I read everything about the race that happened in 2011 and counted down the days to the 2012 event. I’m not sure how I followed the progress of the race day back then. I was probably just reloading the standings and reading updates; but I was so fascinated. I remember going to bed and waking up in the morning thinking “wow they are still running right now”. Nearing the end of the race both the lead male (Junyong Pak) and lead female (Amelia Boone) were only 8 minutes apart! Both finished with 90 miles. I was hooked; at some point in my life I wanted to do this, but that task seemed monumental at the time. I have fanatically watched WTM every year since. It has gotten much easier to find streams and now they have real commentators and live video feeds to tune in to.
I officially signed up to do my first WTM in the beginning of 2015. I was hardly running at the time, but I thought 8 months should be a good enough training period. I began running and increased my mileage way too fast. At the end of May I went out for a run and noticed a pain on the outside of my right hip and knee. Thinking I could run through the pain, I kept going until what felt like a very sharp stabbing pain on the outside of my knee. I tried to run again and the pain was so bad it made my knee buckle. I jog limped my way back home.
This was the beginning of a very long bout of IT Band syndrome. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but I was about to learn. I thought I would be back to running in about a week… which turned into about 5 months. In July 2015 my mother was also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In September had pretty much given up on running at the 2015 World’s. My IT band still wouldn’t let me run longer than 3 miles, I was helping my mom with things that she needed to do and I was mentally drained. I deferred my race registration to the next year and started daydreaming about getting a phoenix tattoo for the next year to symbolize my journey “back from the ashes” (This might sound random now, but it will tie into my story later- but not until part 3).
2016 was a rough year for me all around, but I was very determined to go to WTM that year and not defer again. I was terrified of aggravating my IT band again, so beginning in January, I began running only one mile 3x a week. Every week I only increased my mileage by a quarter mile. Even though it doesn’t sound like much, it was the most consistent I had ever been with my running. I started to feel more confident and the running was almost therapeutic.
In April 2016 my mother passed away. It wasn’t expected. Yes she had been sick, but it didn’t seem like she was at that point yet. I had gotten a call from her one afternoon before she went home from the cancer center. She said she was feeling tired and unwell and couldn’t talk long because she needed to rest. That was the last time I spoke with her. The next phone call I received was from my aunt saying my mom was in hospice. By the time I arrived to the hospice my mom had had 2 strokes and a seizure and I was told by the staff that she had about three days to live.
If this had happened at any other point in my life, my running would have stopped dead in its tracks from this. I visited her in hospice a lot and talked to her. In between visits I still ran. It wasn’t fast or long, but it seemed to help me cope. There were many runs during this time and after she passed that I would be crying, but I didn’t stop. In fact I used it as a drive to get better. I thought a lot about when my mom had first been diagnosed. She was just about to retire and she always talked about all the things she wanted to do after she was done working. How was she to know that she would only be around 4 months after she retired? When she was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, my mom made a bucket list, and to my knowledge she only checked one item off of that list. I felt like I was running for her now. I wanted to live my life so that when I died I would know that I had accomplished a good amount. For her, I wanted to push myself, I needed to run.
So even though 2016 was a rough year, it was a very enlightening year. I ran my first half marathon, I ran at least five Tough Mudders, I ran to cope with grief, but most of all I ran to be true to myself and to make my mom proud of all that I was to accomplish. I was going to do this 24 hour race and I didn’t care who thought it was crazy, or who thought I wasn’t tough enough. I knew I could do it and I knew I was never going to limit where my dreams took me from that point forward.