I volunteered to run an aid station for a 15m/50k ultra run (runners could choose between one lap at 15 miles or 2 making it a 50k) this weekend. At first, I was disappointed to be missing my training walk, but by the end of the day I felt so blessed by what I'd witnessed that I can't imagine a training walk being a better way to prepare for the 3-Day.
Ultrarunners are incredible. I was amazed by the physical prowess, insane determination and overall dedication to athleticism that I saw on display. But, mostly, I was impressed by the slowest "runner" out there: Number 13.
You see, Number 13 was the last one to visit our Aid Station at mile 5 - more than 3 hours into the race. In fact, several runners had passed by our station a second time before 13 showed up.
I could see right away that she was having problems. I walked out from my shady pavilion and met her beneath a tree. She was ashen, but talking lucidly. She was complaining about the course - a rocky trail that involved climbing up muddy inclines using ropes at some places. Having run marathons before, she was shocked at the difficulty she was having.
But what shocked me was that she was no spring chicken. In fact, I later found out, she was 63 years young.
I'd be lying if I said we weren't worried about her. She'd been out in the heat for hours and only had a small water bottle. Plus, it was obvious she wasn't prepared for the physical challenge she had undertaken.
But it was when I heard her mutter under her breath, "If cancer can't stop me, this can't" that I melted for her and became her silent cheerleader. I also understood the stubbornness that made her bark at us every time we tried to talk her into sitting, resting, and quitting.
We talked her into sitting and resting, but the quitting part was a much harder sale.
Once she had rested a bit, she looked up at me, read the "End Breast Cancer" shirt I was wearing and told me that she was a survivor.
At that moment I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.
It wasn't until later, after we cleared her to continue on the trail (the next aid station was about 2 miles away and we let them know to keep an eye out for her) that her friend told me the real motivation behind Number 13. She lost her daughter this past year and her daughter had registered for the run. Number 13 was doing it for her.
She finished too - and not even in last place! I was thrilled when I learned that.
I am still so overwhelmed when I think about all this woman has survived. And she still sets out to prove things! After all she had endured, shouldn't she be the one we are doing things for?
Number 13, feel free to rest - you've earned it! This walk's for you!