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East Wenatchee, WA
It’s 5 a.m. and I’m sitting on a bus in Kenya, heading to the start of my first ultramarathon. Can I handle running 75K? Will I make it to the end? Do I have what it takes to survive the heat?
With a belly full of corn porridge and boiled eggs, my mind raced as each minute brought me closer to the start. Somehow, amid all my anxious thoughts, a quiet calm flooded my body as I reminded myself: I am fit. I don’t have to be fast. I just have to keep moving forward.
It had been a little more than two years since my husband, Quincy, passed away after fighting stage four prostate cancer. By the time he was diagnosed, the disease had already metastasized, taking over his body until there was nothing left. Leaving me as a single parent to our then 2-year-old daughter, Jayna, Quincy wanted me to continue living the adventurous life we had once shared together.
At first, I struggled to cope with my new reality. But eventually, I found my way back to running. I’d always been a runner, though I usually stuck to the road. After Quincy’s death, I needed a diversion to feel challenged in a completely different way. Signing up for a race that was farther than I’d ever gone before, and doing it off-road, seemed like the perfect escape from the grief.
The race began and I set out for the long day ahead. Knowing that the money from the event would fund scholarships for Kenyan girls’ education brought double meaning to the experience.
I arrived at the 13-mile point feeling great. Having the villagers, some of whom were the girls who would benefit from the proceeds, cheer me on as I ran through the African bush felt surreal. My daughter, then 5, was able to meet me at various aid stations, giving me just the boost of energy I needed. It was important that she see her mom moving forward and fighting to continue our lives in a positive way.
I made it to the final 10K stretch, where the sun was setting and I was starting to struggle. Knowing this time might come, I had brought some of Quincy’s ashes with me so that I could scatter them on the trail. In my own way, I wanted him to be part of this journey. I stopped for a few minutes, soaking in the moment. Then I continued running with a renewed spirit.
Coming up to the final pass, I spotted Jayna, who joined me to run through the finish line. Exhausted, yet high on adrenaline, I finished my first ultramarathon as the first female American of the day. Though I’m not sure healing from loss is ever complete, running this amazing event brought me one step closer to finding happiness once again.
Support girls’ education in Kenya and find out more about the Amazing Maasai Marathon at amazing maasaimarathon.com.
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