Medical Athlete

My husband and I live in Auburn, CA, known as “The Endurance Capital of the World.” The Auburn State Recreation Area is within walking distance from our home. This breathtaking park has more endurance sporting events than any other place in the world. One is The Western States Trail Run, which is a 100-mile ultra marathon on trails in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains starting in Squaw Valley, CA and ending in Auburn, CA. There is also The Tevis Cup, which is a one-day, 100-mile equestrian endurance ride on steep and rugged terrain from Squaw Valley, CA and finishing in Auburn.

Auburn State Rec Area Tevis Cup

Our home is located in an area that encompasses physically and mentally strong athletes who yearn to tackle the awe-inspiring and challenging topography. Athletes’ stamina, strength and agility amaze and inspire me. I have a competitive spirit and fierce determination. I often express to Noah how I wish I could be out there beating down the trails and participating in endurance events. Recently, when I expressed these thoughts, Noah responded, “You’re a medical athlete.” This made me smile. As these four words settled in over a few days, I realized what a profound statement Noah made.

“Heroism…is endurance for one moment more.” – George Kennan


The definition of endurance is the ability to withstand hardship, adversity or stress; continuing under pain or distress without resistance, or without being overcome. Endurance accurately describes athletes, PKD warriors and those that battle other health issues. Now, I look at my health duties through the eyes of an athlete. For instance, when the automatic doors at the Emergency Room open, that is the start line of an endurance event. The tests, my arms becoming pincushions, lack of sleep, and dealing with doctors are the rugged terrain of the competition. When I exit the hospital, the sun shines on my body and I take off my ID bracelet. I have successfully crossed the finish line.

Medical Athlete

I had a new patient appointment with a doctor yesterday. We spent an hour reviewing all of my medical history. He was surprised by all the medicine I take on a daily basis and my long list of health issues for such a young woman. My new doctor was pleased to see the smile on my face and positive attitude despite all he read from my chart on his computer. I told him, “I know I can’t run 100 miles, but my husband says I’m a medical athlete.” My doctor smiled big and said, “You’ve run more than 100 miles. You’ve done that, and some.”

Athletes have their individual training routines to prepare for their races. We as patients have our own custom training schedules to prepare for life. Instead of doing long runs, aggressive hikes and hot yoga, we may be making doctor phone calls, dealing with insurance paperwork, going to appointments and taking our daily medicine. All of this keeps us strong and healthy for the next event or rock that may be placed on our trail of life. As a medical athlete, I’m proud to live in “The Endurance Capital of the World.”

Endurance Capital Western States Trail Run

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” – William James


  1. Wendy

    You have been an inspiration to me since I read your book. I enjoy reading your stories. You are a medical athlete. Your husband picked a great athletic name for you. I do hope you are doing well.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Wendy,
      I will always treasure how we met and will never forget the visit in the hospital when we first saw each other. Thank you for your support and reading my blog. You are a medical athlete too! 🙂 Big hugs!


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