It’s been nearly six years since I went for my first trail run, and it’s amazing to think back on what the sport has done to improve my overall health and happiness, as well as to help me feel younger as the years have gone by.
Of course, there are times where the sport makes me feel considerably older, too. That’s a temporary side effect that comes with running trail ultramarathons that deliver a prolonged beating to the body during a period of numerous hours on varying terrain. Sore muscles, a stiff back and achy knees all come with the territory.
I experienced both sides of that equation on Sunday when I celebrated my 36th birthday by running the Trail Animals Running Club’s “Don’t Run Boston” 50K at the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, Mass. I began the day with my legs feeling youthful, fresh and strong, bolstered by a few 20-mile runs during the past month and consistent weekly mileage in the 40s. I ended the day with sore calves and hamstrings, cranky knees, a stiff body, and a depleted system after almost 33 miles and nearly nine hours on the trail.
Young and old at the same time.
DRB was the perfect way to spend my birthday. I’m often at my happiest when playing on the trails in the woods, and DRB allowed for a full day of such activity. Alex and I ran the full race together, made wrong turns together, compared the map and course directions together, and crossed the finish line side-by-side. We got to experience most of the trails in the Blue Hills Reservation, some that we’d run before, but most which we had not. We got a feel for all the Blue Hills has to offer, from the wide, gravelly, rolling sections that accommodate running at a steady clip, to the steep, rocky climbs and descents along the rugged Skyline Trail that force you to hike and sometimes scramble.
Miles in the Blue Hills are hard-earned and rewarding, and there were plenty of them on Sunday. By going off-course a few times, we ended up running 32.85 miles and amassing 6,024 feet of vertical gain, according to my Garmin 910XT.
DRB marked my 13th ultramarathon finish, eighth 50K, and first ultra in Massachusetts. It also served as what will be my longest training day in preparation for the Worlds End 100K on May 21 in Forksville, Penn. That race, measuring 63.8 miles with 12,000 feet of vertical gain, will be the longest and toughest that I’ve ever taken on, and DRB proved to be a worthy test run.
DRB also served as ignition for my appetite. I felt ravenous by the end of the run, so Alex and I cleaned up and headed to one of my favorite restaurants, Mike’s in Davis Square, for a birthday dinner. I had a large calzone, she had a few slices of pizza, and we each enjoyed a large mug of Sam Adams’ special-edition 26.2 Brew – a light ale brewed annually in celebration of the Boston Marathon.
Perhaps it was an ironic choice, drinking the marathon’s signature brew after running “Don’t Run Boston,” but it hit the spot. Besides, a day later it would be the Boston Marathoners’ time to shine. My slightly-older legs needed a day off.