I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I agreed to run a 6 person ultra relay team in the mountains of NC. Over 200 miles in 30ish hours split up between us 6, rotating miles every few hours...it seemed doable. I had never done anything like this and despite the elevation climbs and running through the night, it sounded like so much fun. Little did I know how hard it really was going to be. But, despite the hard, it was worth every step along the way. I learned a lot about myself, my teammates, and about pushing through when I didn't think it was possible. The hard is what makes things so great. It's what fuels the fire and makes us feel alive.
I was the 6th leg out of all 6 of the legs on the team. I watched everyone come in off their super hot, hilly leg knowing that my first one was going to be my toughest. Good thing I had some serious nerves at the start because I honestly think that's the only thing that got me up that first monster climb! I realized very quickly these hills were not hills, but freaking mountains we were climbing and they were NO joke, yall! After finishing my 6.7 miles, I was glad to have some time to recover before my next leg. I was scared after that leg, I'm not going to lie. Especially knowing I had to run basically 5 more 10ks without sleep and on a time frame-whether I felt like it or not!
Let me tell you though....recovery between legs in the van was absolutely hilarious. We certainly learned a lot about each other! Bathroom talks were a major topic of conversation (I mean, how can you not go there when you're living with people in a van for 2 days?). I think we probably had the messiest, most unorganized van at each exchange zone too (which, by the way, we have awesome plans for our van next year!). And our driver Mark was the glue that held us all together...he played our favorite songs out the window and made jokes as we were running our legs, took care of us after each run, shared his fancy blanket, stayed so positive and gave us pep talks along the way. That van might have been messy and crazy inside, but it carried a lot of fun, love, and support along our journey. I'll be honest, I kind of miss that ole stinky van that we all shared!
Each leg brought a certain level of fear for each of us. After my first leg, I knew what I was working with. My second one was running up the Blue Ridge Parkway at the end of the day and it was significantly cooler, so I was thankful for that. As I got settled into my legs, I really tried to soak in the beauty and take in the experience. I started feeling more at ease with the difficulty of what we were doing. The fear started to fuel my fire for each one and I honestly couldn't wait to see how I tackled the next. As for my body, the soreness certainly started creeping in after my 3rd and 4th legs, making my 5th (and technically was supposed to be my easiest), very tough. Burned up quads on a "flattish" route was not fun LOL. By this time, running on no sleep, muscle soreness, and heat all started to bring me down. But running along the beautiful river helped me remember how blessed I was to have a healthy body to allow me to do this. Perspective surely changes in times like these!
As I ran the very last leg of the race into Asheville, I got so emotional thinking about what we had accomplished, all the beautiful sights we had seen, all the memories and new friends we had made. It made me realize that this is what life is all about. It's hard. It's so freaking hard. Every day. But choosing to tackle the hard and stepping out of your comfort zone, is what makes you a better person. Going above and beyond what you ever thought was possible and proving you CAN do it, is what makes you grow. And leaning on and giving support along the way are tools to help you get to where you want to be. For me, this experience was truly a metaphor for life and what living is all about. Life is hard. How you handle getting through it is what counts and what matters. Make the most of things. Reach for the stars and do things that are hard. Prove to yourself that "you got this" and learn to rely on love ones for support along the way. You'll never regret accomplishing something that you didn't think you could. So get out there and prove yourself wrong. It's worth it all.
"If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you." - Fred Devito
Until next time,