So far my ultra marathon training has led me to parts of campus I never explored before, including over this bridge.
So far my ultra marathon training has led me to parts of campus I never explored before, including over this bridge.

Where I Hope My Feet Will Take Me

It’s always an exciting time with the start of a new year, especially for a college student; new classes, new faces, and the opportunity for new experiences. It has been a rather hectic start of the year for me, as I get used to the new swing of things (including the weather). But in spite of my busy schedule, I have made it a point to set certain goals in order to really make the most of the semester. One thing I plan to attempt this spring is the Glacier Ridge Trail marathon in Portersville, Pa., in April. This is no ordinary marathon, however: It’s an ultra marathon, which means it can range from 30 to 50 miles instead of the usual 26 miles.

A friend of mine has started running ultra marathons, and he convinced me to run this one with him. At first I thought he was crazy to suggest that a small, skinny freshman such as me could complete a 31-mile race. (I mean, it’s crazy, right?) But then I began to think about it and ultimately decided, why not? If nothing else, it would help me get in shape and establish a healthy exercise regimen, which is one of my new year’s resolutions anyway. So I agreed, which brings me to the point I’m at now: training or, more specifically, training at school.

Hitting the Gym Instead of the Bed

 When the elements are too much to bear, I just use a treadmill in the fitness center.

When the elements are too much to bear, I just use a treadmill in the fitness center.

I’m taking 20 credits (five classes), so to do this, I knew I couldn’t be lazy about it. Looking at my schedule, I noticed a three-hour gap between my morning and afternoon class. So I made sure to dedicate that time to hitting the gym instead of taking a nap, which is always very tempting.

The first morning of training, I walked to the gym following my morning class and got on a treadmill, thinking I would run non-stop for five miles. But I learned very quickly this was not to be. I forgot to pace myself and lost my breath very quickly, which caused me to think this whole training business was a lost cause. To make matters worse, I embarrassed myself further by dropping my phone (for those of you who have done this before, you know what a terribly loud ruckus this causes) and then accidentally pulling the emergency stop cord, promptly ending any thought of running continuously.

At this point, I gave up on the treadmill and decided to try jogging outside (yes, I accepted I would be jogging and not running). I found the change of scenery enjoyable and even discovered some nice park-like places and bridges around campus. This outdoor experience gave me confidence, and so the following weekend, I decided I would try something new.

Jogging to Willow Grove Mall

Last semester, every once in a while I joined a group of friends on a bus ride to the Willow Grove Mall for art supplies and other desirables. It’s about 4.5 miles away and, according to my GPS, about a 90-minute walk. Well, I decided I was going to beat the GPS’s estimate and get there in less than hour; I was going to save $2.25 and jog there to get my supplies instead of taking the bus. Now this sounded all nice and easy in my head, but actually executing it was slightly different. I suppose I had been in Texas too long during winter break and forgot how cold it gets outside in Pennsylvania. The wind was fierce, and it wasn’t long before my hands were stiff and my face and toes were numb. I did eventually reach the mall, but it started to flurry and I couldn’t stand the cold wind any longer, so I took the bus back. But hey, I still saved $2.25.

This is all to say that while it may have been a rough start, I’ve since learned to pace myself on the treadmill, with my phone safely tucked away, and I have some gloves and other outdoor running gear coming in the mail, so I’ll be better prepared for my next outdoor excursion. I’m continuing to train and looking forward to completing my first ultra marathon.

Tagged as: