The following excerpt appears in Hard Prairie Volume 1, available now! To purchase your copy, please click the link on our homepage!
Words: Cory Reese
It was 2019, and I was running the Vol State 500K–a 314-mile race stretching nearly the entire length of Tennessee. Over eight grueling days, I not only threw up in that Subway parking lot, but I also dodged dozens of armadillos dead on the side of the road, slept in the lobby of a post office, got a sunburn so deep that pockets of yellow goo formed on my kneecaps, birthed blisters so large and painful that each step felt like walking on shards of glass, sewed a needle and thread through those blisters, then left the thread hanging outside my skin for the blisters to drain. I had chaffing on my legs that was so extreme that it left scars. And at mile 174, I broke down in the kind of gut-wrenching, emotional sobbing that left my shirt covered in tears and snot. I experienced the deepest depths of hell. And I think about that experience nearly every day. It was one of the most profound, life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. And there have been times since that a part of me has wanted to go back and do it all over again.
However, this year, as I followed along with the race through social media, I noticed my perspective beginning to shift. I'm so incredibly grateful for the life-changing experience I had, and everything I learned about myself as a result of it, but I have also begun to feel sad about what I put my body through. I feel sad that I willingly volunteered for such intense and extreme suffering.
And for what? To learn that I can do hard things? I already knew that. I didn't need to traverse 314 miles across Tennessee to figure that out. Was it for praise and social media kudos? I genuinely don't think so. The amount of pain and suffering I endured would never be worth any attention on Facebook. Was it ego? Pride? The need for adventure? A longing to prove my worth? Was I running away from something? Was I running toward something? I had run dozens of 100-milers before Vol State. Why was I always on the lookout for bigger, harder races? I don't know. Was it a little bit of all of those things? Again, I don't know.
I don't know.