Intent: “The State of Mind with which an Act is Done.”
Goal: “An Aim or a Result.”
The GOAL was to make our way up from south of Cape Kyan to Cape Hedo. This would be the southern point of the island of Okinawa to the most northern point (as the crow flies 66 miles, but we weren’t running “as the crow flies”). We took on the challenge in January and made the attempt in mid-April. I knew we needed more weeks of training, but I accepted less training to save us from the heat and humidity that is sure to hit the island at any time. I have run in Houston. I have run in Florida. I have run in Abu Dhabi. I have run in 29 Palms and Las Vegas too. The heat and humidity of Okinawa make it the most challenging place I have ever run. We had to do the run as early in the spring as possible; yet, we needed as much training as possible. I will preface this by stating that we weren’t running 5k’s in January. By January we were marathon trained. We had each run full marathons, and Kellie had run 30 miles on her 30th birthday in December. We had a ton of base miles. It was simply time to take it to the next level.
The INTENT over the past year has been to share positivity about physical activity and the beauty of Okinawa through social media. We are now over a year into the Covid pandemic, and with the pandemic, we have experienced round-after-round of restrictions placed on us by our military leadership and the Japanese leaders. Each week, we wait to see what is being taken away from us, or what freedoms we are granted. Travel off the island has been it’s own challenge, so making the most of our little island has been my intention over the past year. I also wanted to share the beauty of Okinawa on social media to remind people that we are in a magnificent space. Reminding people to “control what you can control” was another message, and the consistent reminder that moving the body is a good thing has also been one of my intentional messages. For a year, I have shared running pictures on my social media, so when it was time for our big traverse, we shared it on social media too.
What happens when your friends don’t have much to do on a Saturday, or when they are excited that you have set a REALLY BIG GOAL, and they want to be a part of it? They show up. It never occurred to me that people would show up to cheer us on, and they did. It never occurred to me that people would want to actually be on the course with us, and they did. For over 30 miles of our trek, we had friends on the course with us. It was a serious sign of support. We had friends bring their kids out with signs. We had friends telling their kids about setting goals and working to reach your goals. We had friends telling their daughters that women can do hard things. We had done something that had not been at the forefront of our minds, but we had met our intention: to use health & wellness to spread positivity.
THE TRAVERSE: The first 4 hours flew by. We woke up at 3:30am, and left the starting point at a few minutes after 5am. Our 4-hour mark would be a stop at McDonald’s where I field stripped a breakfast value meal, which means I cut it up into bite size pieces, put it in zip lock baggies, and stuffed those baggies into my Camelback.
I took pictures as we hit various military bases and shared our status on Facebook. Kellie was sharing on Instagram. Our friends could see our progress and could roughly calculate when we would be in their neck of the woods. We had plenty of food, but we began running out of fluids. A friend of Kellie’s bought us big waters, and we refilled our Camelbacks. Other friends brought us candy and bars. We cruised up the highway with friends jumping in, giving us high-fives, snapping pictures with us, and rooting us on. It was incredible.
I feel as if I should share HOW important seeing our friends was. For a year now, banquets, balls, parties, seminars, luncheons, all social activities that are made up of large groups have been cancelled because of the pandemic. Planning a simple lunch with a friend is a challenge because week-after-week, we weren’t sure if we could actually meet while staying compliant with our restrictions. Running down 58 and seeing our friends felt like a party. We saw SO many FRIENDS all in ONE DAY. We have not been able to that in over a year. It was such a special treat!
THE PHYSICAL PART: I still felt really good at 30 miles, but something happened shortly thereafter. The tops of my feet started really bothering me. I got into my head because I was so concerned that it was the onset of a stress fracture. Thoughts like: how far do I push this if it IS a stress fracture? Am I willing to give up the next 8-16 weeks of recovery if I really screw myself up today? How slow will I end up having to walk this if I am breaking my foot? We showed up to our next stop at almost 35 miles into the traverse and over 9 hours. I needed a serious mental reset. Looking back, I took way too long there, but at the time, I knew I needed to “start over.” I changed, ate, saw friends, saw my guy and my dog, and began anew.
10 miles later and another quick stop allowed me to change my shoes again, and this was the game-changer for my feet. They felt so much better. The other 2 pair had been tied perfectly for “normal” running conditions. They were too tight for the swelling going on when I had been on them for over 12 hours.
The sun was starting to set about 6:30, and we knew that we would be saying bye to our friends soon. At around 9pm, we hit about 50 miles. In ultra-standards 50 miles is the real deal. I have run over 26.2 miles a couple of times, but I have never run 50 miles. This felt big.
And then I don’t know what happened. No more pictures. Not many memories. All a big blur. Instead of meeting our crew every 10 miles. We were now meeting them every 3. Instead of talking and laughing, we were moving in silence. Instead of food tasting scrumptious and delicious, eating became a chore. Instead of being positive and a light, it was dark outside, and my thoughts turned dark. Then a crew member said that we had many more miles than I had been tracking. It would be 6-8 more hours than I was tracking, depending on how slow we would be moving, and I lost it. My brain could not understand where I miscalculated. We had spent so much time on maps and working the numbers. How could I be off by 6 miles? What had I done wrong? When the brain only focuses on what I had done wrong, the brain is not capable of allowing you to move forward.
I had hit the wall, and the wall was bigger than anything I had imagined it being. It wasn’t concrete. It was the vast black hole of nothingness. It was a black hole with no light. It was a black hole that didn’t want me in it. I was pushed out. I could not climb the wall. I could not enter into the black hole, and after 22 hours and 11 minutes, at 3:23am, and at 70.28 miles, we found a stop light, and we called it.
Our husbands came to get us, and we hugged, got in the cars, and we headed home. I cried. I had not been strong enough to push past the wall. I didn’t meet pain in the intimate way in which I had wanted to. My legs were tired, but I wasn’t depleted. I just could not fathom another 6 to 8 hours of movement. As much as I wanted to get to Hedo, this was not the day.
Upon reflection, had we hit the Hedo goal, the celebration would have been all about hitting the goal. It would have been a fun, yet self-centered celebration. Because we didn’t hit it, the day became all about celebrating our community, and I CHOOSE COMMUNITY over SELF any day! Will I try again? Yes. Will it be just me out there putting one foot in front of the other? Yes. Will I share it on social media? Maybe after I complete it, but for now, I am just going to sit in gratitude. I moved 70 miles with my good friend Kellie, and we had the most memorable, amazing day.
Intention. Purpose. Plan. I’d say we met all 3, and we met them because we are loved and supported by so many amazing people.