"Its the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting."
For close to a year I have dreamed, day in day out, of crossing the finish line at the Grand to Grand Ultra, a 270km self supported stage race along the rim of the Grand Canyon. So much time, energy, sacrifice and commitment went into this adventure, and nothing was going to stop me from crossing that finish line.
Something did stop me from crossing that finish line, my body. And I was the one battling with my Ego to, either, continue and realize my dream or not continue and have my dream burst like a bubble, just like that.
The adventure began on a beautiful morning with the sun rising over the Grand Canyon creating a breathtaking backdrop. The sun rose in a majestic way, quickly warming up out cold bodies and gently reminding us of her dominance and strength. The energy in the air was tangible with over 100 runners ready to embark on this Grand adventure. Some were grinning as big as they could, others were quietly within themselves meditating on the task ahead, and then there were others dancing around to the music that was playing, obviously ready to run and have fun.
I stepped up to the start line feeling calm and ready. My body felt great, my mind felt strong and my spirit was fueled by the idea of realizing the dream that had accompanied me for the past year. The first two days unfolded fantastically. I quickly learned that it wasn't only about how quickly you got to the finish line, but about what happened on the way to the finish line. Amazing bonds were formed with fellow runners as you covered many kilometers of ground together, helping one another through the hard patches, laughing about life and learning more about life by being, listening and talking.
I can't explain what it is about running, but it truly frees the spirit and makes you more open to life and other people. That is why I love to run with other people, especially in a race like the Grand 2 Grand, because most people seem to have this unspoken understanding between one another, and even though we are all strangers you feel this weird sense of familiarity and respect. We just get one another and are all equals. To me, running creates this beautiful reflection of what life should be like and how it should be absorbed. It is not always easy, on the contrary, it is often very challenging, but it shows that, when you love something it will bring out the best in you. Thats why we runners can relate, because when we are out there taking in the beautiful sights and absorbing life, we are the best version of ourselves, raw, real and free.
Day three was the day to overcome, a 53 mile day with a very high percentage of sand ( I mean VERY high), cactus dodging, scrambling and traversing sand dunes. I was lucky enough to embark on this day with one of the amazing people I met during the run, Rebecca. The day started out fantastically with lots of chit chatting and laughing which created the illusion that we happily floated the first 10km of the course. We crested the first climb and entered, what was to be, a long day in the sand. I began to feel this weird pain on my shin bone, a pain I didn't pay too much attention to initally, but as it began to intensify I began pondering over the cause of that pain. I decided that it must be because of all the sand in my shoes, creating tension in my tendons. I emptied my shoes certain that I would feel some relief with my next steps, but the pain was still there. I then decided that my ankles must be swelling causing the anklet that I was wearing to give me a pressure sore. I cut off the anklet, again convinced that my pain would magically disappear, yet again there was no difference. I gave myself no other choice than to persevere and ignore the pain, because this was not part of the dream, it wasn't in the plan.
In great company, we ran all day long and into the night. Conversations were helping me distract from the discomfort, but when we hit the sand dunes I had this sense that my dream wasn't going to come to fruition.
Hypnotized by the pain (I was familiar with) I followed behind Rebecca and Gianfranco. It was a pain I knew, a pain I'd had 3 times before, the pain of a stress fracture. As we got to checkpoint 7 I got the Medic to check out my pain, quietly hoping he'd say I'm being soft and I should just continue running. But thats not exactly what he said, and without a definite diagnosis, his guess was the same as mine - a stress fracture. My mind went into overdrive, I could be tough and just keep on going, taking on the risk of injuring myself even more, but, as a reward, realizing my dream. Or I could be sensible and listen to the voice of my body that was loudly speaking, acutally shouting, at me.
I once had another dream, to escape the clutches of anorexia. I realized that dream, and promised myself that I would respect and listen to my body, that I would treat it with compassion. As I was sitting at the campfire, stewing over my decision, I looked down at my right forearm, where I have the word compassion tattoed. The purpose of that tattoo took on its full power in that moment, because it reminded me of the accountability I promised to have towards myself and others. I went to sleep for a few hours, knowing in my heart that my decision was made, but still living in the hope that by the morning the pain would disappear. It hadn't, and with a heavy heart I took my running shoes off, marking the end of the race for me.
I believed that taking off my running shoes would also mark the end of my dream, but life loves to prove us wrong. Over the past week I have had alot of time to think and feel into myself. My dream is now more alive than ever, because previously I only dreamed of the finish line, in some ways already bringing an end to the dream. All dreams have a beginning, and I never dreamed of the start line, now I realize that, without a start line there can be no finish line. I'm lucky, because my dream continues in a much richer way. It is now filled with incredible people, vital lessons, a new sense of self respect and gratitude that this journey continues until its my time to cross the finish line.
I am living my dream!