Although I had planned on taking a respite from running following my recent six-hour race in the heat of ~110 degrees, I covered nowhere near the mileage I expected to and, with my body not needing much time to recover, sought to squeeze in another grinder that could justify a break. When I came across a spontaneous eight-hour event, Miles for Maria Crazy 8’s Night Run for Epilepsy, starting on August 8, 2020, at 8:00 PM from Etowah River Park in Canton, Georgia, I presumed the lack of sunlight would make the race conditions less severe and contacted the race director. He explained the casual setup of the event that was organized to finally gather the running family and celebrate after a long pause due to COVID-19, that the race would not be chip-timed. I immediately fretted how they would manage to accurately manually keep track of every 0.8-mile loop completed by all eight-hour and four-hour participants and decided not to take part, until I saw how respectfully and meticulously the race director replied to each of my questions, even offering me a 10% discount code. I changed my mind and registered, after prayers, of course.

Per CDC recommendations regarding the pandemic, the organizers added about a ten-second gap between every one or two runners. My turn came exactly one minute following the official start, so I had to keep in mind I had one minute less than what my GPS watch displayed to finish my final lap. Additionally, the race did not have a legitimate aid station, again for precautionary reasons; therefore, I relied on my own drinks and gels to fuel me through the night. This nighttime style suits me better than a typical early-morning style, as my severe insomnia hardly ever lets me fall asleep prior to 4:00 AM anyway. I could feel the presence of the heat and humidity in spite of the absence of sunlight for the vast majority of the race. My earlier Chick-fil-A meal would not digest quickly enough, and I fought an ongoing stomachache for the first three hours, hoping dearly I would not have to make a pit stop and discouraging me from consuming gels as frequently as I had planned. The continuing pain in my feet and frankly boredom of moving in the dark, hardly crossing anyone throughout, made me wonder at times why on Earth I put my body through this prolonged suffering time and time again, paying. I periodically prayed to God out loud for help and reminded myself all of this will come to an end soon, after which I can relax and celebrate. My body does not deal with heat as well as cold, and my struggle made me question if reaching 50K, a distance I could cover in under 5:30:00 in the right weather on a course like this, would be in jeopardy. I set a simple goal of comfortably surpassing 50K by the end of 8 hours, whatever that distance may be. With about 45 minutes to go, I thought I could sufficiently cover two more loops; however, once I came back from the second, I saw I had time for one more if I hurried. Knowing this to be certainly my last, I decided to swiftly run the entire way while telling a four-hour runner waiting for her husband to finish, “I can’t believe I have this much energy left. Maybe I should have pushed harder.” Like I normally do, once crossing the start/finish flags, I decided to keep going slightly farther before returning to the tent to socialize and check my result, while my body continued to produce smoke as if I was turning Super Saiyan.

We are socially distanced!

I had no way to track how many loops I completed. I could have tried, but doing so for such a short loop for eight hours felt verging on impossible; thus, I trusted whatever the organizers gave me. The official result reads I covered 44 loops, resulting in 35.2 miles. Once I returned home, I checked my Garmin and followed up with the race director if he could check again, because I thought I may have not quite reached that number based on the Garmin map. He confirmed, by looking again at the tally sheets and tapes, that I did indeed complete 44 loops, reminding me Garmin does not work well on this course. I decided it wiser to trust the word and judgment of the race director over this machine, especially since I already brought up my observation and did my part in being honest, and accept this result. Regardless, my objective of comfortably surpassing the 50K mark was fulfilled, making this my seventh ultramarathon, not to mention finishing third male overall. I am content. Thank You, Jesus!