I have been running ultras since December of 2008. Almost 10 years to the day that I ran my very first ultramarathon, the HUFF 50K, I will toe the line at the Desert Solstice 24 hour track invitational. I have come a long way since my quite unimpressive 7 plus hour 50K. I have grown a lot as an ultrarunner, learning through my failures, training and racing smarter, and finding the courage to take risks in this sport. I have even won a few races and earned spots in the prestigious Badwater 135 endurance run and Desert Solstice 24 hour track invitational.
Despite winning some races, I do not see myself in any way being an “elite” runner. Not even close. I imagine I will soon be having a most humbling experience in Arizona, running on the same track as Zach Bitter, Oswaldo Lopez, Camille Herron, Courtney Dauwaulter, Maggie Guterl and numerous other TRULY elite runners.
But I can’t tell you how excited I am to even have this opportunity, regardless if I spend most of the day getting lapped repetitively. I am going into this race with joy – no pressure, no expectations – only joy and gratitude.
The past two years have been filled with many challenges. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges. The details of these struggles I have faced are irrelevant. We all face our own personal battles. This is what life is about. How do we grow and learn from these? How do we allow the pain and suffering to make us stronger and better, more compassionate, more human? How do we force ourselves to continue on life’s path when the pain overwhelms us? As in the most challenging ultramarathon, how do we continue putting one foot in front of the other when every cell in our body screams for us to stop? Life can be like that. It was for me. Yet I forced myself to continue on. And I made it. It wasn’t pretty or graceful. Like clumsily staggering crossing the finish line with a body covered in blood and mud and sweat.
I head into this next race with joy because I know I am a survivor. I know I am free from the people and things that used to confine me. I am trying everyday to let go of the shame that has controlled my entire existence. This shame used to make not just ultramarathons, but all athletic competitions a test of my worth. It was about the end result. What was my place, what was my time? Do my results prove I am a worthy human being?
I am striving to make it different now. I am more than a runner. I am more than an athlete. The results of Desert Solstice are meaningless. Will I still set personal goals for myself? Yes. Yet, whether I reach those goals or not is inconsequential. The meaning will come from the journey along the way. The all-out effort I will give, even if it isn’t good enough to reach my goals. The people I will connect with. The outstanding performances I will witness others achieve. To share in the joy that the other runners will feel as they break records. Spending time with my crew, two incredible friends who are sacrificing time out of their own lives to share in this experience with me. Seeing a part of the country I have never been. Taking in all of the senses and being fully alive. Living in the moment.
I enter this next race with gratitude, which I have had to fight these last few months extremely hard to find. When everything seems to be going wrong in life, it is most challenging to find gratitude. But all of these wonderful gifts in my life are right before my eyes. They have been difficult to see when I’ve been blinded by negativity, bombarded by disappointing medical reports, financial hardship, marital struggles, a child with special needs and epilepsy, a contractor who stole $30,000, and other more serious issues too personal to put in print here. It felt like nothing, NOTHING, was going right. Yet if I could just pause, step back and look once again I would see that everything is ok. These blessings are right in front of me. I have four amazing kids…
…my husband and I both gave steady jobs, we have a comfortable home, I have the best friend in the world, a gift for running, a pretty cool brother who happens to run too, an awesome dog who senses when I need her to be close, and I am still breathing!
So I will go into this race on Saturday feeling joyful, hopeful and grateful. I will know that everything is the way it is supposed to be. Life is hard. Very hard. But I am a survivor and I have a life filled with love. This race is a celebration of life and all that I have overcome.