I almost became an ultra-runner in 2002. I was training for the Boston marathon that year when I heard about a February race in a park very close to my house: The Jack Frost 5 Hour Run (now defunct). And so I decided to do it as a "training run." I ran over 32 miles and won the women's race by several miles. Some of the people there told me I should run the Hagg Lake 50k in two weeks since I had just run farther than that distance. So I signed up.
But it wasn't anything like I expected. I was used to running on trails, but this was one big mud bog with ankle deep puddles. At one point, an uphill section was so muddy, I had to pull on the surrounding brush to keep from sliding backwards. It wasn't that I disliked the experience, it just didn't seem like marathon training and I was a bit afraid of spraining an ankle before my big race, so I stopped after 25k.
I probably would have returned to doing long trail races after Boston - I mostly ran on trails for training - but I didn't realize this genre of running really existed. Yes, I knew about Western States, but I thought that was a singular outrageous event. I viewed the two races I did as anomalies in the running world.
I did Boston and later that year, Hood to Coast (I considered that a "big race" back then). And then Hood to Coast again in 2003. Later that year I began a 13 month stint with pregnancy (yes, really!). After my daughter was born, I had to deal with being a new mom, I was cramming for my Hematology boards, we moved, and I started a new job as a staff pathologist. It didn't leave much time for running. In fact, I was lucky to get in a couple of three milers each week.
In the fall of that year, I read an alumni article about fellow Williams College grads Greg Crowther and Nikki Kimball and their 2005 World Cup and other ultra experiences. I was blown away! It sounded awesome. But I was not in any shape to be running ultras. And Mac and I were already talking about kid #2.
It wasn't until January of 2008 that I decided I was ready to get serious about running again. I knew I wanted to do an ultra, but I couldn't be ready for Hagg Lake. I did MacKenzie River 50k in September; I consider that my first "official" ultra - the real start to my current "addiction."
I was planning to do Hagg Lake in 2009, but decided to take a company sponsored trip to Las Vegas instead. But this year was the perfect year to go splash in the mud just for the sake of getting dirty, to return to Hagg as part of the ultra-runner crowd with the Boston marathon MANY MANY miles behind me. Doing the Hagg Lake had a lot of personal significance for me this year, serving as a marker of how different a runner I am now as compared to the last time I was running around that body of water.
Yeah, and running it had NOTHING to do with the fact that I had free entry. ;)