Rock the Ridge 50 Miler: Part Two

Last week, we shared Captain Amir's story of his 50-mile through the Mohonk Preserve in New York State. We are beyond inspired by his incredible feat, but he's not the only who blazed a trail. Philippa, one of our extremely dedicated pacers, also took on the challenge. Continue reading to hear what her experience was like. 

"It's better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all."  ... I'm not sure I ever truly understood the value in that quote until I tried to complete my first ultra marathon. 

Throughout my life, I have had a tendency to choose challenges that may seem outrageous, but I have always known, without a doubt, that I would succeed. As I learn more about myself, I realize now that what I had for the last 20 years was a fear of the big F. You guessed it, Failure. 

Fear of failure kept me from trying certain things, although not many people on the outside would have noticed this. I have jumped out of planes, traveled the world, climbed mountains, dated bad boys. I wasn't afraid. Right? I spent a lot of time proving to myself that I was fearless. That I was limitless. But was I? And what was the point in trying something if you weren't going to actually achieve whatever it was you were trying to do?

When Alison mentioned the 50-mile run over dinner one night,  I thought to myself, "Hell no, this is not for you. You've only run a half marathon and that was hard! This is an extra 37 miles. You are not on this level yet." And then for the first time ever, despite the fear of failure, I raised my hand and signed up anyway. 

I had 4 months until race day so I got a training plan and started running. Most people thought I was crazy. THEY would never run that far. WHY would anyone want to do this? HOW could I possibly think I could finish this if I hadn't even run a marathon before? I had no idea if I could, but for me, it wasn't about the race or the miles, it was about aiming for something so much bigger than I thought I was capable of.

Success didn't hinge on the finisher time or the medal, it was dependent on me showing up and trying my hardest despite the fear. Many back to back long runs, physical therapy sessions, and sore muscles later, race day arrived.

Denise, another Harlem Run regular, and I set out to endure the 50-miles together. At times, we talked and hiked, at others we ran in silence. We ate our gels, kept our packs filled with water,  and got rustic when nature called. Even when the rain started, we kept pushing. We were thinking we could finish in under 18 hours, so we put one foot in front of the other through the dense fog, another step through the cold rain. Ignore the blisters. One day of agony for a lifetime of glory.


Four hours of being soaking wet started to take its toll as we pulled into the last aid station at mile 37.5. The path was covered in mud and it began to get dark. As the medic tended to my feet and Denise and I ate chicken broth and changed out of our wet clothes, the participants behind us were tapping out. I was kinda delirious, but I wanted to keep going. I thought we could get to the parking lot at mile 40 and quit there if we needed to. Or make it to mile 42, the last water refill, and call for a ranger if we felt bad.

We had trained for this. Our bodies felt good, legs felt strong, we didn't want to quit. I personally, didn't want to fail. I had never started something I couldn't finish. I didn't want this to be it.  Denise came to her senses first. She smiled and said we had done everything right, and we should be proud of making it this far but it was time to get in the shuttle and call it quits.

She was right, of course - it was dangerous to go on in these conditions, so we got our things and got in the van just as the lightening, thunder, and downpour started. We just looked at each other and laughed so hard. We could have been out there in that! There's weather proof and then there's stupid, and at this moment I was really glad we chose stupid-proof.

 I am so proud of my DNF (that's race code for Did Not Finish). In fact, it is the first thing I ever tried and didn't complete. I thought not finishing would shame me, that I would feel bad or embarrassed. How could I show up around all my runner friends without this medal? And then I reminded myself that it wasn't about them or the medal. It was about the trying. The work to get to the start line. The leap of faith. The believing in yourself. The doubting yourself and going for it anyway.

For me, the ultra was a way to practice my mental strength. It was an opportunity to find my barriers and break through them. The ultra gave me something nothing else has - a place to fight the fear of failure and win. So while I may not have finished the ultra, I have definitely won. Although I considered jumping Amir for his medal (I kid, kinda), I proudly display my bib on my medal rack at home. It's Bib number 99 on which I have written DNF & completed 37.5 miles. There is victory in trying. I know this now.

Amir Figueroa1 Comment