In the vast world of endurance sports, each athlete embarks on a unique and unpredictable journey. These athletes will be facing challenges, embracing triumphs, and discovering newfound strength within themselves. In the first installment of our series, “Enjoying the Journey,” we delve into John Hudson’s inspiring quest to conquer his first ultra marathon, a 50k called the Paleozoic Trail Run in the Chicagoland area.
The Gateway Drug of Marathons
John, a seasoned runner with three marathons under his belt, reflects on the evolution of his running journey. “When you first start running, you’re like, a half marathon was my distance, and I love that. Did that forever. It’s like, I will never do a marathon. There’s no way I can turn around and do this again,” John recalls. Yet, as his running community and his confidence grew, the allure of longer distances beckoned. “I’ve kind of had this itch the past couple of years as my training’s gotten a little deeper,” he admits.
His decision to take on the 50k ultra is not without its challenges. Navigating the mental shift from road runner to trail mindset and embracing the longer, more challenging runs become key aspects of his preparation.
Training, Oh Crap Moments, and Treadmill Wisdom
As John prepares for his upcoming race, he encounters the inevitable “oh crap” moments in training. The elevation of the race poses a unique challenge for someone accustomed to the flat terrain of the Midwest. When asked about his training tactics, John revealed concerns about hill workouts as well as the mental shift required for ultra distances.
During the conversation, John mentioned his need to embrace the slower pace of trail running and using treadmill workouts to simulate the elevation challenges. The treadmill, often underestimated, becomes a valuable tool in preparing for the unpredictable trail conditions.
Mental Strategies and Breaking it Down
John’s mental approach is methodical, breaking down the daunting 50k into manageable mental chunks. He shares, “If I can get to 23, I can bring my local trail into memory. This trail is ~ 8 miles and that would be what I need to do to finish. I’ll tell myself, that’s all I gotta do to get to that.” Staying present and focusing on the mile at hand is imperative to John’s approach to running.
As the conversation unfolds, John reveals his anticipation of the race’s challenges, including the varied terrain, potential falls, and the ever-changing weather conditions. His honest acknowledgment of fears adds a human touch to the story, making his journey relatable to aspiring ultra runners.
Nutrition and the Art of Self-Deception
When the topic of nutrition arises, John expresses a worry about keeping his hydration pack from freezing. Beyond that he mentioned his thoughts for nutrition and how he is somewhat out of his realm. The topic of mini Snickers and your grandmother’s mints is approached and John’s face lights up. These options fall in line with John’s thoughts on the need for a variety of options during the race. Without knowing what the weather may be on race day, he is considering the importance of adapting to changing conditions and training with various options.
Envisioning the Finish Line
Amidst the practical considerations, John opens up about his vision for the finish line—a caricatured poster capturing the essence of his 50k finish. He envisions a muddy, near-death experience, proudly declaring, “A finisher in whatever the hardware or medal is my goal.”
In the spirit of community and accountability, John acknowledges the power of sharing his journey with others. “Someone told me I tend to be a little bit of a selfish person, but I do love the accountability of a group,” he admits. The camaraderie among runners becomes a driving force, pushing John to surpass his limits. He expects that the other athletes on the course will help spur him to keep moving forward.
Looking Ahead to the Unpredictable Journey
As we conclude this initial chapter of John’s journey, the path ahead remains uncertain. The series, “Enjoying the Journey,” promises to unfold the highs and lows of training, unexpected challenges, and the ultimate triumph as John crosses the finish line of his first ultra marathon. Join us monthly as we follow John on this adventure, celebrating the resilience, dedication, and sheer joy of the unpredictable journey.