Being an athlete involves training, some natural-born talent, strength, stamina and an immense amount of determination, dedication and drive. Noah and I watched athleticism at its finest on the morning of June 28. We stood by the finish line of The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and watched in awe as runners crossed the finish line. This race is the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race, beginning in Squaw Valley, California and ending 100.2 miles later in Auburn, California. Since it began in 1974, it has evolved into one of the ultimate endurance tests in the world, as runners from all over the globe climb more than 18,000 feet and descend nearly 23,000 feet before reaching the finish line.
This race is extreme. You must meet special qualifications in order to participate. There were 371 people selected to run the race and only 254 runners finished within the required 30 hours or less. It is obvious that it takes a special person to be able to accomplish such a feat and that not all of us could do something so difficult.
As Noah and I cheered for the runners crossing the finish line, I found myself wishing I could do what they do. I kept thinking, ‘I wish I could be an athlete.’ I re-lived a hike Noah and I accomplished prior to my 2013 disk herniation. We hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park. This trail leads to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall, which rises 2,425 feet above the Valley floor. The elevation gain is more than 2,700 feet. The feeling I had when standing at the top of the waterfall was indescribable – feeling of accomplishment and inspiration. I knew this feeling was miniscule compared to what the runners felt after crossing the 100-mile finish line, however, I still felt that connection and yearned for that feeling again.
Each time I saw a runner complete the race, it was a whole new awe-inspiring experience. I became misty-eyed seeing significant others embrace their partners who finished the race. A man carried his two-month-old daughter across the finish line. Others held hands with their children and ran through the finish line. An extra-special moment was when a man from Spain finished the race. I watched his girlfriend look at him with such admiring eyes and embrace him. Then to my surprise, he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him! She said yes! I absolutely love living in Auburn, ‘The Endurance Capital of the World.’ It is motivating to see people so active, healthy and pushing their bodies beyond what some may think is possible.
There are ‘pacers’ in the event– people who run with the runners near the end of the race to help keep them up to speed and at a good pace. My husband, Noah, is my ‘pacer’ in life, providing immense support. But at the end of the day, the fate of each runner is in his or her own hands. They are the only ones who can physically make themselves cross that finish line. For us patients, no matter how much help and support we have, it is up to us to take care of ourselves and lead the best life we can. We are all in our own ‘Endurance Run.’ Rather than having a 100-mile mark destination, our ‘Endurance Run’ is our PKD journey. I know my body was not designed to run 100 miles in 30 hours, but I possess some qualities of an athlete that help me overcome my health issues. Sometimes when I have setbacks and get kicked down, those are the moments I feel the strongest. My stamina, determination, dedication and drive fuel my strength to keep fighting. I’m an athlete training to live the best life possible.
What qualities do you possess that help you overcome your health issues?