Can I do it? Is it possible? What will it take?
These are the most common questions that run through my head when I think about this upcoming adventure. And the answers…well…I don’t have any.
When I started running five years ago, the goal to run an ultramarathon gave me motivation. It seemed like such an unattainable achievement. Really? A normal overweight guy like me could run 50 kilometers? Isn’t that longer than a marathon? What the heck is a kilometer anyway?
Since then, I have been fortunate to complete more than a dozen marathon and ultramarathon runs in all sorts of terrain. Although I have proven a lot to myself, I still have a lot more to go.
I have thought long and hard about what the next challenge could hold and am truly ecstatic…err…petrified to share my decision.
This May, I will set off from Clingman’s Dome at the far western edge of North Carolina and “run” almost 1200 miles in 24 days across the state to Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks on the Atlantic Ocean. This journey will be an attempt to set the fastest known time on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
I will need to average 50 miles per day to complete the trail in time while traveling through (and over) mountains, roads, paths, and beaches. Not to mention…the MST includes the highest mountain (Mt. Mitchell – 6,684 feet) and the highest sand dune east of the Mississippi River.
Luckily, I do not have do this completely alone. I will be accompanied by a rotating crew member that helps re-supply me at road crossings and, hopefully, provide some extra motivation along the way. My parents and fiance have already signed on for portions of the run and I am thrilled to share this journey with them.
Unlike most runners who attempt this type of challenge, I have little to no formal running experience. I do not have a lean runner’s body. I have no corporate sponsors or racing championships to my name. I did not run cross country or track in school. In fact, my high school baseball coaches wouldn’t even let me run to first base.
I am an average guy who weighs north of 200 pounds, drinks beer, and eats a more-than-slightly embarrassing amount of pizza and cheeseburgers. But to me…that’s the beauty of this run.
As a kid, we are told that we can be anything we want to be. We should follow our dreams and passions. And then…we get slapped in the face by “reality.” The older we get, the more we are told that our limits are far smaller than our childish dreams. We stop striving to reach our wildest aspirations because we are too short, too fat, too ugly, too old, too talent-less.
And we believe them.
We begin to use the word “can’t” for too often and slowly train our mind to believe society’s negativity.
Here is my rebellion.
The truth is, the limits of humanity…and each of us…are massive. It just takes the right mindset, and a hell of a lot of work, to reach them.
Humans have walked on the moon and climbed the highest mountains in the world. They’ve even run 100+ mile races through deserts stepping only on the white road lines to keep their shoes from melting.
Through finding your passion, controlling the controllable aspects of the goal, and a willingness to sacrifice, we can each achieve anything we set our mind to. At least…that’s what we tell our kids.
I may be turning 30 in a matter of days, but I still have a lot more dreams to chase.
I look at this challenge as a turning point for the next chapter in my life, but also as an opportunity for me to impact the community I live in.
In the past few years, the state of North Carolina has seen devastating impacts from Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Matthew. I will travel through 37 North Carolina counties on the trail, many of which saw major flooding and damage from the storms. As the state’s longest recreational trail, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail was also heavily impacted.
The Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is the primary caretaking organization of the MST. Many miles of trail were destroyed or damaged in the southern and eastern portions of the state during the hurricanes. This organization gathers volunteers to do trail maintenance, build new trail sections, and financially support the trail.
Through my run, I plan to raise money and awareness for this critical organization. The MST provides an opportunity for millions of North Carolinians to experience nature, take on adventure, and build healthy lifestyles. And just maybe…spark a few more childish dreams across the state.
For the next three months, I will be training my mind and body to take on this incredible trek. I am excited to share this adventure with you through Fat Guys Running Marathons and will look for further opportunities to expand the audience to provide as much support to this great organization as possible through this endeavor!
Can I make it? I truly do not know…but we are going to see just how far this fat guy can run.