One of Those Runs

AJWs TaproomHave you ever had one of those runs that you just want to bottle up and save forever?

One of those runs that sneaks up on you when you least expect it and teaches you a thing or two?

One of those runs that, when all is said and done, reminds you of why we do this every day?

Well, I had one of those runs this past Tuesday morning…

The alarm went off at 4:30 am and I quickly turned it off. All the usual stuff ran through my head:

“Look, you are not training for anything,” “you’re just coming back from surgery and a major injury, the rest will do you good,” “you have a long day of work ahead,” “you need the additional sleep because there’s a Board Meeting later in the week,” etc, etc, etc…

But, when the alarm went off again, on cue at 4:39 am, I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed, padded my way downstairs to the coffee maker and started my pre-run routine. Before I knew it I had my shorts on, then my shirt, gloves, hat, and finally, shoes…I said to myself, “Just get the run in, at dinner you’ll be glad you did.” I headed out with no other goal than to get it done.

And then, It happened. Soon after heading out the door I got to the turn by the first wide curve in 5:40 and to the top of the clearing in 9:20. I crested the Saddle in 12:50 and passed by the big Brown House with the cute dog in 15:50 (my previous PR was 16:00 to this point). I passed the broken down old horse barn in 18:14 and crested the hill before Free Union Road in 24:10. “Hey, wait a minute, if I can keep this up I could PR the 8.1 mile Ridge Road Run.” I said out loud as if anyone cared or could even hear me. And then, for the first time in a long while, I got competitive with myself. I got to the turnaround in 30:14, crested the Big Climb in 36:00 flat and by the time I passed by the horse barn I felt like I was floating. Through the cool, dark, predawn air I was moving totally and completely free. The rest of the run was a blur but in the end I PR’d the run by 30 seconds over my previous best and actually didn’t even feel that tired!

Does this matter to anyone but me? No.
Does anybody reading this actually care about my Ridge Road Run PR? No.
Will this matter in my build-up to Western States next year? Of course not.
But, on this day, did this make me a better man? Absolutely!

Today’s run was indicative and emblematic of what I love about running. No matter who you are, no matter how fast or slow you are, no matter how much you care and no matter who is looking, running, the sheer act of getting out there, makes us better. Running makes us better at who we are and running makes us better at who we want to be. In fact, for those of us who truly embrace it, running is who we are. And that, for me, is enough to get me out there again tomorrow.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week
Lagunitas Brown ShuggaThis week’s Beer of the Week is a seasonal offering from Lagunitas Brewing Company called Brown Shugga’. It’s the product of a mistake the brewer made a few years ago while attempting to make Barleywine. When things went awry he tried to correct his mistake by adding a bunch of brown sugar to the mash. Brown Shugga’ was born! But, don’t be fooled by the sweet sounding name as its 9.9% ABV packs a potent punch.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
When was the last time you had one of those runs? Tell us about it!

There are 42 comments

  1. Pam

    Amen. Thanks so much for writing this, AJW. You just described my morning swim to a T. I PR'd both the 500 and 100 free out of nowhere, and now I'm looking forward to my fabulous day!

  2. JimM

    It is great to be reading a story and flash back to one of those great runs that for whatever reason reminded us why we love to run. Thanks for a great story.

  3. Anonymous

    So do you get an automatic bid into westerns states even though you haven't met the qualifying time this year? Seems like this entire entry process is rigged at best. Just saying you don't deserve that until you can at least show a qualifying time again and even then you should have to go through the lottery. Seems like western states needs to realize this race is run on public land and shouldn't just grandfather in people because they like them. There is a huge list of people waiting to run every year yet there is an awful lot of exceptions made for individuals who seem to get in no matter what. I am certainly gonna try to get in the through the lottery but people like yourself are taking up a spot when you haven't earned the right. I know you have ran it several times in the past but all that matters for us common folk is if we had a qualifying time this year.

    1. Bryon Powell

      First, needs to run a qualifying time just like everyone else. He'll be going for it out the Mountain Masochist 50 mile in Virginia next month.

      Second, you appear to be a regular commenter on iRunFar who regularly identifies him- or herself , but chose not to here. While it may feel easier to make comments such as this one anonymously, these are precisely the ones that are most important to leave attribution upon. Please know that this part of my comment isn't an attack – it's part of an ongoing effort to encourage folks to own their comments. Please keep commenting. :-)

      1. Anonymous

        I normally have no problems placing my name. However I don't have a lot of faith in the lottery system and feel by naming myself it could have an impact. Probably just a paranoid way of thinking but I have personally witnessed how elitest the western state society can act towards people. Not to say it isn't a great race as it is but there is just some frustrations as to many slots are given out freely to people who are deemed part of the ws community. This was not meant to be an attack on Andy just a frustration coming to the front. I in the future after this post will keep my comments to myself or comment as an individual. I apologize.

        1. MonkeyBoy


          First of all, don't come on here and justify your anonymous "inquiry" into Andy's status under the veil of "I don't want my place in the lottery to be biased". Doing so, you are underminding the process of the selection system. By making this statement, your slandering the board, the race without providing a specific instance to back up your claim. Don't do it unless your willing to own your word with your name.

          Second, I've heard that in the future, one of the goals is to have each lottery entrants qualifying race listed, and, for those who are on the entry list, each athletes "selection" listed. In other words, if the runner got in via lottery, montrail ultra cup selection, aid station/club/volunteer selection, Raffle Ticket, WS Board member or Special Considerations. Hopefully some of this transparency will keep comments like this from coming up.

          Keep in mind that almost two thousand runners apply to run this event each and every year and there are a limited number of entries available. So hundreds of folks are disappointed each year. Your "personal" experience aside, don't jump the gun until you see Andy's name as an entrant without having run his qualifier.


      2. Tom

        Totally stoked that AJW is going to be running Masochist! Thanks for spilling the beans, Bryon, cuz I didn't see him on the entrant list. Hopefully, I'll get to meet him and buy him a beer. As a matter of fact, I'll have my wife bring some Terrapin to the finish. He recently plugged that beer on iRunFar, and I'm from ATL where we have a lot of it. Go get 'em AJW!

        1. AJW

          Tom, I am really looking forward to running Masochist as I have been hearing about it for years. And, bring the Hopsecutioner to the Patagonia Finish Line Lounge after the race. We'll have a few beverages for tasting there:)

  4. Marcus

    I, too, am coming back from an injury that kept me from running most of the summer and know exactly how you feel. While it has been great to be back, having so much of my previous fitness has been often discouraging. Wednesday, seemingly out of nowhere, I had one of those fantastic runs where I PR'd an 8 mile route in the Angeles National Forest (average pace was 30 seconds faster per mile). That had me 'floating on air' the entire day…

  5. Trail Clown

    If you had gone slower at the start, maybe hitting the Brown House in 17flat, then you would have done a much more massive negative split and earned a better PR. Just sayin' :)

    1. KenZ

      It appears Trail Clown has already made a pace chart for you. I love it. (TC- this was a compliment if it doesn't come across that way as text….)

  6. Paul R

    I had one of those run's today actually. Just had my lunch, and as i sit here typing away, leg's gently pulsating…… Hmm, yeah, i get it.

  7. Kate

    Great post and great timing! I had an amazing run yesterday. It was a beautiful fall day here. The leaves are 90% down on the ground. It is one of my favorite times of the year to run. Since the leaves are down you can see across the New River Gorge almost everywhere. It uncovers hidden rock walls and other things hidden by the leaves the other times of the year. Running through leaves that are almost up to your shins can be fun! I was truly enjoying myself. A PR on top of a run like that… is hard to put into words.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Scott

    Congrats on a strong run!! Also, thanks for sharing…being new to ultra running, I am no stranger to the 4:30am excuses popping into my head. After shaking them off, I often find that I have some of my best training runs.

  9. Tony Mollica

    I love runs like that! But it does drive me a little bonkers wondering what I did to make it such a good run, and wondering how to duplicate it more often.

  10. phil jeremy

    Great post. I did a 23k with 4000 feet gain last week and took a full 20 mins of my PR. It felt fantastic but then I got all confused because I couldn't figure out how it had happened !! Life and running, its all a mystery:)

  11. Tahoediver

    I had one of those runs last night. I ran my second marathon two weekends ago followed a week later by a long trail run and then took the past few days off nursing some knee pain. I was getting antsy so I went out for normal mid-week long run and, I don't know if it was a few days rest or what, but I floated through the second half. I felt fast, light, and energized. I tried explaining this to my wife afterward but just got a blank stare and a laugh when I told her everything felt "soft". Soft steps, soft muscles, soft mind. I didn't know how else to describe it. I'm a total newbie runner so maybe this was just runner's high, but whatever it was the run was awesome. By the way, I live just up the road from Lagunitas and they have a great beer garden, the food is so-so but the beer, oh the beer… for those stout fans out there, try their imperial stout. Good stuff.

    1. AJW

      Jeremy, not at all, for the Ridge Road out and back (described in this column) it's 1:01.15

      Other PR's: 50K 3:31, 50M 6:55, 100K 8:42 (100k split during a 100 mile race), 100 Mile 14:57.

  12. Vermonty Monty

    Totally! Sometimes its the little accomplishments that make running so rewarding! Little checkmarks indicating an accomplished goal, these things build up confidence that you are strong. This is priceless when it comes to success!

  13. Dave

    I had one of those runs a while back. The plan was to "force myself through" two laps of Fayetteville Lake. Once I started moving, though, I became so absorbed my my surroundings that I completely lost track of my pace. I don't think I was even aware I was running. I looked down when I crossed the paved trail about mid-way through the first lap and thought my watch was broken. I felt great, though, so I just kept running. I ended up taking 21 minutes off my PR for three laps instead of the two I planned, a total surprise. I was floating an inch off the trail!

  14. Suzi

    Loved reading the post! I had one of those runs a couple of days back. After trying to make a dozen excuses not to go, I finally managed to drag my feet out of the slippers and into my runners. Once I started, it felt like I could have gone on forever. It's definitely runs like these that make you understand why we get out there!

  15. Simon

    Reading this post was hard…

    I want to run, and my achilles tendonitis doesn't want me to…

    It's been coming and going for the last few weeks, i've never given it enough rest – well now I am… I did a road marathon (never again!!!) last Sunday, and could hardly walk after – one week later I can walk, but who wants to walk, I want to RUN!

    I'll carry on dreaming of one of those runs for the next couple of weeks…

  16. Andy

    Great post, Andy. Ironically, probably for the first time ever, I had TWO of those runs this week — Wed and today, with today's run shaving 10+ min off my PR on an 11-ish mile technical route. Legs felt like Kilian in one of those Quest videos. I must be peaking — too bad I just ran VT50 and have no races on the near calendar!

    Still not sure today's run made me a "better man" (a little literary license, Andy?), but it certainly made me "feel" like a much better runner, and the endorphin euphoria is to kill for! Keep up the great running and writing.

  17. Erik

    It matters and it matters a lot. Not to just you but to those of us reading it, too. It can help give those of us battling seemingly never ending injuries hope, it can help those of us who have trouble slowing down and enjoying the run something to think about the seemingly little and insignificant runs; the ones that can lift us for a few days or even weeks; the ones that we will remember for years to come whether they happened in a race, Tuesday morning or Thursday night. Yup, it matters! And thanks for sharing it!!

  18. swampy

    3:31 50k? Brown Shugga? You are blowing my mind today dude. Great story, I always equate my best runs with dancing to your favorite band: it's effortless.

  19. AJW

    Swampy, both true! Shuffled out the 3:31 at Caumsett (roads) about six years ago. Wardian did 2:55 that day. And, the Brown Shugga, what can I say, it's sweet! AJW

  20. Peter

    "“Just get the run in, at dinner you’ll be glad you did.” I headed out with no other goal than to get it done…

    But, on this day, did this make me a better man? Absolutely!…

    Today’s run was indicative and emblematic of what I love about running. No matter who you are, no matter how fast or slow you are, no matter how much you care and no matter who is looking, running, the sheer act of getting out there, makes us better. Running makes us better at who we are and running makes us better at who we want to be."

    I have been struggling with motivation and these passages spoke volumes to me. Thanks for sharing.

  21. KenZ

    Make sure you're following the Alfredson Protocol (google it). It really does help. What's not clear from the web is how much weight to work up to; I've heard up to 2x body mass, but that'll take you at least 6-8 months to work up to. Also I've found Yoga's down dog, done extensively, helps; not because it's 'stretching' the achilles, but because it's the stretch that stretches everything up the back of the legs that eventually connects to the achilles. Lastly, while painful, massaging the achilles can help (I go so far as to roll them using a wooden rolling pin!). Wear socks to bed to keep them warm to help with the blood flow; it's a crappy blood flow area. Do NOT take ibuprofen or any other NSAIDs, but you likely already know this.

  22. art

    there are many of us out here who feel like Anonymous does.

    after several failed attempts to get in via the lottery, I have soured on this "prestigous race" and moved on to more enjoyable lower key events, leaving WS to the insiders who love to talk about running it time and again.

    1. MonkeyBoy

      Thanks for the reply, art.

      So, what are some of your ideas to allow more runners, like yourself, a shot at participation in Western States?

      Just a reminder to everyone, Andy earned his place on the starting line by finishing in the Top 10 in 7 of his 8 finishes. He was not selected in the lottery in 2002 and 2003, and in 2004 started his streak of Top 10 finishes.

      I know of one well known race director and 1000 mile buckle owner who went on streaks of 3 and 4 years at a time not being selected to run the race back when the lottery only had 450-600 applicants. The difference is that he was patient and he kept applying and now has more than 10 finishes to his name.

      I hope everyone will keep trying their luck. I know I will.

    2. art

      for starters, any RD or Committee running any race in high demand, who cares about the masses, should limit multiple participations to 5, no matter who they are, even if they won the race 5 times. and I'm talking about participations not finishes, DNF's count.

      Lets call it the "5 and out" rule, give them a really nice jacket … Running a race 25 times while others go wanting is just plain selfish.

      greatly reduce the number of "good ole' boy entries, yes that's what many of them are. I'm not saying entirely, but review each special slot and think about maybe eliminating it. one way to do this would be to have a special lottery for all of these special slots.

      possibly alter how the main lottery is run, I don't have any suggestions, … lets give the new Hardrock rules a time to play out and see what happens.

      if the time arrives when demand decreases, there could be a sliding return to previous special entry slots.

      From the outside looking in the WS Committee clearly wants a very competitive race, and the masses are of secondary concern.

      Their race their right.

      The only question would be what obligation do they have to the massess given that the race is on public land, I don't know the answer to this.

  23. LapDancer

    Andy, reading this put a peaceful smile on my face and welled my eyes with tears. I know the feeling of not really wanting to get out there. It doesn't happen super-often, but when it does, I just tell myself to go get it done, it doesn't matter how slow I jog. Often times, those turn out to be the best, most gratifying, freeing runs that make my heart soar. I've had a couple recently, as a matter of fact. And today that amazing "run" was a simple recovery walk. Running IS making me a better person and teaching me things that I haven't learned from my first 42 years of life. Truth is, I'm probably just now becoming open to receiving these lessons, but running sure is a great delivery system.

  24. Alex L

    I love this bit. It just always makes me feel good… and not just because of the beer I inevitably am compelled to find and try. Great picks, by the way.

  25. Eric

    I had this last Subday – on the Friday I done a controlled 5k race, Saturday the Beachy Head Marathon (3,500ft ascent with brutal headwinds on the coast) then ran a 10M PB at the Great South Run on the Subday despite not feeling like in back to full fit was after missing 3months of the summer & running 4mins slower in a 10M race the week before, on fresh legs. Great feeling.

Post Your Thoughts