An Evening Among Those Who Dare To Go The Distance

Last week, I shared a little introduction to ultramarathons and also the perspective of crewing an ultra.

Now, we will chat a little about one of the more extreme ultras – the Barkley marathons.

Nicknamed “The Race That Eats Its Young”, the Barkley is a 100+ mile race through Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. Barkley is a little bit of an enigma wrapped into a puzzle interwoven into one wild race. Everything from how to apply for entry, when the race will begin, and what the course will be is held under lock and key by Lazarus Lake, the race director. Since 1986, many runners have tried to complete Barkley, yet only 15 runners have finished within the 60 hour time limit. Over the winter, I watched this documentary of Barkley.

First thought, these people are insane. Second, eccentric Lazarus Lake was extremely entertaining. Third, yes, these people are definitely crazy. But yet, I couldn’t stop watching.

When race time rolled around this spring, I was intrigued to follow the runners (including NOVA runner Michael Wardian) attempt whatever the Barkley would entail for 2017. After 3 loops (which in the Barkley world is considered a “fun run”), only 2 runners remained – John Kelly (3rd Barkley attempt) and Gary Robbins (2nd Barkley attempt). I won’t spoil what happens…

Ethan Newberry, The Ginger Runner, followed and documented Gary Robbins during his 2016 and 2017 Barkley attempts. Once his project Where Dreams Go To Die was complete, Ethan & Gary went on a 15 city tour to share this emotional, powerful and inspirational journey. Lucky for me, one stop was in DC. A few of us decided we could go, I bought my ticket and quickly found out the event was sold out before anyone else could purchase. I hit up social media to find extra tickets and thanks to a retweet from Michael Wardian, we scored! On to DC!

Arriving at the theater, I found it quite interesting to look around and see who else was interested seeing a documentary about an ultra marathon. Definitely lots of bearded folks. Walking down into the theater, we ran into another local running friend Juan – didn’t know he was coming. We found seats, sat back with popcorn and beer and waited for the show to begin.
 

Amazing. Simply amazing. Watching the planning which goes into an ultra – the training, deciding and gathering your gear and fuel, communicating with your support crew – there’s a lot to consider. Every runners understands the highs and lows when you are out on the course; Barkley takes it to the extreme. The drive, the passion and the will to not only continue, but to succeed, is admirable.

After the movie, we were treated to a Q&A panel by Ethan, Gary and a special guest, the 15th Barkley finisher and MD resident, John Kelly. Very cool.

Listening to the questions from the audience presented to the panel, I felt like I shared at least an iota of the same personality they have. I also realized some people just don’t get it (and that’s okay). Some people won’t understand; they will ask why? Why would you do this? This distance? This extreme?

I still say, why not? Why not see what you are capable of? Why not see how far you can push?

‘Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.’ – Joubert Botha

Will I ever consider even applying for a Barkley type event? Maybe, maybe not. In the past few years, I have definitely learned to “never say never”.

The first running steps I took were training for a 5k, then I pushed a little more, then just a bit more and eventually worked my way to a marathon. And now, I’m 11 days away from my first ultra.

Am I scared? Of course. Am I nervous? Heck yes. But the fear and the overwhelming idea of running 50 miles will not hold me back. I will not give up.

I’m still writing my story, one chapter at a time, one mile at a time. It’s not over yet…

Dare to Jump

“It is not failure itself that holds you back; it is the fear of failure that paralyzes you.” – Brian Tracy

Some days blog topics come easy, and some days I feel like I’m searching and searching for something to write about. Most of the time, the answer is right there in front of me based on an experience I am either going through or preparing for.

Later this week, I am going to attempt my first official speaking engagement, or rather share my story publicly which sounds way much less intimidating.

I absolutely DREAD standing in front of a crowd and speaking. The thought of doing this is probably just as bad as a fear of the dentist, or nails on a chalkboard.

Yes, that bad.

The thought of being in front of a gathering of people, all eyes on me, is paralyzing.

I worry about what I say, what people are thinking, wishing I was funnier, wishing I could crawl under a table and hide. Fear of judgement. Fear of failure. Fear of passing out.

I’m surprised I haven’t had the cliche dream about imagining I’m in front of an audience and I am only in my underwear….there’s still time.

Yes, I realize I teach group fitness classes and coach a kids running club, but that’s different. Once I’m moving, I get in the zone and my mind just flows better. Hmm, maybe I’ll do jumping jacks while I tell my story.

Back to this heart-pounding experience I am preparing myself for.

A wise man told me recently to be successful, I need to share myself with others. Go out and tell my story to anyone who would listen.

So, in a few days, I am going to put on my big girl panties and just do it. Tell a group about my weight loss and return to running journey. I don’t plan on writing out what I plan to say; just a basic outline. I want to speak from the heart and hopefully something I will say will inspire someone.

Do you share my fear of public speaking? Are you afraid of change? Do you fear being uncomfortable? Maybe you want to start working out but you fear stepping into the gym for the first time? Perhaps you have an idea for a business but you fear the jump.

I will tell you there is beauty in taking the road unknown. Every time we push ourselves into an area we fear, we have a great opportunity to learn about ourselves. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is important for personal development.

As I prepared for this post, I came across this article from Forbes: Why Feeling Uncomfortable Is The Key To Success.

An excerpt: “…when you go out of your way to experience new things, or when you let new things happen to you, your body creates brand new neural pathways that fuel your creative spark and enhance your memory”.

The article goes on to explain how we should embrace the uncomfortable. “Putting yourself in new and unfamiliar situations triggers a unique part of the brain that releases dopamine, nature’s make-you-happy chemical.” How about that!? Our fear may actually make us happy!

I challenge you to take a step outside your comfort zone into the fear zone with me. Make a plan and let’s dip our toes into the unknown ocean together.

Let’s give ourselves a chance to grow.

Remember, you are only confined by the walls you build yourself.

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And no… I am not telling you when and where this will speaking engagement will be. Maybe after I get this first one in the bag, another “Story Time with Becky” will come to your town soon 😉