Thursday, September 13, 2007

marathon vs. 50K

We are running Cle Elum 50K this coming Saturday (in less than two days!). Eric has ran it 10 times, and I have ran it only once. We have not been training as much (as we usually do) on the trails, but we have been doing some long runs in the city. This is the first time that I will run a 50K trail race without much training on trails, so we will see how it goes. As always, I try to run for running, not for reaching a specific time goal...

Most people who have never ran a 50K race (about 32 miles) tell me that they could never do it. That is exactly what I said the first time someone suggested it. I knew how it felt to run 26 miles, and I could not imagine running six more after reaching the finish line. Then I remembered that after I ran my first half marathon, I could not imagine turning around and doing it again; suddenly, six more miles didn't seem like that big of a jump. My friends kept telling me it was easier than running a marathon, which didn't make any sense at all.

But it turns out that most people who have ran a marathon, and then jump into a 50K , think that the 32 mile distance is easier (I agree). Most 50Ks are held on soft surface trails that roll up and down. The trail surface causes less impact on the joints, so they don't get as stiff as they can get when running for a long time on pavement. Also, running uphill and then downhill switches the muscle groups being used, so some parts of our body get a rest while others work a little harder. Another reason why 50K trail races are easier is that your mind is occupied. You are not thinking "I have 10 miles left...", "Now I have 9 miles left..."; instead, you are reacting to the obstacles on the ground (tree roots, rocks, etc, and I won't be specific about the 'etc', but some of the trails are also horse-trails).

The final reason I often give is, we are animals after all. A primal, adrenaline-charged feeling emerges when running in the wilderness. A sense of wild adventure that seems to be dormant in the city wakens. When I am close to the end of my long trail run and I can hear the cars in the parking lot, I feel, in a few milliseconds, how I snap out of my wilderness state back into my 'civilized' state. Once in my car, I pause to turn on the radio, and I get back to being blasted with information almost every minute of the day while I am not sleeping. Trail running is so quiet and peaceful. When I am trail running, I am at my church.

So, maybe after reading this you feel somewhat tempted to try trail running. A good way to start is to run the Cougar Mountain Trail Running series, which are a set of races at Cougar mountain that work their way up from a 5 miler to a 13 miler. If you just want to jump right into a 50K, come talk to us, and we can recommend a few races that work with your current running schedule.

We'll let you know know how Cle Elum goes, hopefully my current allergy episode will subside and I will be able to tell you about it...(and yes, we will be at the store on Sunday for our group run, another great thing about trail running is, you recover fast!).



John Rankin said...

So when I first started running even the jump form 5Ks to 10Ks seemed daunting. I only ever did the Capital City Marathon expecting it would be my one foray into distance running... Now here I am getting ready for my 10th race.

I used to say "never" when you and Eric tried to persuade me to consider an Ultra. But after so many 26.2 milers I guess you're right that it is not really that much more.

However, I've always been wary of off-road type trails... images in my head of me turning an ankle on a tree root or big rock. Anyway, I'm actually thinking about it. You and Eric have me thinking I could do it :-)

iliana said...

After running the Cougar/Squak 50K, I have to clarify something. GENERALLY SPEAKING 50Ks are easier than marathons. There are always exceptions.