There’s a moment in 100-mile races that ultrarunners call “the dark place.” It’s usually late in the race when everything goes to hell and you experience the greatest pain you will ever feel. When you arrive there, there’s nothing left to do but, “embrace the suck,” as sports psychologist Dolores Christensen put it.
“Sometimes you’ll be like, where am I?” Smith-Horn says. “You’re in the zone. Nothing else really matters and you’re just there. It doesn’t come overnight. You learn every race, every trail. You’re constantly learning. You have to learn how do you take care of yourself. You really have to learn how to manage yourself for hours on end without a lot of support.”