Diagnosed with Lupus almost 13 years ago, I was certain that my active life was over. During this time, I was more of a “let’s do a 5k” kind of girl, my family was very active. Hiking and exploring consumed almost every school break. The outdoors just seemed to rejuvenate me. Until… moving became difficult. Just climbing the stairs at school was a challenge. Fear crept in and did the incredible job of holding me hostage. I joined a few Lupus support groups only to learn this fear was big and holding so many of us down.
It has been said that I am an eternal optimist, while I am not sure that is completely true, I had to find a way to seek light, life, and hope through the times of uncertainty. I had to choose life, whatever that may look like today, and stop allowing the “what ifs” to derail my life and steal my joy.
So, I set a few big goals that seemed unimaginable. One of them was to run a half marathon before I turned forty. Mind you, at the time, running three miles was a challenge so a half marathon seemed impossible. My daughter was fifteen at the time and became my running companion. I later learned she hated running so that makes it even more special now. I cried as I crossed the finish line with a crowd of my friends who came to support me defying the odds of lupus.
It was only a few years later when I learned about this crazy thing called ultra-running. Honestly, I had never even heard of it before. Some of the people in my running group encouraged me to run a six-hour race. There would be a few things we would need to figure out: the sun and heat causes a lupus reaction, so what will we do to combat six hours of running, and what if my body shuts down. Well, we can only really prepare for one of those factors – the heat and sun. I learned about sun shirts, hats, cooling towels, and proper nutrition and hydration. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made many missteps on this journey but with each misstep I found a better way to do it next time. The six hour – led to a twelve hour – which inevitably led to a desire to run a 100 miler. I have learned after completing my goals another goal ignites a dream. Then I work towards the dream for it to become a reality. As I take the next step, I am willing to keep trying. The fear of failure cannot even enter my mind as I set out to do an ultra.
My first ultra-trail race was a rugged race in North Georgia. Isn’t one you run for attention; it is one you run for the love of trail running alone. I did my part to prepare and just tried to trust that the rest would work out. As I was climbing Coosa for the first time, I was humbled and filled with gratitude. Each mantra that I had learned began to run through my mind. I never once questioned if I would be able to do it. I just set my mind to do it and my body followed. At one point in the race, it began to lightning, thunder, and pelt us with rain. It was at this point my ultra-running husband began to worry. He was afraid that I would hate it and then I would never want to do it again. When I finished with only an hour to spare with a big smile on my face, he was thrilled. I felt strong, super tired but strong.
I realize this is a season of endurance. One day, the endurance skills that I am acquiring will be used for something else. There may come a time when running a trail feels like a distant memory, but until that day, I will choose gratitude. I will be thankful for each day I have been given the gift of moving my body through roads and trails. I will be thankful that I get to witness the sunrise and nature that can never accurately be captured in a photo. I will be thankful for the fatigue that accompanies endurance sports. I will not sit in the discomfort of my yesterdays or what my body was able to do in the past. I will choose to look ahead. There are times when my team of doctors must realign my race goals, but with each realignment is another opportunity for me to choose gratitude. It is in those moments that gratitude provides the healing power to overcome the darkness of fear.
This is also a season of togetherness. Ultra-running has taught me that the best days are the ones I do with others who share similar goals and passion. The ultra-running community desires so strongly to see one another reach their individual goals and journey alongside you to encourage you to push until you reach the end. If that isn’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is. Each person doing better and being better for one another. The running community helps me see the good in the world!