We were traveling through the depths of the night with the frigid air of winter’s first cold front easily penetrating our thin layers of running attire. I was supporting my friend Paul by running the last 30 miles of the Pinhoti 100 with him. In the flickering fire light at the mile 82 aid station, I noticed another runner, sitting on a stump, hands holding up her head, elbows on knees, anguished eyes providing a steady flow of tears streaming down her cold flushed cheeks. “We won’t see her again,” I thought to myself. 26 hours, 51 minutes, and 58 seconds after Paul began his journey, he crossed the finish line at the high school in Pelham, Alabama, and not long after that, the girl from the aid station came around that final loop running strong, her face bursting with a smile.
I Run to Be Inspired By Others
Though the act of running is a solitary activity, there is also a strong sense of community surrounding it. That group includes fellow runners, the communities in which races are held, and the friends and family who lend support. The help and inspiration of others can be instrumental in getting through the tough times and completing an endeavor as difficult as an ultra-marathon.My experience at Pinhoti has been a big motivator in my own desire to to run a 100 miles. To watch a diverse collection of individuals, some of whom you would never peg as runners, attempt such a challenging event was incredible. Equally inspiring was the group of people who came out to support the runners, friends and family who were staying up all night, navigating difficult forest service backroads, and dealing with the inevitable highs and lows that their runner experienced in the course of the event. There were also the incredible people who volunteered at the aid stations, filling water bottles for runners whose hands had become too numb from cold to do it themselves, and providing words of love and encouragement to people they are likely to never see again.
Running long distances is not easy. I don’t have any idea what was going on with the runner at mile 82. Was she physically hurting or battling some internal demon at that late hour of the night? Most likely it was both. Regardless, to witness her resilience, and that of others who compete in these events inspires me and provides motivation to face my own struggles. The people who come out to lend aid also inspire me to be a more giving and compassionate person. If you are a fellow runner or someone supporting one in a race or the long training period leading up to one, thanks for all you do and for giving me another reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
If you want to read more about why, I run check out Part One of this series.