When you sign up for a race, you are aware of the distance you plan to run – 5K, 10K, half-marathon, marathon, etc. There is assurance in knowing how far you need to run and the training needed to cross the finish line. All you have to do is prepare, show up for the race and just keep moving forward.
When I first injured my ankle playing soccer in 2011, and went through the initial surgeries and complications with CRPS, I was determined to find a way to get my life back. It felt like a marathon, and though I’d never run that distance before, I knew I could do it as long as I stayed the course. The marathon definitely got tough, but thankfully I crossed a few vital aid stations and pacers along the way like the ExoSym & Hanger Clinic (2013) and Project Athena (2014) which fueled me onward in a way that revitalized my spirit.
While still running the race and just getting into my groove, I was alerted that the marathon had been extended to a 50-miler, with the fall from the rope (2016) that greatly injured my ankle more, and then the car accident which was a sub-race within the race! Drawing upon my athlete mindset, I reset my focus and pressed on thinking if I could run 26.2 miles, I can run 50. I got this. As I returned to the operating table in 2018 due to the injuries compounded from the rope fall, I learned that the race was actually going to be 100 miles (plot twist!), but I felt the miles run had prepared me for this and there was no turning back now. Surgeries 5-11 (2018-2019) made the 100 miles feel extra daunting and I had to remind myself of how far I had come and why I was still running. It was a very challenging stretch of the race. Thankfully, on the times I found myself wanting to quit, a pacer would run alongside me and lift me up. Around mile 90, the race officials announced the race had been extended to 200 miles, as surgeries 12-13 added on through 2020. I almost gave up during this part of the race questioning a lot of things about the race and myself.
Due to lingering complications with my ankle condition and issues with insurance, I recently discovered the race is being expanded to 300 miles, for those who really want to push themselves. 300 miles?! Learning this, I dropped to my knees and thought to myself, “How could I go from running what I thought would be a marathon to now running 300 miles? I thought for sure I would be done running by now. I have never run this far in my life. What if I never make it? What if the race keeps getting extended?” It’s few and far between on the course now.
Along this path, I’ve learned that each time the distance gets pushed back, I have to reset my focus and refill my tank. And that takes a little time. There are moments I really miss the fellow racers and pacers I met along this race, some were only with me for only a little while, but each one of them did their part and helped me get to the next mile marker, and for that I am thankful. This has been the longest, hardest race of my life, and a distance I never knew I signed up for, but I started this race and I plan to finish it. In running, you can prepare all you want, but you can’t set the weather or determine where the finish line is in a race, all you can do is keep running or exit the course. One difference between a shorter course, like a marathon, and a longer one, like an mega-ultra, is that in marathons, you can fathom the training needed to cover the course and you’ve seen people do it before. Mega-ultramarathons, not so much. People think you are crazy for doing something like that and very few finish the 300 mile distance. It’s not for the faint of heart. Though my support crew and pacers (surgeon teams, Hanger Clinic, physical therapists, counselors, friends, family, my dog etc.) have changed throughout the journey, these people (and animals) have in their own way, run alongside me throughout different parts of the race and given me fuel and aid, helping me to keep moving forward. I am grateful for each one of them and thankful for their support and dedication. You can’t make it through a race like this alone.
As I look back over the miles covered, I am proud of myself for never having given up and the person I have become along the way. There are times during the grueling miles that I wanted to pull out from the race, but I haven’t and that is fuel to remind me that I can keep going, always. As I look ahead at the next 100 miles, I draw upon the courage and strength I’ve gained running and I press on.
Here are a few verses that I’ve carried in my pocket along the past 200 miles:
In the end, we must run the race set before us, whether it feels like a marathon, an ultra, or a mega-ultra. I hope that no matter where you find yourself in your race, that you make a pact with yourself that you’ll never give up – no matter the distance. You got it in you. #KeepRunning
See you guys at the next mile marker. ♥