There’s nothing like a ballistic missile threat to wake you up and make you ask the important questions. Truthfully, I thought my 2017 efforts at identifying what I’m after were pretty impressive. Until James, Sarah and JE interrupted my delightful, tropical shower on January 13th, 2018.
“I know you’re in the middle of your shower, but there’s a missile headed toward Hawaii. I’m not joking. Check your phone,” James called. So, of course, I wrapped myself in my Little Mermaid towel and ran into the simple, peaceful dorm room where everyone who was crewing for my boyfriend Patrick was residing for the weekend.
Well, that looks legit… and terrifying.
Have you ever seen your life flash with pending doom before your eyes? I hadn’t, until I got this text message. For 38 minutes, I prayed and hoped for the best. But even the most positive person (me) can’t help but imagine the worst… Dying at the hand of a ballistic missile, but dying with some new and old friends, in Hawaii. I knew where I was going if I died. Me and Jesus got that part worked out. But if I was living… Well, things were going to be different, of that I was convinced!
A mere two hours earlier, the legendary Luis Escobar shared some words at the start of the HURT 100-mile trail race, in the dark, pre-dawn edges of the rainforest.
“No matter what happens on this journey, tomorrow… We are going to be different people. And we’re going to be connected,” Luis then had us hold the hand of the person next to us and repeat the most moving Tarahumara prayer.
“Earth my body
Water my blood
Air my breath
And fire my spirit”
I can’t remember whose hand I held while I prayed this. But it was to be the first of many of the most powerful prayers I’ve ever prayed in one solitary weekend. Two hours later I would pray that God would spare us from a ballistic missile, dripping puddles on the floor of the sunny room above a Coptic church in Honolulu. At 4am on Sunday morning, while I trudged through 7.2 miles in the dark with a shell of my boyfriend, I would pray that God would give Patrick a sign that he should and could continue running, despite his exhaustion. Shortly after the sun would rise up from the mountains, and Sergio would catch up to us, offering a few simple, but game-changing words of encouragement to Patrick. And on Sunday afternoon, I would offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God as Patrick crossed that famed HURT 100 finish line and rang that bell! We were all alive, together at the finish line.
Earth my body.
I watched one of my very best friends, Bree Wee, literally fight her own puke. As in punch it, in sheer defiance. I watched my tenacious boyfriend, Patrick Stover, face and push through what he was certain were the end of his limits.
Water my blood.
I watched my life flash before my eyes. And aside from feeling cheated out of more time with Patrick (I met him in person for the first time only the day before, and 24 hours was not nearly enough time with him!) I was content with this ending. But 38 minutes after the missile threat was issued, it was retracted.
Air my breath.
I watched Patrick fight through pain, exhaustion, doubt and a lot of dark moments. Proud does not even begin to describe how I felt about him, as well as the other athletes who ran, hiked and fought through the entire 100 grueling miles of HURT 100. When he turned to me at the end of Loop 4 and said “I’m going for it” I knew nothing would come between Patrick and that finish line!
Fire my spirit.
I watched the athletes emerge from the other end of that very long, sleep-deprived weekend in the rainforests and mountains above Honolulu different people. But I never anticipated how much the experience would change me. A missile threat, 48 hours of no sleep, working as a team with friends and strangers who quickly became ohana (gosh, I love all of you so much!) and seeing so many athletes push past what they were certain was the end of their limits all has a way of a making one face their own weaknesses and limits. Truly I am not the same person I was I when I left New Hampshire.
Sometime between 3 and 4am on Sunday morning, I had this distinct feeling wash over me as I trudged alongside Patrick, with the stars winking at me from behind swaying bamboo branches… My past and present and future seemed to be colliding, blurring into an indistinguishable, profound reality. In what could have been four hours, but was easily four minutes, it was evident that everything I had gone through over the past tumultuous four years had been leading me to HURT and these runners and Hawaii. The missile threat earlier that day was hardly a distant memory. It was, however, a potent reminder of how life is too short not to be myself. Certainly too short not to live a life I am madly in love with!
Sometime between 3 and 4am, my dreams were materializing before me. Visions I had caught a glimpse of while running at Mine Falls, and when I ran the Twilight Challenge, and dashed through the woods from bonfire to bonfire under a New Hampshire full moon, and then cheered for the ultra runners. Out there with Patrick between 3 and 4 am I was overwhelmed by the reality of it all. “Wait, this is what I saw! Trails and starlight and being in love with an ultra runner and Hawaii and…”
Even now, I tear up over it, because this is the dream that God has been growing in my heart since before I knew about HURT 100 or Patrick or any of it! If a ballistic missile took my life, I would die grateful that the Lord had let me live the dream He planted in me, albeit briefly. And if I lived?
Out there on the trails, high above the lights of Waikiki, I caught another fleeting glimpse of what possibly lies ahead, as if something was starting right there on that trail.
“This is your life now Sara” echoed in my heart.
There’s nothing like a ballistic missile threat, and over 100 dreamers chasing their passion through the forest, past the doubts and dark moments, to wake you up and make you realize that life is too dang short!
“No matter what happens on this journey, tomorrow… We are going to be different people.” Luis Escobar’s words still echo in my heart.
Love and trails and adventure. The seed has been planted. I am a different person. And no matter what happens, I finally have the courage to water this one precious life!