It’s cold, dark and no one at the start line to wish you well because it’s an unprecedented time with social distancing and ongoing pandemic. Your legs are shaky, your stomach has butterflies, nerves are rattled and you have a fleeting moment of self-doubt. You know once you hit the road it will all “shake-out” because this is where you belong in this moment. The start is lonely…no gun start, no fanfare, no national anthem…just my feet crossing the timing mat and a wave to my crew chief standing in the roped off sideline. It is the beginning of a journey that I have prepared for technically 34 weeks, but really for 7 years.
I never planned to run 100 miles, but then the demon of addiction rocked our world and a darkness settled over my soul and threatened to drown me. You search for a life raft- I found mine when my feet hit the pavement. My heart opens and the peace I need for that moment rushes in. Then life takes other turns…retirement, a new business, a move… all with the demon of addiction still lurking in the shadows, never allowing you to rest, even in the happy moments. So I search for the run. There is a quietness, a sort of dance, listening to my breath and making deals with God at every turn. I began to seek this solace, this place where I could hear a song, say a prayer or lean on my running friends. It’s a light that begins to shine in a place that had become so dark. I always found myself back at the same decision – to run for her, my daughter. I wanted to run the demons right out of her life. The love God allows me to have for that child is indescribable- He knew I would need this spirit, this determination, this heart to stand next to her in the darkest moments for many years. I wanted to run with a closeness to God that is hard to find anywhere else. I wanted to run to release the joy when a hurdle was overcome and the battle was being won! I also found my run was a place for me, just mine; my thoughts, my joy, my hurt, my celebration, my challenge. Out there one morning, I knew I needed to make this journey, to feel deeper, to reach a place I had never experienced…so I registered for a 100-mile race. The journey was set into motion.
Training brought highs and lows, a fierce appetite, fatigue, enhanced bonds of friendship and my relationship with God strengthened. I somehow found Him on every run in some form-He spoke with me through songs, through friends and simply through quiet time alone, the two of us. Then it was race week which came filled with emotions of laughing, crying, nerves all wonderfully enjoyed. I started the race with her in mind, I wanted to run for her. I knew running 100 miles would be painful, hard and tears would flow; I knew I would want to quit, so I asked God to give me all that went with this journey, allow me to experience it all. I wanted to take the hurt, what seemed impossible and take that for my daughter. I wanted to endure for her. I asked God to take it from her and put it on me, then take my hand and hold it and allow my body to finish. My testimony needed a chapter of endurance, a challenge met and accomplished. I needed a memory that would make me smile and laugh all at the same time.
Around mile 80 I became so mentally fatigued, my skin hurt to touch, I was nauseated and my legs felt like two pieces of concrete. This is the time where I truly did not think I would finish and wanted to quit. That’s why you have a crew! I was blessed with a crewmember who asked “do you want to be a quitter?” and of course I don’t want that label and think that 85 miles is pretty good but she reminds me that it is not the finish line! I have another friend who drives an hour to meet me at 2:30 in the morning to give the pep talk that I need to get back out there. She reminded me that she did not get up in the middle of the night to not see me cross the finish line. She suggested I put on another pair of leggings to stay warm and get back out there! Another crew member reminds me that I set out on this journey not for myself but for something much more and that puts my feet back on the pavement. The last crew member ran beside me, walked beside me and just kept me talking to get me to that last aid station. I have a husband who joined me for the last 7 miles and when he picks me up at mile 93 looks me straight in the eyes and says “Do you realize what you are about to do?” At that moment my legs found the strength to just move forward.
I finished in 27 hours with legs that could barely move forward, a numb, cold body, with tears, with a huge smile, with horrible leg cramps, nausea…but most of all I finished. I remember coming up to that finish line, shuffling one foot in front of the other, looking over at Mike “I just ran 100 miles!”. There are so many emotions that I could not possibly put them all to paper. I finished with a crew by my side that loved and supported me unconditionally in the darkest miles. God allowed me to see more clearly than ever that he blessed me with a husband who loves me with all he has, down to the core.
The fanfare and hype at the finish is a “high” you enjoy for a few days, then it is gone. Now where do I go? After the ultimate journey, what will my purpose be now? Will a simple run encourage me to seek God? I struggled with that for a few days, wondering why I put all I had into one fleeting weekend, how I thought this would obliterate the demons? I realized this was a glimpse into my capabilities, God letting me know that I have the strength to move forward and always run the mile I’m in, even when its dark, cold and I want to quit. He gave me no choice but to move forward and rely on faith, to disregard my unbelief. He forced me to leave Kristyn in his hands and not take her back…to manage His perfect plan. So, what will happen now? Life will continue, I will run, I will still struggle with my faith, I will battle demons, I will love, I will welcome opportunities that humble me. I think I will write a book! I will continue to dance with the devil, until he is tired, defeated and no longer a worthy opponent.