Every Labor Day weekend, thousands of people congregate below Lone Peak to grunt their way through—or watch in amazement—one of the burliest mountain runs in the state: the Rut.

My feet hurt. Knees, too. Each awkward step down the scree sends jolts of pain through my legs and up to my hips. Barely maintaining my balance, I throw my arms out to stay upright. I’m not delirious, as some are, but I probably looked a lot better on the uphill. The first climb, at least, up Headwaters, back when I was feeling strong. My pace slowed as I scrambled to the top of Lone Peak. On that stretch, I got passed more often than I passed others. Summiting was nice, but now the heat is picking up. The smoke, too. It’s hard to see through the sweat. How many more miles? 10? 15?

This whole thing started as somewhat of a joke. My cousin, a freak athlete no matter the activity, signed me up for this race. What he failed to tell me until a week before was that I would be running the 50k, not the 28k as I had been led to believe. Nice one, Trenton. Hope you’re happy with yourself, because my body hates you right now.

Cheers from spectators come echoing through the woods. It’s music to my ears. I turn the corner and a dozen strangers are yelling encouragement and ringing cowbells. Who knew what a pick-me-up this could be? I need it, because I still have to climb Andesite. Some people tell me that this is the hardest part.

Earlier in the day, I had no intention of being competitive with anyone other than myself—I figure Trenton is probably already nearing the finish line, anyway. But on the final ascent, someone emerges from the trees behind me, and it ignites a primal instinct. Hold your ground!

After receiving a dose of second wind, the grunt up Andesite is not as hard as I expect. There’s a heap of people at the top awaiting my arrival, including my family and girlfriend. I stuff my face with Doritos and Coke and stumble down the road for the final leg.

Autopilot. I think to myself. Five miles of downhill is nothing. Turns out, five miles of downhill after 26 miles and 10,000 vertical feet sucks, actually. I wasn’t a runner to begin with. Why do people do this for fun? How did I fall for Trenton’s antics?

The final ascent to the road is terrible and glorious at the same time. When I reach the gentle downhill leading toward the finish line, my body fills with feel-good neurochemicals. The pain is there, but the mental agony is gone. There’s my family, again. I can’t tell who’s more excited, me or them. I’ve made it. The whole thing wasn’t even that bad. I’m glad I did the 50. I love running. Maybe I’ll even sign myself up next year.