Back on the start line

by featured Local Legend Adam Kimble

A little over a year ago in February of 2020, I was fortunate enough to run the Tarawera Ultramarathon 100-mile race in Rotorua, New Zealand.  Before traveling to the race there had been some rumblings about the coronavirus, but the impact had yet to really hit the United States.  So, I traveled abroad to New Zealand, having absolutely no idea that this ultra was going to be the last I would run for nearly an entire year.  As the virus began to rampage across the world in the months that followed, I would spend a lot of time reflecting on how fortunate I was to be on the start line for one of the last races to take place in 2020.

With the benefit of hindsight, I will never look at a race as “just a race” ever again.  It’s more than that. 

Almost a year to the day after running Tarawera, my wife Karen and I drove 12 hours down to Cave Creek, Arizona, so I could run the Elephant Mountain 50k.  I had been craving that race day experience for such a long time, and I decided it was finally time to pin a bib back on and make it happen!  Every single one of the races I had signed up for after Tarawera in 2020 and early 2021 had been canceled, so I started seeking out events in other states where I knew they were going off as planned.  Then, just four weeks later, we drove again to Anza, California, and I ran the Elder Creek 50-mile race on private lands owned by the Cahuilla Band of Cahuilla Indians.  Those private lands are under their own jurisdiction, which allowed that event to take place while nearly all others in California have been canceled.  I came home from both of those races feeling invigorated and enriched by the collective experiences, which led me to reflect some more.  What is it that I love SO MUCH about running ultramarathons?

Running those races gave me an opportunity to experience the human interactions I had missed so much: running by other runners and saying hello or asking them how they are feeling; running past aid stations and thanking the volunteers for dedicating their weekend to support the runners and the event; saying hello to the crews of other runners and getting to know the spectators at the race; and of course, all of those “small world” encounters with new and old friends alike.  At Elephant Mountain I had a chance encounter with a friend whom I had “met” on social media just a few weeks earlier, and then again at Elder Creek I was able to share some miles with a buddy that I had last raced against in 2018!  In both cases, I had no idea that those people were going to be at the races, and it was only dumb luck and the close-knit nature of the community that led to those connections.  When you’re at an ultramarathon race, you’re bound to see somebody you know or somebody that knows you!

The lack of these experiences over the past year, though seemingly just a minor detail, had actually created a bigger void than I anticipated.  It was only once I re-entered the race atmosphere that I fully realized how much I missed it.  And now, with the benefit of hindsight, I will never look at a race as “just a race” ever again.  It’s more than that.  It’s an opportunity to connect with amazing people, collectively share in a difficult and challenging experience, and support each other along the way.  Life is all about the human experience, and a pandemic only serves to remind us of how much we rely on others to fulfill and enhance that experience!