On Friday I began a 100 km journey into the night, the start of the race marked by fireworks in the sky. In truth it wasn’t the beginning as I had already traveled 1,900 km, since the start of 2014, to get to the line. I was proud to be in the best shape of my life and I knew deep down that this was the strongest I would ever be, having had the rare privilege of being able to devote my time and energy to training for the ultra. I also wasn’t alone. This was a communal journey shared in thought and support. My running buddy Betty would be at my side supporting me on the bicycle until sunrise. Andrew and Jessi were running with me from Boston and Aaron from Toronto. Friends and family all over the world were present lighting candles and sharing roses. Experienced local runners guided the way, their headlamps glowing in the distance like glowworms. To ensure that we found our path, the trail was also illuminated by lamps, carefully set-out in advance by countless race volunteers. Under a sliver of moon and sprinkle of stars we moved. My mission was simply to follow the light of the night.
By dawn the halfway mark had been reached and now I would rise up with the sun. It was a new beginning, a new day, but the same journey into summer. Nathan, my husband, would take over from Betty on the bike and the Danube River would be our morning guide before a steep climb.
Moving beyond the 60 km point, I would turn to music for rejuvenation after the full night of running. The end seemed in sight but I sensed I shouldn’t get ahead of myself! As we passed fields of summer wheat I sang along to, “No Day But Today”, from the musical Rent. All the songs on my iPod had been carefully added in advance, with special contributions from friends for the race, but I had run out of time to put them into an appropriate listening order. Sometimes no amount of planning will give you what you need. Our needs come met from elsewhere, outside ourselves, and at this moment, I received the words:
There’s only us
There’s only this
Or life is yours to miss
No other road
No other way
No day but today
Shortly after, at km 70, the running unexpectedly turned into trekking. Despite the significant slowdown, I still knew where I was going. It would however take the same amount of time, and double the energy, to complete the final 30 km to my first 100 km ultramarathon. You only get one first! It wasn’t the race I had trained or planned for, but without the same training, planning and support, I would never have been strong enough to complete the distance.
17 hours, 32 minutes and 03 seconds later, I was finally able to cross the line, carrying with me rose petals in my pocket and a cue card with the many names of those who had shared their support and helped me to get there. Incredible friends had waited an extra five hours at the finish for me to come through and family no doubt was also anxiously waiting to receive the word that I’d made it.
• Maintain warrior posture and calm breathing
• Step gently with power
• Be carried by the love that surrounds you and give it back
• Enjoy each step on the journey
• Freedom from time
This was my run, for and also with Gaucher disease, for Elaine Benton.