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It’s Only 31 Miles to the Finish Line: the Big Buffalo 50K Ultramarathon


Big Buffalo 50

A perfect running day at my favorite place to run in the world, Shelby Farms Park. Who could ask for more? Usually, a Saturday run in the park is a pleasant experience with the sounds of nature in your ear. The only difference today was the fact that I had signed up to run my very first ultramarathon.

An ultramarathon is any race longer than a traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers). The most common ultramarathon distances are 50 kilometers, 50 miles, 100 kilometers, and 100 miles. The Big Buffalo 50 gives you the choice of running a 50-kilometer race (31 miles) or a 50-mile race. Of course, I chose the 50-kilometer distance. After all, I’m not crazy.

What Was I Thinking?

I wasn’t.

Top Ten Reasons to Run an Ultramarathon

10. I’ve run a lot of 5k’s and wanted an upgrade.

9. “How can I get out of yard work for an entire Saturday?”

8. No marathons were scheduled that day.

7. My music playlist was too long and I couldn’t bear to cut it.

6. They have tables with snacks on the course.

5. My wife told me not to do it.

4. The human spirit is designed to achieve the impossible challenge (see #5).

3. Athleticism is overrated.

2. Free wifi on the trails to catch up on emails.

1. I’ll do anything to avoid my regular workouts.

Race Day

The temperature was in the mid-thirties at race start and climbed into the mid-fifties for the day. The big, blue sky was awesome after the recent record rainfall. The course covered about two miles of concrete paths around Patriot Lake and then headed out on a gravel road along Walnut Grove before climbing into trail section of the course. I ran the course in the weeks leading up to the race and the trails were not too technical so I wore my regular road shoes (currently Mizuno Wave Rider 21s) and not my trail shoes (currently Brooks Cascadias). I packed a standard drop bag and had my 100-ounce camelback for the later stages.


For my first ultra I just wanted to finish the race so I slowed my early pace as much as possible. The course was five laps of about six miles each. I planned to slow run the first two laps and then run/walk lap three. After three laps I would put on the camelback and power walk to the end for laps four and five. I planned to use water, GU energy gels, and sports pickle juice (leg cramps have bothered me on my marathons). I ate bananas and oranges from the support tables on laps three through five and had a Snickers bar before the last two miles. Good points for the day: no leg cramps, no stomach issues, and only mild chaffing (compression shorts and lots of lubricants).


Probably after lap 2: 12 miles done


Said Hi to fellow runner and friend Cody on the course


The end: Stick a Fork in It

The strategy worked and I was even able to drive six hours to Georgia that night so I could preach at the church where I am the interim pastor (the race results may have leaked out in the sermon). The perfect running temps helped me immensely.

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Ultramarathons award you a belt buckle for finishing the course since these distances used to be reserved for horse races. I hope the horse felt better then I did.


Will I Run an Ultramarathon Again?

Not if my wife finds out.

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