Ah, the good ol' Dream List. That list of "someday, somehow" races that every runner eyes like the pretty girl across the playground during recess. Sure, you may not know the best way to head over an talk to her, but something deep down is slowly taking over your brain - Eventually you convince yourself the only way you'll be happy is if you march across the blacktop and compliment her on her butterfly hair-clip and pink jelly shoes.
Races on your Dream List are just like that little girl: Something unique about them initially catches your eye (the history of the Boston Marathon or Western States 100, the insane terrain of the Hardrock 100, etc.), and over the course of your running career, you hear/read/see more and more about these races until you convince yourself you must do everything you can to run it yourself. Of course it's not always that easy - It wouldn't be a true Dream Race if it wasn't challenging to get yourself to that starting line (not to mention in proper shape).
One big Dream Race problem: If a race is on your Dream List, it's most likely on the list of about 100,000 other runners too. Some of them may even have the nerve to be faster than you (how rude!). The more "dreamy" a race ranks amongst the hoi polloi of runners like most of us, the harder it will be to find yourself on its starting line. Take the Hardrock 100, for example. They can only allow about 150 runners per year to run (for permit and safety/support reasons), and the resulting wait list is usually long enough to fill the race two more times. Keep in mind these are roughly 450 people who are willing to pay a couple hundred dollars to run a 100 mile race with 33,000+ feet of climbing and this sincere warning in the Runners' Manual:
The weather is a dominant factor for this run and can be at least as formidable as the terrain, remoteness, or high altitude. It is our general opinion that the first fatality we may have will be either from hypothermia or lightning. We would rather that there never be a fatality, and so we will continually be giving you warnings, cautions, updates, and suggestions regarding the exposure you must face when attempting this run. The run date is a compromise among competing weather factors. There is usually a period of a few days to weeks each year when the snow is generally gone, but the summer "monsoon" has not yet gotten into full swing - we try to hit this window.
That right there is the stuff Dream Races are made of.
Whether it's a limited space issue, tough qualifying time, or "I've never run that far before" hurdle that stands between you and your Dream Races, one thing is for sure, your mind won't let you rest until you run that race. Sure, you may not think about it 24/7, but every now and then, when you're out there on a long solitary training run, you'll start thinking about a Dream Race. You'll close your eyes a bit and imagine yourself flying through the final miles toward the finish. You may be breaking 24 hours for your first Buckle...you may even be a mile ahead of Scott Jurek heading for the course record at Western States...no matter the specifics, it simply feels good to think about that race. To DREAM about that race. ...and for that fact alone your Dream List will always be there in the back of your mind.
Yes, there will be a few road-blocks between you and your Dream Races: You can get frustrated, injured, raise a family, get a new job, whatever...but the Dream List will always be there until all the boxes have been checked. The fact that a guy like John DeWalt, at 70 years old, finished the Hardrock 100 last year proves it's never too late to realize your dreams.
So, I'm curious what races are on your Dream Lists out there...From personally significant 5ks to marathons to 100+ milers, let me know what finish line you dream about crossing when you close your eyes on those training runs.
I've got a couple that I'm working my way toward in the next couple years: The 150 mile Spartathlon in Greece, the Vermont Long Trail (273 miles) Speed Record attempt (most likely next year), and of course having the chance to be a part of team USA in an international 24-hour Championship. How about you?