It's less than 24 hours after my first Ultra Marathon Relay and, as with most of my races I like to take time to reflect on what I had experienced. Between last nights late drive home and this mornings recovery run I was able to put my my thoughts and feelings into perspective.
Looking back over the past year it's a crazy story how I ended up running some extreme trails in Hell, MI on a late September day. I'll spare you with the details of where it all began but will mention that all of this started with an unlikely friendship. A friendship that I'm extremely grateful for and lucky to have. With that being said I didn't quite know that this friendship would play such a big role in my life until today.
Most of the people in my life know my Achilles heel has been that I'm a creature of habit. So for me taking the opportunity to run some trails when I've been stuck on pavement was a huge leap. It may sound silly but putting this race on my calendar was a huge for opportunity for me, one that I've been looking forward to for quite some time.
I'm off !! My first leg of the race and honestly I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that it was a 6 mile leg of rolling hills and that I had to follow the pink flags. Heading into the woods solo was awesome. I had no idea where I was going and what I was about to experience. I quickly found a comfortable pace or so I thought until I rolled my ankle (twice). Shortly after tripping on a root so I decided to back off the throttle and enjoy the run, besides this was just for fun. After about a mile I began to catch runners and remembering the lesson on trail etiquette that my friend Maureen gave me, my new favorite saying became "on your left" as I began to pass the runners ahead of me. After passing about 15 runners I was hooked. I'm not a hunter but that's exactly what I felt like in the woods. With every twist and turn I couldn't wait to set my sights on the next athlete so I could make the pass. Looking back at that first leg the finish is what prompted this chapter. Flying down hill to a cheering crowd and not really knowing anyone except my friend Maureen I began to noticed some familiar faces from the the night before. All of their cheering and screaming for me to catch the runner in front of me drove me to pick up the pace. I was flying not only because of the cheering but because I wanted to put distance in between me and the girl that was dressed like a Ninja Turtle. Appropriately Maureen was there for the hand off and with a kind smile I think she knew that I was loving every second of this race.
As the hours began to pass the team that I was on began to loosen up, as did I. As we traveled between exchange points a little bit more of their personalities began to shine through that cloudy cool day. The Mud Mama's were becoming a family or at least that's how I felt. Maureen, the leader of the team feeling under the weather soldiered through her legs showing that she is a pure runner and athlete at heart. Shannon, powered through some tough and at times monotonous running (completing the same leg twice) and probably pushed me to run harder knowing she is one bad ass athlete. Maggie was the sparky little runner who, in hindsight forced me to run faster mainly because I didn't want to let her speed beat mine although I think it did. Finally there was Mindy a team player who picked up some extra miles running all with a smile on her face. I'm still not sure where my place was on the team but each of the girls (in their own way) made me feel as if I was part of the family and that in itself was worth the trip.
All of these thoughts were circulating through my head today as I savored the entire experience. Being able to share it with people, who throughout a 10 hour period grew from strangers to teammates to friends all because of our love for competition and running.
Running, what a funny sport. It has the power to bring complete strangers together. Strangers who over time become a family all because we decide to lace up and put one foot in front of another out on the road or in the woods. A family who understands that drive inside that makes us go out and do that extra mile and more importantly supports that drive. So whether it's your neighbor who gets up at 5:00 am to help you through a long run, someone at the local running club or someone you've connected with online cherish and continue to support them. Support their pace, their drive and their heart because like I recently discovered with the Mud Mama's we are all one big family.