“Will you ever run another one?” he asked as Ginger celebrated what I had just achieved. A fifty-mile trail ultra marathon on September 26, 2015. I was running this ultra for someone’s wonderful though short-lived life. Actually, looking back, I was also running this ultra for mine.
I had signed up for this Ultra the day after I had completed my first marathon trail run on Roo’s birthday. For the readers who may not know, Roo inspired the authoring of my first book – my fur soulmate. Two weeks prior to the marathon, my dear Roo had left Earth in the clutches of Cancer’s gripped hands. Given that Roo had taught me to run, to complete this race on her birthday was the most fitting plan.
In the way that life is not filled with coincidence, I had signed up for the marathon well in advance of knowing Cancer would knock as it can somewhat ruthlessly. That I had this race now revealed yet again that the moments in our life aren’t random but are well-designed puzzle pieces snapping together perfectly.
That the fifty-mile Ultra became the next year’s goal was meant to guide my profound grief. It was also purposeful in being what I was certain would make the “perfect” book ending. What I didn’t realize until hindsight shed light; I would run this Ultra to open my heart to life.
My soul was cloaked in dark hues of pain, sorrow, and depression that were not from Roo’s leaving of my side. The dark hues were there from my choices in how I responded to the experiences of life. My soul had chosen these experiences so that I could learn to live the opposites, thereby fulfilling my soul’s desires in who I wanted to be for the world around me. I could not inspire hope out of hopelessness, or hold compassion for pain, trauma, sorrow, and despair if I hadn’t embraced my own sense of deep hurts and grief.
By running this Ultra in 2015, I was choosing to shed these dark hues and begin the journey to embrace a deep hope and faith. Not only in myself, but also in life’s beautiful grace. If you have read “To the Moon and Back to Me: What I Learned from Four Running Feet” then you will know my belief in the signs that guide our way. Messages abound if we are open to look, see, and hear what they say. Signs and messages are the guideposts to help us walk – or run – our life journeys. They help us trust when we may feel nervous, anxious, or are struggling.
On August 24, 2019 I was privileged to run with a friend as she completed her first fifty- mile trail ultra and I lived the answer I had given my husband in 2015. “I can’t say never” was my response when he wondered if I would try a second time to test my capability. Fast forward to 2018 when my friend and I turned a maybe into probability. “Hey, you wouldn’t want to run a fifty-mile trail ultra with me?” of which my friend blessed me with her courage when she agreed.
Fast forward to the week prior and once again messages and signs abundantly crossed my path to whisper “you can do this, believe”. Of course, an ultimate sign was the dear Owl that led Ginger and I on our trail time before flying into the tree. If you wonder about the significance of the Owl, pages of “To the Moon” highlight its powerful messaging for me.
On the eve of the race I was greeted with a hug from a beautiful soul who I had been blessed to meet two years prior to this ultra race. We had met when together we ran a race on these same trails my friend and I were about to face. This beautiful “messenger” and I had started that race then side by side as strangers not knowing there was a destiny. To run the entire race together as each other’s inspiration that the hills we would beat. Now, two years later this angel was put on my path three times. The eve before, the morning of, and again just miles before halfway to twenty-five. Her hugs and her blessings so full of grace. The power of people whose energy carries us like wings through tough tasks we face.
And then there is the moon that winked as my friend and I stood at the starting line. My dear Roo whispering “you’ve got this Mom, always by your side”.
There was the mother who shared her inspirational story to all of us racers about how she is running in tribute as to the reason for her own deep, deep grief. Her son, a veteran, who has left Earth due to a tragic accident, and how running has helped her soul found the ability to once again breathe. Her story affirmation that Hope Has a Cold Nose (book two) is my heart’s priority; to be inspired at the start of the race by a veteran story another message for me.
And oh, how many feathers paved my path on this fifty-mile journey. Just as when I was in deep grief and needed encouraging, my cry for comfort met with love at my feet. This time I wasn’t grieving, yet to have the reminders “you can”, I am grateful I received. We may not always see and hear the cheering support in ways we think of it “traditionally” coming our way. We expect people to clap or encourage, our familiarity in listening for what people can say. Yet, we are always given the messages and signs we need among Nature, if we choose to hear and see. In a world in which our ability to connect to each other is challenged by fast-moving technology, Nature can help us find a sense of peace and belonging.
Like the sand hill cranes that flew in song during this race like they did four years ago. “You have time” they called to remind me not to lose hope. Sure, it would count within my friend and I if we completed this race after the cut-off time. But, oh, did I want all of my friend’s hard work to count on the race board when we crossed the finish line!
“Through the trees your husband and daughter are waiting” I choked through tears as I felt the full reality of what we were so close to achieving. As we ran side by side, supporters started cheering. “Go, go, you have twenty seconds to cross the line!” I grabbed my friend’s hand as our legs became more than our own in the knick of time. “Two seconds to spare” I heard as the medals were placed around our necks. This finish far exceeded any imagination over the past year of crossing the finish line with my brave, amazing, special friend!
Friends affectionately call me “crazy” for these kinds of runs I sometimes do. People have asked “why?” a time or two. in the past I’ve responded with “when I am the most depleted, I feel the most alive”. Yes, you can imagine, particularly for my non running friends, that only solidifies for them that “I am crazy” is right.
As I reflect on “why?” the day after this race, I think it is for these things:
– To inspire my writing.
– To inspire how I teach and train
– To inspire how I live life
– To inspire hope and to foster faith
– To inspire that within each of us is this incredible strength to achieve anything we dream
– And that we are surrounded by abundant support in a multitude of forms, if we choose to hear, look, and see.
Life ebbs and life flows like the rolling hills of this fifty-mile trail that highlights elevations over seven thousand feet. No matter the climb, our destination goals can be reached.
Take it from a special friend and I, with two seconds to spare as we crossed the finish line.
Sent from my iPhone