It was June 4th and I was rounding the corner at Normandale Lake. I was maybe two hours into my 24 hour ultra race and feeling really good. A runner was coming toward me heading the opposite way on the path. He was smiling as he approached, but runners are friendly, and if you think the vibes are good at a marathon you should hang around an ultra! Point being, I thought nothing of it until he said "Diane!" Oh my gosh, it was my coach! Fresh off a workout at the local ski hill down the road, he ran down to the lake to catch me in action and offer support. It absolutely made the race for me. He fell in and ran the loop with me, fielding questions and talking through strategy again. In almost six years working together we had never actually run together, and I was loving it. We caught up on all the logistics: How did I feel at the start? How was fueling going? Was I running all the loops? How long was I staying at my "camp"? How often would I be changing my shoes? How was my stomach feeling so far? Had I pooped? Yes, we talk about that. You don't have to get very far into your running journey before you find yourself in conversations about pooping. And if you aren't comfortable talking about that with your coach, you may need to rethink the relationship because it holds a top five spot in Topics of Conversations About Running.
We circled into the tent area and found my crew. I introduced my coach, drank my gatorade and ate my poptart. In less than 5 minutes we were back out again, running and talking. I soaked it all up so I could recall it later when it was dark and quiet and I would need a boost. Halfway through the lap is where he needed to break off to head back to his car. We were at a bridge when we stopped and he told me that I was looking strong and my attitude was on point, and that he was proud of me. He said he would keep checking in, and then he handed me an envelope. He said I should wait and open it up when things got tough (which you can bank on during an ultra.) He gave me a hug and we ran in separate directions, me clutching my envelope and feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for this person who believed in me from day one, when I was at the end of my rope and so far from myself that it took everything I had to show up at the gym. And now here I am, doing this.
When I crossed the bridge I saw that the race volunteers had written along the pavement in big letters:
YOU'VE COME TOO FAR TO ONLY GO THIS FAR!!
That's for sure, and it would only become more and more true as the day and night wore on.
I carried my envelope with me for a few more loops, and then my daughter took it and put it away for safe keeping until I really needed it. At every mile marker I passed over that bridge and ran over that encouragement and, as suspected, I came to depend on those words:
YOU'VE COME TOO FAR TO ONLY GO THIS FAR!!
Time blends together during an ultra, but I know that sometime around midnight I asked for my envelope. I had already hit a wall and bounced back, and I was coming up against wall number two. I needed a lift; I needed my coach. My daughter took the envelope out of the side pocket of the cooler, and I sat in my camp chair and opened it up. Tears ran down my face (maybe the serendipity and synchronicity of the moment were too much for my tired body and mind to bear) when I read his note:
YOU'VE COME TOO FAR TO ONLY GO THIS FAR--KEEP GOING!! -KIRK
How in the world do things like that happen? Sometimes things just line up and I can't explain why. And I'm glad for that--I like the magic.
I'm in a tiny bit of a slump right now and when I searched the wall to find my writing prompt for day 2, this jumped out at me. I have come too far to only go this far, in every area of my life. And I will keep going. LIfe ebbs and flows, and throwing in the towel during an ebb just isn't the answer. Everything Kirk (my coach, and now my friend, too) has taught me and modeled about running, which is vast, can be lifted up and applied directly to my life. And if all that should fail I can lean on gratitude, which has been the biggest gift of this whole running endeavor.
Plus, you never know when a little serendipity is right around the corner.
(My crumpled envelope from running with it for many laps)