It has been more than three weeks since I completed BDM 102 - the Bataan Death March 102k Ultramarathon. It has taken quite a bit of time, but I can now say that I have already fully digested what the accomplishment really means to me, as well as the countless lessons and learnings gathered over the course of running and walking for close to 18 hours straight. During the BDM CLP, Bald Runner related that a number of bloggers who finish the BDM inexplicably stop blogging, or go on some form of hiatus. I think I already know why.
Surprisingly, I finished BDM without any major issues. The swelling in my right knee (which I later discovered was actually brought about by a mildly inflamed ITB) never lingered. My troublesome left shin never flared up. I walked with a bad limp during the four days immediately following BDM weekend, but after that, I was fine. The only casualties of war were three dead toe nails, which I somehow wear as a collective badge of honor, my Purple Heart. I stayed away from running for a total of 10 days only, and since I resumed running over a week ago, I have already logged a number of very enjoyable and extremely relaxed short distance runs - a 5k, four 10k's, and one 15k. I say "enjoyable" because, for the first time in almost six months, I am running without the spectre of a 102-kilometer run hovering over my shoulder. I have rediscovered the joys of the 10-kilometer weekday run after months of force-feeding myself with 15 and 20k almost daily.
Don't get me wrong, though. I had a blast preparing for BDM. It helped that I was able to incorporate a total of four wonderful marathons into my training, and each one was a doozy - CamSur, Singapore, Cebu, and Condura. It might have also helped that my training wasn't scientific at all. I did not follow any specific program, and I merely focused on spending hours upon hours on my feet, and building my base mileage. I did back-to-back weekend long runs, but those did not happen every single weekend during the run-up to BDM. As you will see, there was nothing scientific about the whole routine. I just kept these two rules in mind: First, that I had to run a lot . Second, that I had to have fun doing it. During the times when it was becoming too much of a chore, I rested for a few days and waited for my body to crave a run once again. Maybe the ultramarathon purists and those who race ultras will never agree with my method, but for people like me who simply want to run, have fun while doing it, and finish, the strategy was effective. Hey, I finished within cut-off and without injury, didn't I? Just run a lot and have fun doing it. It need not be complicated at all.
My BDM finish helped confirm what I have been suspecting for quite some time now: I enjoy running long distances more than I do short and middle distances. I guess this is, in a way, an inevitable function of my resignation to the fact that I am not and never will be a fast runner. I was not gifted with winged feet and boundless athleticism. I do not have the physique that will allow me to do a sub-4 marathon like it was nothing. What I do have are legs and feet that can withstand hours upon hours of running, and an abundant passion for actually doing just that. I also think my personality and mindset are perfect for long distance running. I am never afraid of doing things alone, and I always doggedly, stubbornly try to accomplish goals that I set for myself. The last essential ingredient is endurance, and fortunately for me, that is something that can be cultivated (and I think I've already done that), and need not be innate.
Despite all these realizations, I still do not consider myself an ultra runner. I still have a very long way to go - literally and figuratively - before I can even think of considering myself an ultra runner. To my mind, finishing a couple of runs that exceed the marathon distance does not automatically make one an ultra runner. I think it takes a hell of a lot more than that. Some would even argue that ultra running is in fact a way of life. What I am, however, is simply someone that finds joy in running for hours, and that is grateful for having been given the ability to do so. And that is a distinction I will readily claim.