“I Don’t Even Like to Drive That Far”

AJW's TaproomTwenty years ago this week, I ran my first 100-mile race, the Angeles Crest 100 Mile in Southern California. After eight years of running shorter-distance ultramarathons, I finally took the plunge and jumped into a 100-mile race. From that point on, I felt like I had found my ideal running distance. The races were short enough that they could be completed over the course of a day or two and yet long enough to require skills beyond just running talent. I quickly learned on that September day (and night) all those years ago that successfully completing a 100-mile race is as much between the ears as it is in the legs.

Over the course of the next decade and a half, I ran another thirty-five 100 milers on many of North America’s classic courses. On my list of finishes from those years are the Western States 100, Hardrock 100, Wasatch Front 100 Mile, Vermont 100 Mile, Leadville Trail 100 Mile, Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile, Javelina Jundred, Grand Teton 100 Mile, Bighorn Trail 100 Mile, and Grindstone 100 Mile. As age began to catch up to me and injuries plagued me more frequently, my participation in 100-mile runs wanes. In fact, the last time I ran a 100-mile run was a do-it-yourself 100 miler as a celebration of my 50th birthday back in 2017.

AJW running his do-it-yourself 100 miler in 2017. All photos: iRunFar

For that birthday run across the Appalachian Trail section of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Bryon Powell joined me as a pacer for the second 50 miles and my entire family came out to crew me. It was a fantastic way to celebrate a landmark life event. I have not run 100 miles since then. There are several reasons for this including injuries, work/life stress, and aging, but that is about to change this weekend as I will once again be celebrating my birthday, this time my 53rd birthday, by running 100 miles.

The legendary Ann Trason often says, “I’ve always just looked at running 100 miles as life in a day. You have all the trials and tribulations of a life in one day.” I have always agreed with her. One of the most compelling things about running 100 miles is how much it tests us physically, psychologically, and emotionally. And it is that multi-layered challenge that I have missed the most in the three years since I last ran a 100 miler. While I have no intention of winning anything or even really competing this weekend, I do know that I will be tested in ways that only these kinds of experiences give me and it is facing up to those tests and grappling with the consequences that keeps me coming back for more.

And so it is that I am jumping back into the 100-mile fray for another birthday. My training has gone reasonably well and I am feeling the familiar tinge of nervous excitement that always accompanies these moments for me. With any luck over the course of my journey, my body will be forced to forge on in the midst of wanting to stop, my mind will have to adapt to the conflicting signals it receives from my body, and my heart will need to find some semblance of stability and regulation such that my emotions don’t get the best of me. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate turning 53!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Jackalope Brewing Company in Nashville, Tennessee. Jackalope’s Bearwalker Maple Brown Ale is rich, full bodied, and perfectly balanced. With just a touch of syrupy sweetness, I would be tempted to pour this beer right onto my pancakes if it wasn’t so darn good to drink!

Call for Comments

  • Does the 100-mile distance have a unique significance to you as compared to other distances?
  • Can you put into words what traveling for 100 miles on foot means to you?

There are 14 comments

  1. kurt jaeger

    As you get older, you can control your mind better in terms of tuning in to enjoying the experience itself, and tuning out
    how fast am I going, what place am I in, just grinding miles, breathing in and out smiling and joking with fellow runners,
    and beer waiting at the finish.

  2. Matt

    Andy, I wish you the best! You’re going to kill it and have a lot of fun.

    I did my first 100-miler in 7 years this spring. It was a solo do-it-your-selfer and I enjoyed it way more than I expected.

    I’m envious of your upcoming adventure. Best wishes!

  3. Anakin

    What was the race?
    Is iRunFar avoiding any and all mentions of races this year, even when this article is about running a race?
    I may have missed a statement, and I apologize if I did, but seems obvious with the discontinuation of TWIR (a former Monday staple for my reading) and no coverage otherwise (i.e. Pikes Peaks), that there must have been an edict?

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Anakin,

      AJW had a great performance at the Yeti 100 Mile in Virginia, https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=71529#id106707.

      Though our normal two forms of race coverage aren’t currently taking place, if you “thumb” through the “pages” of iRunFar, you’ll still find regular mentions of races in the context of our other forms of storytelling.

      No globally or nationally competitive races have taken place in over six months (and there are none on the near temporal horizon that we can see), so we haven’t had races to cover in person. Our “This Week in Running” column has been suspended since races were similarly suspended around the globe in February and March. While some small, regional racing is taking place again as local land managers and public-health officials deem appropriate, the majority of trail races and ultramarathons remain on hold. As such, TWIR remains similarly on hold.

      We certainly look forward to returning to our “regularly scheduled programming” when the pandemic stabilizes in more geographies around the world and races become a regular offering in the majority of places. Thanks for reading!

      1. JC

        Your characterisation of the current trail running calendar is not exactly correct as I am sure you recognise. There have been a number of competitive races that have been completed without any negative repercussions ie Speedgoat, Pike’s Peak, Zion etc. I agree that many sponsored runners have not participated in these events but events are still happening just as professional sports have restarted across the world. The successful completion of almost every European professional cycling event since June should give confidence that outdoor endurance events are generally entirely safe. I strongly encourage IRF to reconsider its position on race coverage as ultimately this what sustains the sport.

  4. Anakin

    I appreciate the response, Meghan!

    I suppose as races started going ahead, I was excited for a further return to normalcy via TWIR. It certainly has at least mentioned races of all sizes and competitiveness. With that said, I understand the shift. I’ve certainly enjoyed the FKT interviews (congratulations to you… reminds me now to read your report!)

    And certainly, a huge congrats to AJW!

    Best,
    Anakin

  5. Matt Y

    I saw AJW at the race this weekend. It rained from the start at 5am to about 8 pm thanks to a tropical storm. He steadily moved his way up and down that course and smiled each time I saw him and greeted him. He had an impressive performance.

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