Of all the words used to describe distance runners, perseverance is often near the top of the list. Earlier this month I got the chance to witness this first hand.
I kicked off 2015 with a 30k trail run. Bangs Canyon 30K & 60K (Find them on Facebook). The course was beautiful and only slightly masochistic. And I can't wait to get back there and do it again. The last 3-5 miles were a sparsely marked trail amid a bit of a spider web of spur trails and bypasses. The race director told us at the start that this section was poorly marked because it was dark and he was cold. I pretend I made it through by just following the obvious line, but there is at least one point where I know I just got lucky and made the right turn.
Not everyone had the same luck. One lady didn't make the turn. She is usually near the back of the pack so it took a while for people to realize there might be an issue.
Kathy was taking way too long to get in. It was about to get really cold and really dark. A group of three guys from the front of the pack went out to find her and bring her more food and water. An hour later we got word from a jeeper that she was near, but headed the wrong way. I jumped in the truck with the race director, my wife, and dog and headed down the jeep trail to see what we could see.
One of the first (and only) vehicles we saw was an ATV. The driver had indeed seen Kathy, as well as the guys that went out after her. Our new favorite guy on the planet told us the guys should have met her on the trail a few minutes ago.
Not much farther down the trail we saw a group of pedestrians. Our group. (Of course it was our group. Everyone else knew better than to be out there.) The guys that went out to find Kathy, and the star herself. They were walking up the final climb. To be fair, most of us walked up the final climb, so no judgement is being passed, just a statement of fact. I can only imagine seeing the wave of heat escape the truck as the window came down. The RD leaned out and asked the group if anyone wanted a ride.
There was an awkward silence. The truck meant warmth, and a fairly comfortable seat. Not to mention a sweet old Golden Retriever with three legs who just wanted to lick the salt off your face and have a good tummy rub. Kathy spoke first. Well... Spoke is a rather verbose way to put it. It was clear Kathy was struggling and talking wasn't high on her list of things to do right now.
She waved off the truck.
She was finishing on her own.
After nearly 7 hours and nearly 3500 feet of climbing (with a bit more to climb!) she was going to persevere and finish this thing.
I turned the truck around, had some fun on the rock ledges (but not too much fun!) and followed the group up the hill. As the trail flattened out a bit a flash of movement caught my eye.
Kathy was running.
I made some comment about how impressed I was. The RD, an old friend from college, told me to remember that as I geared up for my stupid long runs this year. (Don't worry Kevin! I hope I never forget that sight.)
And then Kathy turned it on. Not only was she running, she was going to finish strong. This last 1/4 mile was hers. And I was in awe. It was Kevin the RD who jarred me out of it. "Hey. We need to get up there with her to give her an official time."
That's right. There was no cut off. The clock was running until the last finisher crossed the line. So the truck roared to life and we followed Kathy in to the finish. Close enough to give her a mostly accurate time, but hopefully I gave her enough room to not feel crowded.
A window opened in the truck and I heard Kevin yell out: 7:04!
And the runners and their support crew at the finish erupted in an explosion of cheering. The race was over. The final finisher crossed the line, and fell into the arms of her friend.
It is estimated that Kathy spent an extra hour to hour and a half wandering around in the snow covered desert of Western Colorado. We think we know where she made a wrong turn, and we think we understand how she got caught in a loop. And what it comes down to is, that could have been any of us. Due to the vegetation, snow cover, and rock formations, once you were ten feet off the main track, you couldn't really see the main track. And it was a maze of trails back there. The getting lost is ordinary - almost to be expected.
But perseverance? Waving off the truck was perseverance.
Running it in was perseverance.
Picking it up and giving a kick to the finish was not only perseverance, but (if you'll forgive the phrase) pure bad-assery.
I can only hope that I can find that kind heart and perseverance as I undertake my year of adventure.
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