Run an Ultra Off the Couch
From zero to 40 in six weeks
We were sitting in the restaurant, waiting on our Thai food, when ...
Photo by Colby Rabon
We were sitting in the restaurant, waiting on our Thai food, when my friend Dan spoke up. “I’m going to have to drop out of the [Mount Mitchell] Challenge this year. My hamstring just won’t hold up for the big runs. Kills me.”
My ears immediately perked up. The Mount Mitchell Challenge (The Challenge for short) is a 40-mile eastern epic that climbs from Black Mountain, North Carolina, to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Rockies in mid-February. Last year I ran the accompanying marathon, which, in comparison, is like a one-mile fun run.
I missed registration this year. When it opened on October 2nd, I was three miles deep in Tennessee’s StumpJump 50K. That probably didn’t even matter, though, because both races filled up in less than 15 minutes. Besides, at the end of StumpJump I was too fed up with running ultras to care. However, the "fed up" feeling did not last. Since StumpJump, I had run less than 40 miles total. But, for some reason, when Dan said he was out, I immediately wanted in. I asked Dan to check with the race director and see if I could take his slot. I could. The problem: The Challenge was only six weeks away.
Running 40 miles up and down a mountain requires a great deal of physical and mental strength. Could I develop that strength in such a short amount of time? I didn’t know, but I wanted to try.
I simply wanted to see if I could just complete the course, as it is notoriously treacherous, with sub-freezing temps, snow and, often, hurricane-force winds.