Inspiration comes in many different forms. What moves one, may not move another. This past weekend I was blessed to be a part of something much bigger than myself. As an Angel with myTEAM Triumph, I was asked to be one of six athletes nationally to participate in the first ever, Worth the Hurt 52.4 ultramarathon . Each of us ran to raise awareness and funds for the charity that we are a part of.
Arriving in San Francisco (SF) on Friday, I had one afternoon to do some tourist type stuff. I went straight to Alcatraz, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! The most impressive aspect of Alcatraz was the view of SF from the island. It was breathtaking. I got in some good sleep Friday night because I knew there wouldn’t be much sleep in the 48 hours post race.
Saturday morning, we met at the SF Marathon Expo for PR. This was the first time I had the opportunity to meet the other Worth the Hurt athletes. Immediately we started having a good time. Everyone was so down to earth and humble. It is pretty amazing when you get a group of people together who really understand that race results are secondary to the larger picture. If you have a gift, why not use it to make a difference in other people’s lives.
At the expo, we did the PR and photo shoot. We also did a two panel seminar series with a question and answer portion. I loved this. Hearing each athlete talk about what motivates them, their journey in life, and ultimately why the six of us were in the same room was really inspiring. Moderating the event was Tim Borland (Tim ran 63 marathons in 63 days to raise money for A-T a few years ago). Tim gave me advice via telephone/email while I was training for Promises to Keep. It was a pleasure meeting him in person. Let me tell you, the man is ALL class. I had some personal conversations with him and they didn’t revolve around running. We talked about family and making sacrifices to keep those around us happy. I really appreciated his insights.
There were two moments during the seminar that really moved me. The first one was hearing Kevin Kline talk about Chelsea, the 16 year old girl who died from cancer, and the reason Kevin started running and ultimately forming The Snowdrop Foundation. I was crying listening to the story. Everything really came into perspective during his speech.
The second moment came after I finished speaking. I was gathering my things when a very quiet woman approached me. She introduced herself and said she was active military. She thanked me for what we were doing with the Promises to Keep campaign. I thanked her for her service and then introduced her to Christian. She then told us that she wanted to travel to Wisconsin to do a race with myTEAM. I was moved. We inspired someone from California to travel to Wisconsin to do a race with us. Seriously? It gave me chills.
We arrived at the WTH tent for the race at 10:30pm. With the athletes and their teams gathering, there was electricity in the air. We were all pumped to be there. We did some video interviews for Celliant, a great new product out of Santa Monica CA. They have this awesome material they use for socks, shirts, arm warmers, etc. I used the socks during the 52.4 and they were magic. Loved them! I didn’t get any blisters and the product delivered as promised.
We gathered for the pre-run briefing. Tim Borland gave a few last minute words of inspiration, they played the national anthem on an I-Home speaker (funny moment), and we were off! Our little group consisted of myself, Christian, Andrew (West Point grad, former 101st), and Rebecca. We took it slow early on as two of our four had never run 50 before. As we ran around AT&T park, everyone started separating, finding their own pace. It was nice to have two locals on our team because the course was not marked the best. Thankfully we had a map too! We got to the Haite/Ashbury neighborhood and ran through large crowds of bar hoppers before ascending some serious hills. Let me correct that. These were not hills like we have in Wisconsin. They looked like the stairs leading to heaven. My legs were fresh from the taper, so I was loving it!
We managed to make our way to Golden Gate park. This was the half marathon point for our first loop. The park was really dark, scary, and rolling. We met a few skunks, heard some very odd sounds, and ran into some seriously scary people. Once leaving the park, we headed to the Great Highway section. I really liked this stretch. You could hear the ocean, see some huge sand dunes off the distance, and we were able to interact with some other runners in this out and back section.
We eventually made our way to the Presidio. This section had the most serious climb on the entire course. It was mile 19 or so for us. The weather changed dramatically along this section, which has the famous Baker Beach below the cliff. Fog and light ran engulfed us as we ascended the monster ‘hill’. At the top was an aid station, so we took in some calories. Once we descended, we only had a 10k left to the start of our second marathon.
As we hit Crissy Field, we ran into Team Blue. They were doing their own thing, running the marathon twice and raising awareness for our Wounded Warriors and the widows of soldiers. They were carrying a flag. We join them, talked about our Promises to Keep campaign, and the Sargent asked if I would carry the flag. Chills spread across my body as I passed the stroller to Andrew and took the flag. I had tears in my eyes, shoes on my feet, and God and country on my shoulder. I then passed the flag to Andrew and dropped back to let him enjoy some time with his military brothers and sisters. Our pace was a bit faster than theirs, so we said our goodbyes. Honestly, this moment was incredibly special. I always talk about pieces of puzzles and how the journey of life takes you places…well, I knew I was supposed to be there in that moment.
We hammered to the finish of the first marathon. We had about 40 minutes to regroup before the official marathon started.
Peter from myTEAM California joined us for the second marathon. I quickly found that the four of us were having trouble meshing a pace that we all felt comfortable with. Around mile 4, we went past Crissy Field again. This time, there was a group of about 30 people, standing still, each holding the American flag. Next to each person, there were pictures of fallen military heroes and lost loved ones. I was pushing the stroller with our PTK banner in it. I looked each person in the eye as I slowly passed and mouthed ‘thank you’ and nodded my head toward them. Here I was, Brian from Appleton, pushing a stroller symbolizing our wounded warriors, running next to Andrew – a West Point grad and former 101st Airborne officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan….flanked by 30 American flags, the Golden Gate bridge in the short distance – and I completely lost it. I had massive chills overcome my body. I was crying. I was full of emotion. My legs suddenly felt like I was on mile 5, not 31. I never felt like this before. I knew I couldn’t hold myself back any longer…it was time hammer. We passed the stroller to Christian and Peter and we then got separated just as we started going over the Golden Gate bridge. I kept seeing the faces on the pictures next to all those flags. I kept hearing this woman’s voice who had been holding one of the flags. She said ‘Thank you for what you are doing!’
I suddenly felt a bunch of pressure lifted off my shoulders. The questions I had asked myself leading up to the event – Was I good enough to be included in this group of WTH athletes? Am I doing enough in my community? Can I do more? Yes. I belonged here. I was meant to be here. Like all the puzzle pieces that came together at PTK, they were falling in place in SF. I felt a massive surge of energy that lasted until about mile 22 (48). It was amazing. We met everyone for a reason. Our cause is just as worthy as the next. We are doing epic shit all over the country because we believe in our cause. We believe that our Captains deserve to experience the joy of finishing a road race. Being in SF, we were flying the flag for mTT, which will eventually lead to more Captains being able to join. All these thoughts were racing through my mind.
Sometimes your emotions can get the best of you. My emotions caused me to give everything I had on Sunday. I gave Christian a hug after he finished. I was crying, telling him I was sorry for separating from him. I told him I would never do that again. I couldn’t express myself properly at the time because I had so much emotion running through me. I think he saw that in my face and in my actions. It wasn’t about setting a PR or finishing high among the WTH athletes, I simply let my body do what it does best…put one foot in front of the other until someone tells me to stop. My body had a lot to give on Sunday.
I ran the 52.4 miles for the 158 WI soldiers. I ran it for our Captains. I ran it for Andrew. I ran it for everyone except myself, and that is why my body, mind, and soul were all on the same page.
Thank you to my wife, Laura for holding down the house while I was 2000 miles away. Without your support, there would be no Promises to Keep, and all of this would not be Worth the Hurt.
Congrats to those that finished WTH 52.4, including Christian, who did his first 50! Thank you for being such a great friend. I am looking forward to sharing more miles with you brother. Thank you to Rebecca, Peter, and Lyndsey for joining our team and believing in our cause. Thank you to Andrew for sharing the road with me. It was an honor.
To everyone involved with WTH – you have inspired me more than you will ever know. My door is always open should you find yourself racing in Wisconsin.