I was recently a pacer/ handler for a very special person in my life as she completed an endurance feat. What is a pacer or handler, you ask? In ultramarathon races, runners are allowed to have a running buddy or coach run with them later in the race as they travel through the mountains often at night to complete their 50-100 mile race. The pacer helps the participant find the route and keeps them safe and motivated to finish no matter what.
I had the honor this time of coaching my friend, and as soon as we started the journey I knew we were in for an amazing race. This event was not a typical 50K, 50 mile, or 100 mile trail run, because she did not know how long the distance was when she started. When my companion reached the first medical check point, she was told to keep going and she would be finished in 12-24 hours!
Luckily her mom, dad, and sister were also there to help, and met her at every crossroad to cheer her on. They provided comfort and strength when she most needed it.
After informing me that she was experiencing a lot of pain she asked, “Why are we doing this?” I had to remind her that the prize for finishing the event was much better than the Leadville finisher’s belt buckle. It’s even better than the award from the most prestigious 100 mile trail race, Western States. Seriously? What could be better than a Western States buckle?
She kept moving forward and soon I knew we were getting close to the end of our journey as we entered one of the last medical check points. She had the last part of the course to finish which was the most difficult. I can only compare it to the Hillary Step on Mt Everest where climbers must ascend a precipitous rock ledge at 28,800 ft elevation just before continuing on to the summit. The air is thin and supplemental oxygen is needed to make it to the top.
At the moment she crossed the finish line, the most amazing miracle happened. My wife and I were awarded with the most priceless gift anyone could ever receive. The tiny precious bundle made the difficult traverse worth all the pain and labor. My best friend, wife and mother of my daughter is indeed an amazing endurance athlete and made it through the race with great courage and strength.