“I wonder how much easier it would be if I just checked out….”
I thought to myself quite often as the first thought that popped into my head in the mornings and the last before I entered a halfway comatose state not to be mistaken for sleep. I had completely lost track of myself, of my identity, and the only innate things I previously used to fall back on seemed so far out of reach. Every moment of every day was a game of Russian Roulette with my own thoughts.
A few nights………a few nights……I came very close. I wanted it over.
I’m no stranger to struggling, but the summer and fall of 2014 were some of the worst times I had ever been through. Being homeless, multiple job losses, drama with the family, and a very nasty separation just to name a few. It took every ounce of strength I had to survive this year. Gods honest truth. And though a person or two may characterize what I went through this year as “no extraordinaire” I never thought I’d find myself waiting in line at a food bank, doing day labor, or spending time in a shelter. There were very few I could reach out to for help or support.
In retrospect, having most of my livelihood fall away from me didn’t bother me nearly as much as not being able to do the one thing that always brought my soul to life: run. It shattered me to wake up on a day that a race was occurring that I had signed up for, and instead having to focus on other things. I missed my friends. I missed the community. I missed the rush of crossing the finish line.
Survival: it was the tune I had to march to for 6 months. No matter how much I wanted things to be different, no matter how much I hurt over someone or something, I had to accept that my life would be this way, at least long enough until an opportunity to change all that came my way. It’s really ironic though, during some of the dark moments I had through all of this which were many, the more my inner dialogue that I hear during races began to pick up. Somewhere, way deep down in there, it was becoming clearer to me that there was another type of strength that I would have to tap into, something that perhaps only a runner can truly understand. If I wanted things to change, it would take me going against every possible odd and circumstance stacked against me. A task that was daunting and one that I wasn’t even sure was possible, until that inner dialogue kicked in.
Life changed drastically. It was a new ball game. What did that mean?….
Each day became a grind. A grand hustle requiring me to wear several hats. I was now living out of backpacks and trash bags. My routine now programmed and set. I would wear the nicest clothes I had to a high profile interview, immediately change after the interview into grungy clothes to go perform day labor, which was usually then followed by hitting the library or starting the process of figuring out where dinner would come from. As for possessions like a car or bed? Gone. All but a distant memory now. I had the clothes I could carry and that’s it. Life became a blur of job interviews, food banks, day labor, and depression. I was physically and mentally exhausted. Though I didn’t know it then, this was an “ultra” of a different sort. A life ultra, and there were so many times I wanted to quit. Weeks turned into months, turned into seasons. My mind and spirit under constant assault. Self doubt, anxiety, deep regret, all overcoming me at once. This went on, and on, and on.
It wasn’t until mid November, when I was nearing the end of my wits, that an opportunity came through that allowed me to start piecing my life back together. However the damage had been done. By this point I had given away $500 in race entries, had little contact with anyone, and had fallen largely off the map. Call me proud, but I preferred to do any suffering I had to do in quiet, rarely revealing the true details about what was occurring even to those closest to me. Hard times became second nature to me. Going without is something I just accepted.
My identity and psyche had been stripped down to nothing. Most of my self esteem gone. I was very much alone and emotionally desolate. That little voice still ever present though, whispering things like “Don’t fucking quit!” I had to either accept or refuse the circumstances and change them into something else. Luckily in the end it was persistence, timing, and chasing down the opportunity I refused to let slip by that did it. I’ve cried tears of joy maybe twice before in my life, it was a wonderful feeling. All of a sudden the fight to get there was worth it. All the times I went hungry, all I had lost, all the heartache…it finally made sense. However brief that moment was, it was perfect. I had survived. I had made it. Though there would be residual things to deal with, but I was now on my way.
The only thing that kept me going was that inner dialogue telling me to dig a little deeper, to weather the storm, to stick it out and fight through adversity. I drew so much from my experience with ultras that ultimately powered me through the toughest fought struggle of my life. And though I heard people talk about and say that the effort of the spirit to survive and to power through an ultra transcends all of life, I now fully understand that. I have come full circle to believe it, experience it, and live it. It’s more than just running, it’s an attitude. It’s a way of life. It’s what I want to pass on to my friends and family. There comes a point in nearly every challenging situation where you have to decide to either continue to fight to overcome it or not. I truly believe that this saved my life. my experiences, the friends I’ve made, the runs I’ve done, the laughs I’ve shared…all saved my life. I owe thanks to all of you for this. Running saved my life. All of YOU saved my life. And though the freshness of this wonderful new chapter in my life is still very new, I am nothing but optimistic about the future. Overcoming the hardest “ultra” of my life has ignited a fire in my spirit that I’ve never felt before, and it’s wonderful. I’ve made a passionate return to training and am looking to have a banner year in 2015. I am back, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see the familiar faces again and once again feel that rush that I’ve been missing out on for what seems like a lifetime. This entire experience has humbled me and has allowed me to find happiness with even the smallest things in life. I don’t for one second take anything good in my life for granted. I know what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes now, and even though the experience nearly broke me, I am happy to have gone through it and made it out okay. I am well taken care of now, and the future is bright. My sincere thank you’s and love to my friends and those that offered support and kindness along the way. I wouldn’t have made it without you. To my running family – you will absolutely see me toeing the line again soon. I cannot wait to get back on the trails with you.
All my love, sincerity, and heart,
P.S. Never judge the person next to you. You have no idea what a day is like in their life.