Tamalpa Headlands 50K Recap

Sarah McMahon
4 min readAug 21

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

My first and favorite boss told me not to make a living doing what I most love, because I’d eventually resent it. “Make a career out of what you love second best,” she told me, “so that your biggest passion is never interrupted by the need to make money.” I currently make a little bit of money writing things, and most of my money working with events and races. One race that I was excited to work with was the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, which was founded in 1998 but hasn’t happened for the past 3 years. Ultrarunning Magazine revived it, and after learning more about the race, I thought, why not run it?

Mike and I drove from Laguna to Fresno, then to Mill Valley where our Air BnB host informed us that we could not stay there, as her septic system needed to be replaced and she currently had no running water. We found a different Air BnB and finally settled in late Friday evening. My body felt stiff from being crammed into my car, and my brain felt frenzied from a stressful work week and an unshakeable desire to be outside of itself.

Sometimes I get depressed and anxious and there is no tangible reason. There is no one thing I can point to and blame, which makes sense if you’re someone prone to depression or anxiety and no sense at all if you’re mentally well. Because I’ve lived with my brain for thirty years, I know the sadness never stays. It always spits me out, thankful to look up and blink at the sun. I want to hear what it sounds like when strangers sing in their cars. I want to hug everyone and run away from them simultaneously. I think about empty churches and empty movie theaters and empty office buildings and huge, expensive, empty homes and wonder how anyone could possibly be happy around so much emptiness.

I ate the turkey and bacon off a soggy turkey club that Mike bought me for lunch. I drank a lot of water and gathered my things. There wasn’t much I needed to carry, just two half liter bottles, some salt tabs, and gels. The course had seven aid stations, so I’d have the luxury of traveling light. My Salomon pack had two broken zippers, so I stuffed my things into the remaining functional pocket. I thought about the race and checked out the participant list, deciding that I’d be happy with a top 10 finish (there were some very fast people signed…

Sarah McMahon

Blogger | Poet | Freelancer | Ultra Runner IG: @mcmountain email: sarahrose.writer@gmail.com