Today seems like the opportune time for my first post. No, I didn’t just get out of the shower. This is me drenched after a long run in the rain. Two hours hanging out in the pouring rain, shivering cold, blasting wind, getting strange looks from the out-of-towners huddled under umbrellas all excited to see the D.C. monuments. Let me tell you–it was glorious.
Those tourists, along with a lot of other people, might ask, “Why? Why the eff would you spend your Saturday morning getting soaked while trudging along trails in utter pain?!” The simple answer…it makes me feel alive. And that’s what I crave. The more complicated answer requires me to backtrack a year or so. Allow me to explain.
One year ago, I was a student working for my master’s degree in broadcast journalism from American University. For my end-of-the-year capstone project, I was to asked to produce a mini-documentary. I remember pitching idea after idea to my professor and getting idea after idea shot down in front of my entire class. Right about when I was on the verge of turning into Waterworks Jackie, I found the story. Two guys and their support crew were planning on running from D.C. to Boston to raise money for the Boston Marathon bombing victims. That’s about 450 miles. What?! Unheard of. I had to know more. So I contacted the main dude–Frank Fumich (more on him later)–and he told me that if I was crazy enough to join them, I’d be in good company. Working and sleeping for a week in an RV crammed with six sweaty dudes? “Sounds like fun–count me in!” Little did I know that this school assignment was about to change my life.
I could literally go on for days about what this experience entailed (think sleepless nights, deep conversations with these insane dudes, interactions with cops, amusing reactions from onlookers and sickening dead-of-summer temperatures), but I’ll spare all the details. You can get a glimpse of what happened in this project intended originally just for school:
What I will say is that the thing that struck me the most was just how far these guys were willing to push themselves and how much pain they were willing to endure for their purpose. Man, I tell ya, when they finished their 450-mile trek by running the Boston Marathon course, my goosebumps were out of control. I asked myself, “Why?!” Why would these guys take time off work, take time away from their families, put their health and lives in danger and deliberately suffer? And even though they gained attention from the media and others, it wasn’t about them. No. It was about showing the world that there exists great determination and willpower to push the limits of what an individual can do and how that can ultimately better mankind. Words cannot express how incredibly honored and truly humbled I felt to be able to witness the events and interactions that I did. Oh and by the way, they managed to raise about $80,000 for the families of the bombing victims.
See, I’ve run marathons for years, but until last year, running to me was nothing more than a good time and a good challenge. But having found this story for a grad school project was a blessing in disguise. I ended up abandoning much of my schoolwork (no regrets) for engaging in conversation with these amazing individuals and providing support–worth much more to me than an A+. And in the end, this group of runners redefined for me what running is and can be about. As soon as I got home from Boston, I signed up for my first ultra (you can read about my treacherous experience here). I’m not going to pretend like I gained oceans of wisdom and now know everything there is to know about running–I didn’t, and I definitely don’t. Honestly, I was a little shit head when I went to cover the journey, and that one week has changed me in so many ways. But I’m still learning and growing. Like every journey, there’s lessons to be learned every single day. But I do know that I no longer run just for me. It’s no longer about rushing to the finish line. To me, running is now about setting an example–an example of just how far determination and a relentless spirit can get you, an example of how to use one’s gifts to help others in need and an example of how we should all embark on the endless opportunities for adventure that this world provides–an example of how we all too can strive to lead “the ultra life.” Get out there. Adventure awaits.