In Her Shoes: 1 Mile x 52 Times

Andrea, at 50 miles. "I thought I would stop. The aid crew and friends talked me out of it so I went for the double marathon."
Andrea, at 50 miles. "I thought I would stop. then," she remembers, "The aid crew and friends talked me out of it so I went for the double marathon."

One section Tales From Another Mother Runner is called In Her Shoes, which is first-person accounts of different running situations and tales. We love running stories as much as—or maybe more than?—running itself, but we had a surplus of In Her Shoes stories...if we put them all in the book, it would've been bigger than a dictionary. So we're going to run these every other Friday for a while.

Andrea ran the exact same mile route for nearly 12 hours.

After completing my longest race, a 50K, I found a local ultra called the Mind the Ducks 12 Hours, which is on a paved path around a little pond in Rochester, New York. The goal is to complete as many one-mile laps as you can in twelve hours. There is no point to sprinting out the gate, as you can’t hurry up and get the race over with. The challenge felt like a puzzle, which appealed to me mentally.

I liked the one-mile format because a lot of things make me nervous along a long point-to-point course: What should I carry? Where will I go to the bathroom? All that guesswork was taken out of it. The path literally went right past a real ladies room—not a port-a-potty. Because there was an aid station stocked with everything from ginger ale to grilled cheese sandwiches, there was no need to take anything with me.

We started at 7 a.m. and ran until 7 p.m. Twelve hours of running counter-clockwise around the same pond. My only complaint about the course is I wish we’d switched directions halfway through.

Viewing the race like a checklist, I crossed off miles and fractions of miles. I liked knowing exactly where I was. I developed familiar landmarks and would use them to negotiate with myself: “I will walk until I pass the man whittling wood, then run through the ¾-mile curve where the bulk of the fans are.” Or I thought, “When I get around this bend, I’ll see the lady in the white hat.”

The weather also helped alleviate the monotony: Often, it would change drastically over the course of a mile. One side of the pond was viciously windy, while the other side was bright and sunny and hot.

Along the way, lots of people cheered me on. Well, except for my son, who said he didn’t recognize me because my hair, “looked crazy.” I never felt alone. Because the race was about time, not distance, there were some people who would have a hard time finishing a marathon in a marathon time limit, but who were able to do that in twelve hours. To be part of that experience with them was so exciting.

My lowest low was around 36 miles. My feet hurt, an achy-tired, like when you stand for too long. I didn’t know what to do to help them. I couldn’t tolerate it; I had to sit down. I'd heard you shouldn’t sit down in an ultra race because you'll never get up, but I sat down for 40 minutes and had a beer and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It revived me. I was a new woman and cranked out almost 5 more miles before I had the urge to take walk breaks again.

The importance of the beer at mile 36 cannot be understated.

Once I hit 40 miles and knew there was still a lot of time left, I became determined to go 50 miles, no matter what. “I can walk it,” I told myself. I was ready to stop when I hit 50 miles because it sounded like a very crisp number. My friends said, “If you run two more laps, you get the double marathon prize,” which was like a golf towel. So I got through those two miles. At that point, I probably had time for one more but I said, “No, there are no more prizes for 53.”

Andrea (Thrilled that the day after Mind the Ducks was Mother’s Day, so she could rest for a few hours.)

Have you ever done a course that repeats itself? Yay or nay?

13 responses to “In Her Shoes: 1 Mile x 52 Times

  1. Amazing story! That takes some real dedication. I’ve done two 5Ks at a local lake where the path around the lake is 1.5 miles. Honestly, it was nice for a short race because I knew exactly when I’d be done but I can’t imagine doing it for 12 hours!

  2. Fantastic story! I love that you just sat down and had a beer and sandwich to revive yourself — there is a huge metaphor there for any endurance event (athletic or emotional)!

  3. Wow, hats off to you for that! I’m not sure I have the mental fortitude to do that kind of race but if I did I would most definitely have a beer at mile 36, and probably sooner 🙂 What a great story!

  4. I love to run a repeating course on those days when I’m not sure how many miles I have in me. I’ll run over to the school (.8 mile repeat) or the lake (1.5 mile repeat) and I know I can sick out early if I need to.

  5. LOVE IT! A beer at mile 36. I am wishing I had done that at mile 19 in the marathon when I had the chance. Bet it would have made the last 10k more tolerable! 🙂 Well done!

  6. What a great race wrap up Andrea. I never underestimate the power of beer in a race, grabbed one at mile 22 of the Dallas White Rock marathon back in whenever that year when it was super cold, windy and rainy. And you knew when to quit too-no prizes for 53! HA! Way to go!

  7. This race is on my bucket list! I’ve done many half marathons that were 1-2 mile loops and this spring i’m doing 1 or 2 marathons that way. I love the loops as you get to know your fellow runners. I’ve said many times that I want to do a timed race, just to see how far I can get (and I’m not a trail runner, so most timed races are out.) Now to convince the husband…

  8. ITU triathlon races are notorious for laps! I raced ITU Chicago last yr, where the bike & run were several laps! It was monotonous, but I knew what to expect each lap!

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