When it comes to running, there is no shortage of options. there are a multitude or flavors to choose from any day of the week.
You can take your act to the trails. You can lope along for a long, slow, meditative jaunt. You can tear it up at the track with lung searing intervals. You can fartlek yourself into a lightheaded stupor.
More often than not, a typical week of running includes some melange of the aforementioned. Maybe you throw in a rest day or a day of crosstraining for good measure.
But, there's one flavor of run I seek out on occasion that includes a bit of all of the aforementioned (sans the rest and crosstraining). You could call it the gauntlet, the octagon, or simply the ass kicker. It's the kind of run that can take a lump of coal and turn it into a diamond, provided you walk away from it intact.
Independent of races where I lay it all on the line, the ass kicker is the only run that comes close to this level of effort. Given the infrequency with which I actually get an opportunity to race, I (perhaps disturbingly) find myself craving the humbling, devastating, soul crushing challenge the ass kicker presents.
The ass kicker is a potent and unrelenting mix of distance,
speed, hills, and senseless self-flagellation. If I don't feel
completely spent by the end of it, I've done something wrong. Upon completing one of these runs, I am typically lightheaded, staggering, and only vaguely aware of my surroundings.
A couple years ago I subjected myself to one of these runs and found
myself cramping so badly at the end, I could barely drive home. A few
hours later, my legs would still periodically mutiny and seize up on me
in protest of the cruel and unusual punishment I subjected them to.
Admittedly, there is something a bit sick, twisted, and sadomasochistic about indulging in this kind of run. But, part of the beauty of running is exploring your limits. Toeing the line and racing is one way of doing this. For those such as myself who infrequently have such an opportunity, there is the ass kicker.
There is no medal waiting for me at the conclusion of an ass kicker. There is no cool shirt for me to wear to advertise my accomplishment. But, the completion of an ass kicker is no less significant than the completion of a race.
There's no way for me to know how far I can go without challenging my limits. There's only one way I know how to do this. I run because I need a quality ass kicking...