This morning, I awoke to my husband holding his phone in front of my face. Confused, I scrolled through the message he wanted me to read. I was no less confused when I finished reading it.
“A 1990 Toyota pickup truck crossed the double solid yellow line and struck and killed 42-year-old Sylvia Elizabeth Ravaglia.” I must have read that wrong. I must still be asleep.
I just saw Sylvia two weeks ago in town! She was on the podium for placing in our age group at Kona’s Jingle Bell 5k. I remember saying to Bree Brown “Well I’m glad I didn’t actually race this one, because I don’t stand a chance of placing when Sylvia shows up!”
Since I’d known her, she could run further and faster than me, even though we were the exact same age. The first time I met Sylvia was in January 2018, when my husband Patrick did HURT 100, a trail race that features grueling terrain, gnarly roots, 20 stream crossings, and a cumulative gain of 25,000 feet.
Sylvia Ravaglia was the woman who had completed HURT 100 not once, not twice, but five times… in a row. In 2018, I was at HURT 100, crewing for Patrick. Sylvia’s husband Mark and daughter Tiffany were there as her crew members. In 2019, it was Mark’s turn, and Sylvia crewed for him. After the race, Mark explained how running a challenging event that meant so much to her brought the two of them closer.
Sylvia was a true soul runner and Hawai’i Island’s “Queen of Trail Running.” She was the only Big Island competitor to complete five HURT 100 races, as well as win the Mauna to Mauna Ultra 155-mile stage race.
Sylvia made running fun by doing things like acknowledging all the volunteers and how they helped her get through HURT 100. She ordered 200 silicone bracelets and handed them to every volunteer during her 2018 race. That year, her 10-year old daughter Tiffany paced her in through the last seven and a half miles, and even finished with her!
In 2017, Sylvia proved just how much grit and determination she possessed by finishing HURT 100 with a broken rib!
Patrick and I would chat with her when we were boarding our plane back to Kona, HI after one of the many HURT races on Oahu that they both ran. Like Patrick, Sylvia’s husband Mark coaches cross-country, so she and I were the cross-country wives, standing on the sidelines cheering at meets!
And now she’s gone… before the end of the first day of the decade. But man, did Sylvia live!
Sylvia once told Rani Henderson in an interview that:
“HURT offers us a chance to really appreciate living in this beautiful world. For 35 hours, I get to live in this world where everything is good, where all the things that are scary in the world don’t exist, and where everyone loves to run and be one with nature.”
As I re-read these words, tears spot my keyboard. Sylvia knew how to appreciate this beautiful world. HURT 100 offered her that chance and she took it. She found that place where everything is good and everyone is one with nature. How many of us can say that about our own lives?
While Sylvia was alive, she found a way to experience the good, even though the world is a scary place. A place where a kind, tenacious, authentic, inspirational, loving Mom and wife can be hit and killed while walking in her own town on New Year’s Day. It hurts my heart and makes my stomach turn.
And it makes me wonder why there are SO many more pedestrian accidents lately (the number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads in 2018 was the highest in 28 years). Is it because the majority of us are perpetually in a state of rushing around? Or distracted by our phones? That may be a huge part of it.
Sylvia brought her parrot to one of the meets at HPA, the high school her husband coaches for. And then we talked about Ultra Running magazine and how cool it would be to write for them.
A 42-year-old runner who inspired so many of us in Hawai’i is gone. There is a gaping hole in the heart of the Big Island’s small, tight-knit running ohana.
The reality that life is short pummels us like the waves that were going off at Pine Trees beach yesterday.
Life is too short to allow my priorities to remain as off as they got in 2018. Like a negligent driver, I’ve been rushing through life for far too long. Jamming my day so full that my only option is to rush.
Distracted by my phone. Looking at it when I should be watching the sunset, or listening to my husband, or running, or writing this blog! As the driver of my life, I wonder how much I have missed and how many people I’ve hurt in my hurry.
Life is short. And life is what we’re missing when we’re rushing and distracted and shackled to technology.
At a time when many of us are setting goals for 2020 and talking about New Year’s Resolutions, waking up to this message solidified a commitment I’m making to myself in 2020. Less rushing. Less to rush THROUGH. More being aware and connected and present.
More time to listen and to love and to laugh. More time to write stories worth sharing. More time to live a story worth telling.
How will you live this year? Will you rush past volunteers or stop to give them a bracelet and radiate gratitude? Will you take the opportunity to really appreciate living in this beautiful world and share it with others? Will you find those spaces where life is good?
Will you settle down on the sidelines of your own life, where it is comfortable and possibly the scariest place in the world, as you can never truly live there? Or will you run all 100 miles of your life and inspire others?
How will you live this year? Like the distracted driver? Or like Sylvia?