My initial interest in running marathons was just to see if I could do it, and I just wanted to complete one marathon, not over 100 of them. Once I ran my first marathon though, I wanted to get faster and compete, not only because of the runner’s high, which is no joke, but also because at the time, I thought that increasing speed and qualifying for the Boston marathon was the only reason to justify the intense training effort. Ironically, the better I got, the less it meant to me. Around this same time, the nonprofit I founded began to take shape. To increase visibility of the underserved kids we help, I planned to run a marathon in all 50 states, the 7 continents, and compete in the 6 World Marathon Majors, running a marathon a month – which I’ve been doing since May of 2009. I know that running changed my life, and I want to ensure that every kid has the same opportunities to get active and gain focus, confidence, and grit to succeed. Running literally help me build RunningBrooke, an organization that’s now helped 10,000 local children, and reinvested $1M back into the community.
After all these marathons though, I got bored. My desire to run the Leadville Trail 100 was to not only push myself further than ever before, but to learn a whole host of things that I knew nothing about. I am a decent road runner, but knew nothing about running trails. In fact, I initially hated trail running; running on trails is nothing like running on the roads! But I knew I wanted to test my limits, so I chose one of the hardest ultras in the world. If you need to, you could crawl across the finish line of a shorter race, but at Leadville you are out there for 30 hours, running at elevations between 10,000 – 13,000 feet, with swinging weather conditions and temperature change. You can’t fake that. Everyone out there is fit and strong, both physically and mentally, with an intuition and MacGyver-like sense on how to overcome any obstacle.
To finish under 24-hours is amazing, but to even finish, you have to manage and get key things right: nutrition, hydration, blister prevention, core temperature and clothing, running through the night in the middle of the CO Rockies, running through rivers…the list goes on and on. There is a lot to learn! Any of these things will trip you up; over half of those who start Leadville don’t finish. And this is exactly why I did it! It was an opportunity to build on and test my own grit.
The route is out and back, a lot of the trail is single track. After 50 miles you can have a pacer. My friend Ken ran with me from mile 50-75 and then my daughter picked me up around mile 75. At Leadville, there are hard course cutoffs and I missed the final aid station cutoff by 2 minutes at mile 87!
While I was out there I got tripped up; I got behind on my hydration and struggled with my nutrition. I couldn’t force myself to eat even though I knew I needed to. I lost my salt tabs. In 110 marathons, I’ve never gotten blisters, but at Leadville, it looked like my feet had gone through a meat grinder. There were so many little things that contributed to not finishing the race this year.
I am happy with what I did; I did my best and I ran for 27 hours straight. As a trail-newbie runner and a newbie crew that had never been on this extreme terrain before, we did awesome! I learned again what your body can do if you push it, and it’s so exciting. I also learned at this distance, you can’t gut through a problem, and that it’s key to stop and assess what the problem is, fix it, and move forward.
Run Leadville again? You bet, I’ve learned so much! I have to go back out and conquer these 100 miles… how hard could it be?