all extremely competitive and have a huge desire for success. The race progressed. I moved into the front and wondered if I would be able to hold on to my position later in the race. When Alex Nichols fell we all stopped to help him because that’s what you do. Then from Stinson Beach I ran with Mike Wolfe.
Mike is a good friend of mine. We’ve raced each other several times and hung out a bit here and there, but we really got to know each other during Saturday’s race. Not because we were talking. We weren’t. But somehow the experience of defining the very best in ourselves brings us to respect the best in each other. I am positive that competition with him brought out more in me than I could have possibly displayed otherwise, and I’d like to think the same could be said for him.
Running with Mike was a perfect example of how great this sport is – we wanted each other to succeed. Every now and then he’d look back and say, “what a cool birthday run, Dakota”, or “you’re awesome for doing this at 21.” I’d grunt something equally profound in reply and we’d keep on running. Frankly, by the 35-mile mark I didn’t have the ability to talk much at all. The race was consuming every part of me, leaving nothing to spare. I saw very little beyond the trail after that point, and was unsure at all times how much longer I could continue at that pace. I could hardly wait to be done.
Yet I knew that the time would pass no matter what, that the race would be over whether I dropped out or won, and I had no reason to stop. The thought of how this page would look if I gave up was more of an incentive to keep going than the pain was an incentive to stop, as it represented my personal success or failure. I judge myself by my true output, results aside. As I watched Mike pull away from me on the last climb my thoughts were not bitter. He was a better runner that day; I had nothing left. No more to give. That’s fine. I’m proud of that.
So I ran a race and I did well and that’s that. Do not take me or the others for more than we are. The experience was powerful but in the grand scheme of things we just ran really hard for a long period of time. Don’t lose perspective. I love what I do and I love the opportunity to do it with other like-minded, highly talented people like those that were in Marin County on Saturday. I also love throwing corked 360 superdude’s on Xbox with my roommates. I love putting every part of me on the line for a goal, and I love coming away from that experience fulfilled and sitting down for a few hours with a good book. I love good music, good food, good people and good goals. Most of all I love the future and all the good things it holds for us. That’s what is most important – not what we did last weekend, but what we’ve got coming up. Dream big.
[Dakota Jones of the Montrail Trail Running Team displays his speed and joie de vivre on mountain trails around the world when he’s not studying at Colorado States University. He occasionally writes for iRunFar. You can read more of Dakota’s writing on his blog, Living the Dream.]