It all started in Hawaii. At the end of February I was asked to assist at a week-long Baptiste teacher training on the big Island. There, I had the fortunate pleasure of meeting Dan Nevins, a double-amputee who now works for the Wounded Warrior Project. In 2004, Nevins was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) on a combat mission in Iraq and suffered brain trauma in addition to enough damage to cause an amputation to his left leg and severe damage to his right, ultimately ending in double amputations below the knees. Nevins spent many months in rehabilitation and credits the Wounded Warrior Project for a successful rehabilitation. He is now Director of Warriors Speak, a group of servicemen and caregivers who publicly share their personal stories.
On the plan ride home, I was struck by a feeling of loss and being unfulfilled with my life as it was. I wanted; I craved a way to be of service. My yoga teaching was one way, but it felt quite isolated and secluded. I needed a more public way to serve. Once I got back, I started hatching my plan. I had recently become aware of an 80-mile Trail Relay race that was being run exclusively on the Katy Trail in Missouri, from St Charles to Augusta. I contacted the race director asking if I could run the whole thing solo. What I didn’t realize was that there were TWO relay races virtually running the same route and almost identical in distance covered. My understanding was that the relay was in August, giving me ample time to get ready to run 80 miles.
Kevin Jokisch, the race director corrected me. The race was May 31, not quite giving my marathon ready legs to cover 80 miles in one day. Jokisch proposed I run half; an even 40 miles. I agreed, and the preparations began.
I looked at the website and the details were scanty. It was a first year event and the entry fee was astronomical for a race, but I persisted and put that aside. I needed something more that just running to be running. I was going for something bigger. I was going to raise funds to lay for the race AND donate the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. A colleague of mine had just concluded a campaign on gofundme.com and I was intrigued. I started a campaign that week.
The funding started to roll in. It was a lot at first and then trickled off and then once I got closer to race day and right after, the money continued to roll in. So far, I have raised almost $1500, which is still less than half of what I had wanted to contribute. What I found was that people contributed when they felt a close alliance to either the person running (me) or the cause. Many of my students and friends contributed just because they believe in me, even when I had my doubts!
I was able to secure the services from a coach I have worked with in the past and he wrote me a training plan to get me to the end. It was daunting. I looked only a day ahead at the plan as I knew I’d be discouraged if I looked at the long run for that week. By the way, those long runs ramped up to 30, then 32, then an from the mental dread of running back and forth and back and forth the same path I’d been covering for the past 3 weeks already. I am so grateful for the people I happened to run into on that path who offered to run with me, if only for a little while.
During these last few weeks, a good friend of mine was hatching an idea of her own. She offered herself and a-yet-to-be-found runner to complete my “team”. They’d each run 20 miles so that we could finish. Of course we were unofficial as we weren’t doing this relay the “normal” way of running one leg per runner at a time. I hemmed and hawed about having a team. Honestly, the hesitation on my part was all about still being stuck in doing this for me. I found excuses around “having” to wait for my team to finish while all I would really want to do is shower,lie down and maybe get in some yoga. In an honest phone call, I relayed my hesitation and at the end of the call I realized that this would be a fun celebration to complete the journey. I was in. 100 Percent.
Logistics are a bitch. About ten days before the race, a colleague of mine who found out about my quest from another colleague donated. We talked and I learned that he actually lived in Augusta, the end point for me and for the entire relay. Things were clicking. I knew with a point-to-point run, I’d need to drop my car at my end and get a ride to the start. As the relay had a 6 am start, I wanted to get the car thing settled the night before I arranged to park at my colleague’s house and he kindly offered me post-run shower facilities. At least that part was set. Nutrition and hydration were another matter.
During my training runs, I had become reliant on taking in packets of baby food, like apples, mangoes, sweet potatoes and a variety of mixed fruits and vegetables. Disgusting, but it got the job done. I can’t eat gluten, dairy and a whole host of other foods, so race food is difficult for me. I am so thankful these packets are now available (I just wish I could inject them with caffeine!) I contacted Kevin inquiring if I could get food stashed along the way. He offered to get my nutrition and give it to support crew along the way to hand to me, with additional water support. Logistical nightmare number two, out of the way. The next step was securing a ride to the start.
Crowd-sourcing again to the rescue. I had contacted dear Mom to get a ride and she was a bit unconvincing in her “yes”, so I threw it to Facebook. I posted something along the lines of needing a ride to the start, any early risers out there willing to help, please contact me. And I got bites. Not a lot, but just one was all I needed and I got it. I was set. Then there were all of the last minute little purchases (a new Nathan hand-held water bottle) and whole day logistics for food and travel planning after the event, but those were non-consequential to me as the major stressors had been resolved. And then there was the 40-mile run. (next post I swear)