You can ask any runner which distance they love racing most and, if you ask enough, you’ll hear a case for nearly every one. Some will love the all out intensity of a 5K. Some will express their love for the half, the most increasingly popular distance, and the fact that it allows a runner to safely push their speed while also presenting an endurance challenge. Some may even sing the praises of the self punishment that is the full marathon.
It’s perhaps unlikely that if you survey 100 runners that any would proclaim their favourite distance to be the 50K. If we’re going based on the typical ultra runner prototype of the rail thin, six foot plus man with a surprisingly well maintained beard, we probably wouldn’t expect anyone in love with the 50K to describe themselves as, “a 47 year old wife, mother of two, and teacher.”
That, however, is how Ottawa resident Kristi Raz (@AverageRunnerK) introduces herself. Taking up running in 2012 at the age of 42, Kristi says, in what seems to be a common refrain for late in life runners, “I’d never been a runner and certainly did not see myself as an athlete,” though she does claim a lifelong love of the outdoors.
The outdoors are still Kristi’s first love and a shared passion among her family, all of whom join her at road races, snowshoe races, trail races and events with Orienteering Ottawa.
In May, Kristi will chase her fourth 50K race in Utah, but her early ambitions in running were quite modest. “I took up Nordic Walking about a year after my second son was born, honestly as a way to get out of the house on a Saturday morning,” Kristi recalls. Finding out that races allowed for walkers, she walked the 10K at the Ottawa Race Weekend.
“Somewhere along the line, I decided to see if I could run,” and thus Kristi decided to set a once more modest goal of running 3K without stopping. That took Kristi to her biggest running achievement yet, which was completing her first 5K running, “desperately trying not to lose my breakfast on the lovely finish line volunteers!”
“If I could run 5K, why not 10?” Kristi figured. When she managed to run 12K consecutively, she then figured why not go for her first half.The step toward the full marathon came with a bit more hesitation when Kristi struggled through her first 25K run. “It was like entering a different world of running for me,” she recalls, realizing that the transition to a full marathon is so much more than just an increase in distance. It’s practically a different sport with wholly unique effects on your body and mind. Nonetheless, Kristi, “struggled through, did as much training as I could fit into my schedule, and completed my first marathon.”
The stubbornness has now led to six marathons and a stint as a pace bunny at the Ottawa Marathon – Kristi will be the five hour bunny at this year’s race.As of last year, Kristi completed three 50K races. Whereas shorter distances require you to be in control the whole way through, Kristi relishes that the ultra long distances require you to submit yourself to the course and let your body give what it can and your mind go where it wants to go.
According to Kristi, on the trails, “I barely look at my watch. I am at the mercy of the trail and I simply do what I can in the moment. Somehow, the hours slip by and yet I have little sense of time.” With four 50K races soon to be under her belt, Kristi admits that the temptation to add distance is still strong.
There’s a lot that Kristi has learned and gained from running, foremost a desire, “to challenge myself to try something new even if I might finish at the back of the pack.”