A Dirtbag Was Born: The Day I Knew by Toni Tomasello

Dirt Bag Self-Gratification – noun – The feeling of tired achy legs, seeing the beauty in the dirt under ones finger nails and the scent…


Dirt Bag Self-Gratification – noun – The feeling of tired achy legs, seeing the beauty in the dirt under ones finger nails and the scent ones un-showered self becomes non-existent.

Sunset 10 miles

I startlingly awoke to the sound of shotgun blasts and mariachi music. The morning had finally come; it was the morning of my 1st 100k at Born to Run Ultra Marathon in Los Olivos CA. My adventurous brother bought my race entry for me for Christmas and I had spent the coldest, snowiest winter in Detroit history training for this epic event. Sounds of tent zippers echoed throughout the ranch as other psychotic runners got prepared for a race to remember.

One hour later, there I stood lined up with other runners. My heart was beating out of my chest. I stood there with a nervous smile on my face and tears in my eye as I repeated after the race director, “If I get hurt, lost, or die, it’s my own damn fault.” Shit! Before I has a chance to think my way out of running this suicidal race we were off and running. My nerves quickly subsided as I found myself in a heard of ultra-runners celebrating health, life and competition. The 1st 8 miles flew by as I found instant comradery in a fantastic conversation with Benedict Dugger. Benedict is one of those people that sees beauty ever where he looked; in people, Mother Nature, everywhere. We would travel a mile down the trail and he would stop take a picture, catch up with me to tell me what he saw with his colorful words and positive spirit. After we parted ways I started seeing the trail the was that Benedict, did seeing the vivid colors in front of me, appreciative for each soft step in the Californian dirt and grateful for the runners I saw throughout the day.

As the sun set, I found myself alone on the trail. The beautiful views shrunk into an orb of light that guided my footsteps into completing my 1st 100k. I was on my last loop and running up a single track under the fantastic night sky to make it to the top of the hill. During the day the single track on top of the hill was and incredible place to be, smelling the aroma of sage that grew on each side of the trail and seeing the outstanding views of local ranches and vineyards. At night a sense of peaceful loneliness came on me as I pushed through my last 5 miles.

Suddenly, two yellow reflective eyes glared at me through the sage bushes ahead. The moon had not risen yet and my head lamp couldn’t give me a clear view of what this creature could be. I quickly made noises to scare of the yellow eyes. Instead of running the eyes look at me, crouched down and came back up. This time I yelled louder and said profanity that would scare of any person. The yellow eyes then jumped to the right of the single track. The eyes crouched down and came back up again sizing me up. But I’ll be damn, if this creature was going to stop me on completing my 1st 100k. I started yelling as loud as I could with the last bit of energy left in my being. The yellow ran away. I stood there, in the dark on the single track, not only did the yellowed eye creature leave but it gave me permission to complete the race of my lifetime. I flew down the hill, sprinted through the aid station and knew that this race was no longer a race. It was a test of my endurance, will and self being.

I ran towards my brother and friends that had stayed up to watch me cross the finish line. My heart was vividly jumping with excitement as I finished an incredible race that showed that this race wasn’t only about finish my 1st 100k; it was the day I knew the strength in my dirtbag self and saw the beautiful world that I am blessed to run in.


This story was contributed by Toni Tomasello. If you would like to submit your own adventure story to be featured on our blog, please send us a story with photos to DirtbagRunners@gmail.com.