I may never do an Ironman again, but my experiences as a spectator, volunteer and participant have shaped me in ways that I am still unearthing. For instance, volunteering exposed me to athletes at what they may refer to as their “worst.” And I will gently remind them they were at their “rawest” and possibly their “best,” shining as only one who faces the physical, mental and spiritual challenges of a trying endurance event, and finds the grit and grace and gratitude to press on truly can! Who knew that volunteering to support these athletes, most of whom were total strangers, with their cramps and projectile vomiting (and worse) and tears and blisters and bruises, would actually prepare me for crewing and cheering for two of the most amazing people I know at the HURT 100 trail race in Hawaii this coming January?!
Well, God for one. And actually… I did. To be more accurate, I had a hunch. That evening I ran the Twilight Challenge Trail race, something stirred in my heart. When I walked into that dusty barn at twilight, and saw those runners painstakingly laying out their nutrition and spare socks on a blue plastic tarp, I sensed a new day dawning. I would only be running the 2.62 mile trail 5 times, but the ultra runners would be running the loop as many times as they could between 5pm and 11pm. I befriended some of them under the glow of the full moon, and naturally had to go back out on the course after finishing the half marathon to cheer for them. I walked the course backward, with only the light of my headlamp and the stars and moon keeping me from colliding with the trees. I cheered and dodged horse crap and cheered some more, until I made it back to the barn, where the ultra runners were triumphantly crossing their finish line!
Going home after my half marathon never even occurred to me. Even though every single one of these runners were perfect strangers to me hours before, I recognized them as kindred spirits, and recognized in myself this natural ability to care and cheer for them as only a fellow endurance athlete who also adores trail running can! Under the light of the full moon, in the shadows of the birch trees, I caught a glimpse of something.
“This is just the beginning” echoed in my heart as I drove home at midnight.
And then it happened again… I was in Denver for a business trip a few weeks later. My office for the day was a coffee shop, where I was churning through the articles that my boss has assigned me. I was in the middle of typing something like “fiber to the home” when something blew through my heart, hitting it like a gust of wind. “Someone is paying me to sit in a coffee shop in Denver and WRITE! If I can write from this little sunny spot across from the cappuccino machine, I can write from anywhere… This is just the beginning!”
The next morning I did a 7 mile run along the Cherry Creek Trail, where I encountered a fellow runner handing out sandwiches to a man on a bench. I stopped to chat with him for a moment and discovered that he had just finished a run with the Denver November Project crew that ended with a visit to the homeless who spent the night along the water. This is what they did, every Wednesday. They ran, and then they fed the homeless. “Runners can change the world. Sara, you can change the world! This is just the beginning!” were the words that played on repeat as I ran back to my hotel.
And these were not new dreams by any means. On the contrary, they were dreams that I have buried, but never truly been able to shake from my heart. Perhaps I had to roam all the way to New Hampshire to nurse my wounds and dust the cobwebs off these dreams. To fall back in love with running, find my voice and discover my strong. All the way to a place where I am for the most part unknown. It’s been five months, and I’ve still miraculously remained rather inconspicuous. For anyone who knows me, this is NOT typical. By now I should have started a triathlon team and be organizing races, right?
But when I returned from Denver, I returned more focused than ever on piecing together these resurrected dreams. I was no longer interested in wasting my energy casually dating the few dudes I’d been seeing (if you’re one of them, sorry! Don’t take it personally)! Instead, I revisited and revised my personal manifesto. I clarified what I’m after and what matters to me in life. After spending the past 10 months getting to know my OWN soul, I had a new found confidence, rooted in my ability to recognize my own dreams, that I could also recognize my soul’s mate when he came along. It was all spelled out in my journal, spanning about six months of pages actually.
Settling for anything less than all these dreams was not an option. I would put my head down and bury myself in connecting the dots of these dreams God was impressing on my heart, and in trusting His timing in all of it! This much I knew: My faith, running and writing are SO intrinsically part of my heart that I have to be with someone who inspires, supports and treasures these expressions of my heart. No exceptions!
Dots of dreams floated on the horizon… A simple, healthy, impactful life. Writing from coffee shop stools, trail running, ultras, making a difference, being part of a tribe of people courageous enough to live their dreams, living out of a backpack, having less stuff and making more memories, and Kona (no I am still not over the Big Island and its pull on my heart). I was determined to connect the dots.
As soon as I gave myself fully to this mission, doors began to open. Creaking an inch or two at first, and now… blown clean off their hinges! In 53 days, I leave for Hawaii. It’s technically only for a week… But I know when I step off that plane, my life will never be the same, and those dots will seamlessly begin to fuse at last.