Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dream Races

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 may even be a mile ahead of Scott Jurek heading for the course record at Western 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?


AnthonyP said...

It's funny...I always seem to discover races that end up on my "dream races" list. Western States was on the list for a long, long time, but the difficulty in gaining entry into it has turned me off a bit. Badwater is on the top of my list, and I'm running it (hopefully successfully) this year.

There are also a few marathons that I'd really, really, really like to run, like Boston and Big Sur.

Dan Rose said...

Getting into Badwater on relatively short notice like you did clearly shows the power of the "Dream List". Trying to coordinate such complicated logistics and come up with the money (and time off) would be out of the question for any "normal" race...but with a race like Badwater, there's hardly a pause before saying "Hell yes!" when given the opportunity to run.

Good luck in the last month of your training...I hope you've become fast friends with your local sauna!

Jamie Donaldson said...

Love the post Dan! I guess I have a lot that I "dream" about.

-I really want to run the Spartathlon. Maybe when I retire--it is too hard to ask for a week off in the beginning of the school year!
-I also want to completed the Grand Slam (maybe next year??)
-I'd also love to run the Colorado Trail from start to finish.
-Then there's always that silly burro race. Hopefully I'll do that in August.
-It is kind funny, but Badwater is still a "dream race" for me. I really want to get to the top of Whitney after I finish this year.

Dan Rose said...


Your list captures the essence of the "Dream List"! You've got one race that you'll need to put off because your current job gets in the way (Spartathlon)'ve got another that requires lots of luck in terms of health to complete (Grand Slam)...and with your desire to do the original 145 mile course of Badwater you've got a beautiful example of a reaching your Dreams (winning the race last year) but still wanting honor the history of such an amazing Dream Race. I love it!!

Staci said...

I don't know about all these races, but I am highly disturbed by the "little girl catching your eye" comment.

Dan Rose said...

You know you love jelly shoes. In fact, I bet you went to the Container Store to get a Jelly Shoe Organizer for Janey Brainy's closet, didn't you?!

Chris Roman said...

Awesome post Dan.

I have several takes on a dream race:

Personal:I would have to say Badwater (with luck next year) is highest on my personal Bucketlist/Dream Race scale.

Charitable: Getting the Boston Double for CAF off the ground in 2010. Dreaming to help other's dreams come true.

Fantasy: Not having a real job and attacking every 100 in the US one at a time. I just want to experience them all (and certainly Hardrock someday).

I feel like I am living out a dream every time I go to one of these great events and connect with more and more awesome people along the way!

Dan Rose said...

Excellent dreams Chris! Your goals and motivations reflect everything that makes the ultra-running community so magical.

You keep building up your resume like you have this year and you'll be lining up in Badwater next year for sure. ...and if you're looking to do any of the 100s up toward me (Massanutten, Old Dominion, Umstead, etc), let me know if you need a pacer or crew!

Casseday said...


Great post. I've been thinking a lot lately about "dream races". Mainly as of late I've been pondering what I'm I trying to get out of ultrarunning?...and what am I going to put back in?
My dream races/runs are:
*Appalachian Trail: no record breaking assault, but I have tentative plans to run it in '11.
*Western States: who doesn't have it on their list?
*Allegheny Trail: I have unfinished busniness there from last year.
*Direct another epic ultra or two in WV....stay tuned in '10 for the possibility of a 3-day stage run with some of the best trails you've ever seen! I'd also really like to start an "easy" 50K to try to get new runners into the sport.

My 2 cents.....


Dan Rose said...

Great list of dreams and aspirations Adam! I think you and I are cut from the same cloth in that I definitely rank "non-race" trail expeditions just as high on my list as official races w/ bib #s and whatnot. I also would like to RD a race or two before my days are done.

As for your stage race plans for next year, definitely keep me in the loop - I would love a nice tune-up for my VT Long Trail attempt next fall!

Oh, and best of luck on your next Allegheny assault. It was a bummer to see you have to drop last year. I hope to see you get back out there (w/ or w/out Mongold) and knock a few ticks off that record!

Runner Tammy said...

Hi Dan,

This is a really cool post.

My dream list includes:

Mont Blanc Ultra--while I run around the mountain, my husband could climb it (thus it has potential to be reality someday). The course looks so beautiful and the crowd support at the various villages sound amazing.

Badwater-I love running in the heat so the 110+ temps could be ideal for me. I anxiously await being accepted but suspect this will remain a dream for years to come.

Hawaii's-Run to the Sun sounds like an amazing race. But the time limit is one aspect that could cause issues for me. But I recently heard that there is an early start (but then you have to figure out how to get up the mountain since it is not necessarily marked for the early starters). Now I just need my husband to take me to Hawaii...

Boston Marathon- my marathon PR is 35 minuts over my BQ time for my age. But if only I was 80 years old I already would be qualified:-) I think I could easily cut 10-15 minutes by focusing during a marathon and skipping my side expeditions to stores, porta potties and chatting at the aid stations. But then my marathon experience might not as fun.

Dan Rose said...

That's quite a list, Tammy!

Mont Blanc has to be on the list for every runner with eyes - Those mountains are gorgeous! Plus I hear the atmosphere with all the fans in the towns is like the Tour de France. Truly a dream race indeed, and yes, I bet there's a hike or two out there for Tristan to keep him busy too!

Having run Boston a couple times myself, I can definitely say you should find a flat n' fast qualifier out there focus hard on getting your QT. It's a magical experience to run from Hopkinton to Boston...especially when the hard qualifying work is out of the way and you get to just celebrate w/ the fans the whole time. I highly recommend!