Although the Sky Pilot Short Course was 12.5 km, today I feel like I ran 50km. This was the first Gary Robbins event I have participated in, and to be honest, I didn't realize he was the race director until days before I arrived. Had I known it was Gary's race, fear alone would have greatly prevented me from signing up. My husband has run the Squamish 50km run three times now, and each time I have watched runners stumbling up the steps to the University after 20ish kilometres of brutal terrain. Gary has a reputation for brutality.
During the pre-race announcements, Gary told us that we should view this course as more of an experience than a race. His hope was that all runners would take care of each other, and that there would be a great sense of camaraderie among us all. I have to say, it ended up being the most supportive crowd of runners I have ever been in a running event with. (outside of the beautiful running community we have here in Quesnel) People waited patiently to pass slower runners until the trail opened up. At one point, many runners were all backed up while waiting to climb a very steep section that had ropes to hang onto for support. The course actually looped back through the "waiting area", and we were able to cheer on all the lead runners as they whipped back up the hill. We joked and talked and laughed about how we would never be in the lead positions. It was fun.
The course and the views were beautiful and overwhelming on all levels. The course was not entirely runnable for most people, including myself. Picture yourself scrambling up rockfaces, clinging to scrappy little evergreens, relentless vertical trails and a thousand roots reaching out to grab unsuspecting feet.
Imagine these sensations in your Body: Light-headedness, tingling fingers and toes, cool skin, but burning on the inside, wobbly legs, tired legs, dead legs ...
And in your mind, imagine rattling between a million thoughts, from pure awe, to exhilaration, to struggle, to joy, to fear, to anger, to exhaustion ... and then imagine going through these thoughts over and over, but constantly being forced to get back into the absolute present moment.
Not to mention ancient cedars, chestnut brown earth, blue sky, rushing water, falling leaves and massive teetering rocks - As always, everything in Squamish is BIG.
During the last climb, I'm not going to lie, I was cursing the race director. But I knew that once I earned my way across that finish line, that I would also love him for pushing me to the limit and beyond. For it is only through our greatest challenges that we can actually become great.
I have, and always will, run for spiritual reasons. I firmly believe that these challenges open me up to my higher self, to a vastness of mind, and a wide open heart. Some people wonder why anyone would want to push themselves into such discomfort, but the answer is that there is a little secret hidden in these tight spaces. And you can only get there by going there.