Sarah Finding Fit

An unconventional look at fitness... my journey in reaching goals, laughing and having a bunch of outstanding adventures.

Posts tagged night running

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Pen to paper… here goes.

For the past few months I’ve been caught up with life. Holding myself accountable with pictures rather than pens. I wrote it out in my mind through the miles last night. So… deep breath… it’s been a while… but here goes….

Apparently trudging home in the dark leaving a small trail of tears in my wake… is a familiar scene. Stress quota gets full, I blow a gasket, and my little world explodes into a thousand pieces. With the early setting sun, evenings feel like they end too early. 6pm seems like 9 and somehow and I get lost in the day-to-day hustle. Poof, I’m Jessie Spano and there’s… “No time, there’s never any time.” Stuck, Frustrated, and Overwhelmed take up residence in my mind.

I’m usually running from work to CrossFit to cooking dinner… but when the clock hit 5:30 – I was still at my desk wrapped up in writing for anyone but myself. I felt left out, missing my 6:30 CrossFit happy hour… working out is easier when it’s fun and you’re surrounded by others and coached and propelled by competition. It’s harder when you are alone. Battling your brain.

I had to remind myself that CrossFit isn’t everything more than once while lacing up my shoes… almost convincing myself. (Yes, I’ve drank the Kool-Aid.) I haven’t glowed in a while, so before I lost my nerve, I dug out my florescent vest and trotted out my front door. Back to holding myself accountable.

My workout. My time table. My feet. Miles melted madness.

The giant pillows on my feet felt awkward but quickly coasted into a well-paced rhythm. White walk signs coaxed me through intersections… and at each potential turn back, I found that I wanted to keep going. Delving deeper into the darkness as well as my thoughts. The cool but humid air stuck to my face and clarity crystalized like the small salt ring on my damp t-shirt.

Rather than mouthing lyrics or pushing through pain… I recognized my pace, allowed myself to appreciate the work I’ve done. I’ve been caught up balancing fun and food and finding fit. I’ve hit PRs. I’ve done pull-ups. I’ve crashed my shins doing box-jumps. I’ve climbed up a rope. I’ve twisted myself into eagles and triangles. I’ve found peace at lunch. I’ve carried bricks through the dark. Words haven’t found their way to the page, but fit has continued being found. And because of that, tonight I was faster.

I’ve been fighting and it was time to lay-down the sword. Accept. Acknowledge. Allow myself to work it out. I didn’t always have to make it to the gym. I needed to stop judging. Let life happen. Change happens slowly, one small piece at a time.

In the midst of thinking, I realized that the trail I was on was unusually dark (yup, forgot my headlamp) and that my iPod had somehow powered down. I was suddenly acutely aware of my matching wet cheeks and oversized shirt. My chest felt tight as I rounded the corner and hit the door. When I walked in… out of breath… tears welled up and it all came flooding out. I’d missed CrossFit, but instead I’d found some sort of release. Alone, along the leaf-carpeted city streets I reminded myself how to let it go.

Filed under running night running crossfit mind personal

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The Final Countdown

“Additional details not forthcoming, as always, but we will tell you that the start point has been chosen. You’ll meet your Cadre at Montrose Park, R St. and 31st St NW, Washington, DC.”

The countdown began last Friday… GORUCK is finally here.  

As I read my parents part of the “waiver” while they were visiting last weekend, my mom looked at me sternly and said, “are you nuts!?!”

Then my dad, former military, laughed and retorted, “Sarah babe, you’ll be just fine.”

I’d been running and walking with the bricks since April. It is almost like they have become part of my identity… and if I wasn’t ready now, I’d probably never be. 31 and I’m paying to put myself through hell and back. Okay, I might be nuts.

I have to admit that getting the email with our start location made my stomach flip-flop for a second… the momentary flash of self-doubt crept in… what if I have to use the $20 I pack to go home? What would I say to everyone who’s been asking me about this ‘race’ for months? Stop.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine that the bubbly blond girl in the skirt and sandals that I am at the office has a completely different life at night. CrossFit? Trail Running? Challenges where I’m surrounded by military special forces? I guess I’m constantly looking for the next adventure… trying to prove something, achieve something… I’ve raced through the night before and I’ve proven myself to myself time and time again. I can do this. I keep trying to remember that this is nothing different, but in some ways it is. It’s a long ass grinder of a MetCon, through the dark, with a pack full of bricks and a bunch of people I’ve never met. It’s a test of survival.

I’m glad that I’ll be surrounded by a small crew of friends. If worse comes to worst we’ll pull each other through… and it’ll make us, or break us. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Tonight, we meet up for our last cram session with the bricks… part of me is relieved that those four little bubble wrapped packages will become a memento on Saturday. Then I pack. Hydrate. Pray for no rain. And envision my beer at the finish.

This will be one crazy adventure… perhaps even life changing.

Am I ready? Yes! Because…to be honest,

“I don’t want to die without any scars.”

- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Filed under goruck bricks friends crossfit running fightclub night running never say never

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Holding Myself Accountable

Coming back from vacation has been a bumpy ride. Mountain views, fresh air, packed powder and freedom were immediately traded for florescent lights, a crowded commute, hours of emails and an uncomfortable office chair. I was thrust back into a world of work - struggling to find balance… stuck staring at my computer monitor and leaving my evening destiny in the palm of situations that were beyond my control… the phrase “live the life you’ve imagined” ran over and over again through my head as the sun set on the city. Is this it? The life I imagined?

I trudged home in the dark leaving a small trail of tears in my wake… Frustrated. Stuck. Feeling defeated. Living in DC can be tough – you can easily lose yourself in the day-to-day hustle, a sort of type-A rat race that isn’t always suited for people who crave the great outdoors and fresh air. The thought of giving it all up crossed my mind. What would happen if I just stopped? Gave away all my race bibs… spent the weekends drinking instead of sweating… poured myself into work rather than workouts. Would that be living as if this is all there is? I felt like I was calling my whole world into question, but at that exact moment I was only considering a few cold and gloomy facts: Quitting would eliminate the stress of running from work to gym. Quitting would eliminate stress. Quitting would be cheaper. I unbolted my apartment and walked directly to my bedroom – slumping face first into my comforter. It’d be easier to give up, curl up on the couch. Zone out. Let TV consume me. Order take-out.

I tried to reminding myself that I’d feel better if I ran… that quitting wasn’t a word in my vocabulary and that quitting wasn’t really want I wanted, but I found myself hitting a million roadblocks: The route is boring. It’s dark. I’m tired. Between all the excuses, I coaxed myself into my running shoes, pulled on my headlamp… Maybe it was half due to the encouragement and tough love texts from my friends… Maybe it was because I felt accountable to my 366 days of finding fit… I was fighting myself all the way out the front door… Sarah, just go… I knew that the world would look approachable in an hour, once I’d flipped my outlook and worked through my personal rubrics cube.

My feet found a rhythm… candy pop blasted my brain… the circular glow from the headlamp danced along the sidewalk… I disappeared into the dark. Melted the madness… Part of me found freedom, part of me punished the pavement for every second of frustration and self-doubt. Proving myself to myself – no races, no winning, no judgment.

As the miles ticked, I thought through the journey… recollected the hard I’d already encountered. I assured myself that the world is changeable and that even overachievers have bad days… Tomorrow would be a fresh slate. After this weekend the sunlight would last longer. Summer fun was coming. I sometimes forget that I’m just a DC-PR girl with some running shoes, an antique blackberry and some sort of drive to build a better me… one foot in front of the other. Awesome takes practice. My monologue a sort of positive yogi mantra… another soul searching session with the stars… fitness therapy.

Accountability is easy when people remind you to come to the gym, or peer-pressure you into signing up for races. Doing it on your own is the test. Persevering. Not letting go of my outlook, despite how crappy the day. I could have easily admit defeat, but instead along the lonely yet traffic-filled streets of Arlington, I played Frogger with the cars… Held myself to a higher standard. I ran through my New Years intentions in my head: Push, Believe in Change, Grow, Sweat… Tonight instead of being in a gym surrounded by my friends, I was alone… answering to myself instead of a white board and that was more important than anything else. I was proud of myself for not giving in.

Around mile five I began the steady climb back home. The full moon illuminated the busy basketball court and made the bare trees look almost haunted. I finally felt myself really breathe… then smile… the real Sarah was back. As I stretched breathlessly in the driveway, I watched the steam rise above my head. I’d given it everything I had left and it felt as if I’d pressed the reset button. The world didn’t end, I’d fit in fit, and in-between strides, I echoed my friends comments, reminding myself that the moments of hard are what make things great. Courage is key. The life I’ve imagined is mine to create. So many adventures. So many possibilities. I’d just come back from being on top of the world… while at the moment it might not seem it, everything was achievable. But tonight, the next exploit… a hot shower.

Filed under 366 running self vacation night running never say never yoga

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60 Degrees in January, Laced up Kicks, and an iPod Full of Dreams

I had a pressing urge to lace up my kicks, an almost excited buzz. I was jonesing to enjoy the warm night air. I pulled on my reflective vest, clicked on the headlamp, popped one bud in my ear and turned up the tunes. The night air was cool and damp – it felt like spring in January. As I hit the road I immediately regret pressing “submit” earlier in the day. I urged my legs to stride forward, repeatedly dipping my toes into the dancing halo-like glow from the headlamp. Could I do this in 5 months? A half through the woods?

I tried to remind myself that the first mile was always the worst. I noticed that my breathing was calmer than other runs… but my ghosts felt rather un-ghostly! They didn’t glide along the pavement. Instead, my running shoes felt heavy and awkward… Nothing like my flat-sole wonders that have recently plowed me through many a 400s. My stride was foreign, yet familiar, and I eventually felt myself melt into the pumping pop. A playlist packed with memories… my mind wandered and my footfalls pounded like a heartbeat… the paved streets felt nothing like trails dusted with roots and rocks and leaves… But, I let the musty air draw me back to Ragnar… Where this whole adventure began… Alone. On back roads. Soul searching with the stars.

It’s been a while since I’ve run by myself… or in fact, worked out alone. I enjoyed the beauty in the simplicity of it. No superman-telephone-both quick change on the way from commute to car to class… no fear that I won’t make it into the room before the instruction begins or have to interrupt everyone who is already in Downdog. My own time table. My own thoughts. My own course of action. My own destiny with darkness.

Beyond making my legs fatigued from trusters and my chest ouchy from ring push ups… Come on crossfit, what have you done for me? Have you made me faster? I talked myself through the fatigue and I felt myself push… I was a tad tired… but while measuring up against the other weekend warriors that had come out to play, I tried to remind myself that this was my time to shake off the rust, not race. We dotted the streets… skipping between happy hour goers and commuters…runners of the night.

The miles passed… the agony of 1 quickly became a smooth 2 which turned to 3 then 5… It felt nice to fly.

As I crossed up to my apartment, I fell into a walk. My feet hurt and my knees popped… but my breath was still even… sweat drooled down my cheeks. While cooking dinner, I realized how much had changed since the half… from food choices to training decisions. I wondered if I could get back to the mileage I was boasting at this time last year… my mind toyed with the idea of crossfit endurance. These days the idea of fitness for two hours doesn’t faze me – honestly, nothing could be harder than a run in with Murph or a rough Survival Sunday…But the act of running posed a different (but in some ways equal) test of self… trading one type of pain for another… mix conquering miles of a repetitive activity I don’t absolutely love with a bit of boredom all while pushing the pace. When I’d registered earlier, I had to submit my pace and I planned to gun down my road half time… between now and then, there’d be the BYB trail race series, some new running shoes and nights where I promised to just get back to learning to run. And this time… there’d be no sun poisoning!

Filed under running ragnar relay shoes night running crossfit music

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Soul Searching with the Stars: Ragnar Relay Recap 1

My mind flashed back to Odyssey and my run in with a ghost in Antietam… as I mumbled turn by turn directions to Cali while sitting shot gun, I flipped ahead in the RagMag to my upcoming leg two in the dark – figuring I should check the directions before jumping on the road.

Leg Description: Rolling hills continue! To the north of you is Fort Ritchie Military Reservation and to the south, the famed Antietam Battlefield. Leg wraps up in Keedysville.

SERIOUSLY!? Looks like it was back to the battlefield, a re-match if you will with some unfinished business. Half glad I didn’t know until 15 minutes before my run… my stomach dropped. I tried not to think, just focus. I shot off a quick text to @onthebusrunning, “Thanks Brad, thanks!” As we pulled to the exchange, I tied the laces in my sneakers and stretched the shins. A quick trip to the port of potty… and as I made my way up to the exchange… a scratchy voice called “249!” and Sarah appeared from the fog.

As I moved into the night, it took a moment for my legs to warm-up, start working again… filter through the stiffness from being cramped in a van… run straight. I fumbled with my iPod and landed on some brassy soulful blues, it seemed to appropriately match the moment. The air was chilly at the start, but the humidity clung like a heavy blanket, making my long sleeve lulu pull over feel like a bad decision…  Sweat drooled from under the red headband at my temples. The mist floated into the glow of the headlamp creating a halo effect on my vision that made the world look fuzzy and I kept shaking my head to see if there was something wrong with my eyes… was I seeing straight?

I settled in and found a rhythm in my footfalls… 1. 2… 1. 2… my heartbeat echoed through my temples. This was nothing like running through crowded streets with traffic signals and blaring horns… or pushing through people on sidewalks. This is the type of running I love… Flying. Freedom. Fearlessness.

The small lighted circle danced along the grass and the edge of the street, picking out crickets and illuminating dewdrops… turning them into oily rainbow colored dots in the brush. My mind wandered… reading mail box numbers and looking into warm windows of farm houses…  wondering what they thought of us crazies out here, in our reflective vests, running all night. When the slight breeze caught, it prickled my skin into goosebumps, pulling me back to the battlefield. But the occasional whizz of oncoming headlights and honking vans were a welcomed reminder that, while I hadn’t seen another runner, I wasn’t alone… squelching the building panic in my chest. This time, I was sure that my van would be up ahead, ready to check on me in a few miles.

The stars were beautiful… nothing like the dull faded flickers that blanket the city sky. I scanned for the Belt of Orion – in college I always looked up and his belt was a connection with home, reminding me that my family could see the same stars and making them feel closer. Tonight was the same. Last year they were with me at Ragnar, but tonight they still felt nearby and I could hear my mom and dad cheering me on in my head.  The air was still… just the sound of bugs and rustling branches. The world was asleep and here I was again, running… soul searching… back to finding myself… pushing through exhaustion, re-playing how far I’d come since last year.

Everyone should run once at night. It’s a mixed emotion of pure peace and steady anxiety – similar to the slow ache that you experience in your legs when you climb a long hill with a slight incline. There is always the thought, in the dark corner of your mind, that someone could jump out of the cornfield you’re running past and scare the living daylights out of you… but dually there is an overwhelming feeling of a fantastic, beautiful silence.  

Dusty back roads, cornfields and old barns quickly turned into corner stores and rowed houses with front porches. Like the set of a movie scene… cracked paint and rocking chairs and old Coke signs. I’d escaped the battlefield and landed back in some sort of civilization. What I initially thought to be another runner, turned into a blinking red “One Mile To Go” marker. I hadn’t seen any runners in the dark… something I sort of loved… just myself and stars. Then, “Great job runner, half mile to go!” called into the now dimly-lit night… from a set of lawn chairs in a front yard on my left. “Thank you! Thank you for letting us run through your town,” I managed to huff out between heavy breaths… I could see my words turn into cloudy puffs in the dense air.

I pushed the pace, but somehow got leap-frogged by a runner who’d come from out of nowhere behind me at the handoff. I was happy to pass the baton and let Adam blink into the darkness… my legs fatigued, my eyes fuzzy needing sleep or Visine… but part of me was disappointed that it was over. For this race it was my one running rendezvous with the stars… the run that I long for… the run that you only fully understand after you do it… my favorite part of Ragnar.

Filed under ragnar relay running night running relay races antietam

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Wear Sunscreen - Advice for an Odyssey

Wear Sunscreen.

Life is like a relay, so why not run one once in your life? Or twice? Step out of your comfort zone. Squeeze into vans and canvas 200 miles with 12 new best friends.  It’s a race that tests your legs, your wits, your patience and your sense of adventure, but it’s worth every step. My advice has no real basis… it’s just my own memoirs of an odyssey.

Hydrate.

Pack lightly! Your van will thank you. Truth be told, all you really need is a few pair of underwear, some shorts, a sweatshirt and deodorant. Forget the bar of soap - there is no showering on relays! Much like how there is no crying in baseball.  

Bring bug spray.

Walmart has anything and everything you might ever need - worst comes to worst, there is probably going to be one along the way. The one after leg 10 had a sexy black sweatshirt for less than five dollars which kept me warm through the night.

Eat. You’ll never make it through 30 hours while running without food – trust me, at Ragnar last year we tried! Salami sandwiches are best, but turkey and mustard suffice. Peanut Butter is the jack-of-all-trades – it mixes well with everything from bananas to Triscuits.

Stretch.

Share.

Brushing your teeth in a high school bathroom at 1:00 AM after being in a van for 10 hours is better than sex! Seriously. Make sure you bring toothpaste and a toothbrush. Use them.

 

Take pictures at each transition. You’ll want to prove you were there and that you ran! In fact, try to remember to take as many pictures as possible.  

Squeezable apple sauce packets are made for kids, but effective for runners.

Make friends. Tag the vans you pass, tag the vans that pass you. Tag the vans who let you borrow flashlights, or have good themes, or are running for causes – plain and simple just tag everyone because it’s fun. We are all in this together and every person out here is cut from a similar crazy cloth.  The other vans will love it, promise.

You are among good runners and amazing people.

Glowsticks are a must have. They only cost 99 cents at the party store.

Apparently so are beards, especially if you are The Most Interesting Team in the World. 

Oh wait, so are bananas, lots of bananas.

Babywipes are your friend.

Carry TWO flashlights. After my bout with Antietam, I will always carry two flashlights on trips through dark battlefields at night.

Collect flair.

Tell dirty jokes. It’s amazing where your mind goes and what people find funny in the middle of the night.

 

Try not to scare the living daylights out of your teammates when you make the hand-off.  A smooth transition is a great transition!

Visine is an eye-saver.

You’ll need dentil floss if you don’t bring it.

Do push-ups before you run (or in fact, before you go on dates) it totally “pumps you up!”  

Bring trash bags. The van is your home for 30 hours, so like it, love it, live it! Keep it clean!

Pick your teammates wisely – they are your family for two days. Support them! Even the strongest runner gets a little worn around the edges after hours of exhaustion. The “good job” from a passing van provides more energy than a shot of espresso!

Make cool team shirts. Wear them. 

Sleep while you can. Even 45 minutes makes a world of a difference.

Run shirtless. Okay, maybe that only applies to some people - but feel free to try it.

Read the directions more than once – your mind gets foggy when you haven’t slept and your right becomes your left quickly.

Accept that runners who are older than you will pass you. When they do pass you and say, “Hey, looks like a perfect 10 on my left.” Make sure you respond with an, “oh baby – hot man on MY left.” It’s okay, they have run many miles and probably have some great stories.

On the flip side, count your kills – it always feels good to pass someone.

Smile.

Live in the moment.

Wear good shorts or bring lots of body glide because chafing is painful. So are blood blisters. But wear them with pride, like battle scars when they happen, and they will happen.

Don’t be afraid of running at night.  It feels like flying – except when you are being chased by a ghost. But really, when else do you get to freely run through a town, or a field, or a national park in the dark?

Running loops is boring. Running through the woods is fun. Running next to a van who is screaming your name or towards an exchange point filled with teammates is exhilarating.

Bring Ibuprofen. Nuff said.

The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.  When you try to explain the ins and outs of your weekend adventure to strangers on Monday, it will come out all wrong.  Most friends, family members and co-workers will crane their heads in confused disbelief and say, “you PAID to do that?”  Instead, just say, “yeah, the race was good, really good.”

Insist on finishing. Together.

The second leg should be your best.  The third will be a test of survival.

Soak up every second of fun. After all the renting vans, checking into hotels, driving, running, sleeping, repeating… You’ll be left alone in your apartment building parking lot wondering what you just did and how you survived. Part of you will be relieved to be at home, but part of you will be lonely and sad it’s all over.

When you’re done, drink a beer. It will be the tastiest beer in the world and it will make you very sleepy. 

It’s hard to discuss it right when it’s over – instead, relay recollections come back in pieces, like how memories are triggered by a smell or a place. Time after time you are drawn back to the experience, during weekend runs along the C&O canal, retracing race steps, or when a song comes on the radio or when you put new batteries in your headlamp or when you catch up with your teammates at a happy hour and all you can talk about is your life in a van. We each joined the team for different reasons: because we were pulled along by a friend or we just like to run, for the camaraderie, maybe for the challenge or the love of adventure, for the friendships, for the exhaustion, for the glory you feel in crossing the finish line or the awe you experience when you look back and think about how far you came…

To quote Mary Schmich, “Advice is a form of nostalgia.” Take from it what you will… It’s my way of re-hashing my adventure, mental snapshots… my moments of mayhem.

Between the jerky and the jokes you make lifetime friendships and you learn something most interesting about yourself.

Yes, we look tired… Yes, we smell… Yes, we have Abe Lincoln beards – but we made it 200 miles!  

Walk if you get tired. 

Cry if you are scared. 

But if there is only one piece of advice that you take along the road of running a relay, it’s to wear sunscreen.

Filed under American Odyssey Relay running relay races night running ragnar relay

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The Most Interesting Run: Antietam at Night

“Shit!”

 I bolted upright from my snooze in the reclined front seat of the van. 

 “What’s wrong?” Ski stated from the backseat – now also fully awake.

“They are almost here!”

What should have been a few hour nap, had turned into only about 45 minutes of actual sleep.  I pulled myself out of the van, shivered in the brisk night air and headed to the high school. In the gym, I scanned the floor for recognizable sleeping bags – crawling over bodies.

 “Wake up! We gotta go…they are almost done.”

Round 2 of Odyssey began in the middle of the night. 
 
I was prepping myself for the night run. A little bit stiff, a lot sleepy. For me, the battlefield awaited… runner 10, the only runner with the privilege of running through Antietam
. The air was cooler than expected and misty, a dull fog sunk over the lower elevations, blanketing the pavement.

We cycled through the line-up of runners, getting deeper and deeper into the night.  As I stretched, I noticed the signs around the switch: Battlefield closed at Dark – we were well into the dark. As Ebo sprinted in, he hit me with the slap bracelet, my clock read 2 AM.  As I took off, there were placards and statues and a cross-hatched wood fence that I tried to keep at my left leg.  I squinted to read the markings as I passed, promising myself that I wouldn’t let my mind play tricks on me – just like any other night run this would be peaceful and beautiful. 

 

At about a mile in I could hear my breath, I was a tad fatigued, but as my van rolled past, they said I looked good.  The thought crossed my mind to ask them to meet me in another mile, but it was fleeting as they disappeared into taillights. Man was it dark. The road was uneven, so I kept focusing on my steps. The silence was deafening.  No moonlight, all alone.  Then I heard it, footsteps of a runner behind me, breathing heavy and warm against my neck… I turned to see them approach, but when I turned my head, there was nothing.  No runner. Just darkness.  I waved my hand in front of my face… No headlamp! Wow, that’s why it was dark, I clicked the on button.  It turned on for a brief moment, casting a dull dancing circle on the ground in front of me, and then faded out again… The footsteps behind me continued. 

I’m not scared, I’m not scared… I chanted to myself, thinking it would make the pit in my stomach subside and the chill up my spine die down.  I checked the watch only 2 miles in. I was scared. I was tired and okay, really scared. I was running through a mass graveyard, in the middle of the night, no reason to be scared… right?
 
I knew I was pushing the pace, but the faster I ran, the faster the boots sounded behind me. I felt like I was gasping for air. I grabbed my water belt to see its giggling was making the sound, I told myself that race leaders were playing tricks on us… anything to convince myself there weren’t spirits here in this battlefield and that we weren’t disrupting them.  Anything to keep my mind off the runner who was tailing me and the wind that was whipping through the brush… anything to drone out the heightened sound of the night creatures. 

Then I saw the red glow of a butt blinky dancing ahead of me like the end of a cigarette.  It was a savior of sorts, I half shocked myself at the loudness of the scream that escaped my dry throat, “I’m scared!!!”  

The runner slowed.  As I fell into pace behind him, I explained in a rushed and breathless mumble, that my van had already driven ahead and that my headlamp had died and that I could hear a runner behind me, but no one was there.  He said he’d get his van… and as the headlights of van cut the darkness behind us, they assured me that no one was behind us. They passed me a flashlight. I tried to keep pace with the runner… Thinking that knowing he was there would make the night less black and the battlefield less frightening… Be he sped into the night and my legs couldn’t keep up. “Scream again, if you need me,” his voiced trailed off.  But his presence was already almost a memory.
 
Again, I was alone with the statues and the fence.  The placards pointing out the dead battalions.  Breath, Breath! I could hear the runner again behind me, but each time I turned there was only darkness. I told myself not to look again, let him run with me… 
 
A watch tower appeared in the distance and the flashlight glow danced on the pavement… it slowly dimmed and then also went black. This wasn’t happening. Two lights, dead. My mind took-over and fought back tears. There is no crying in running! My mind was winning. I could see tail lights way off in the distance, and I started to think about what would happen if I didn’t make it… if I just stopped in the battlefield. I was too scared to let my feet stop moving.

I’d been excited to run this leg – thinking it would be the perfect amount of terror for an adrenaline junkie like myself.  I’d talked it up on Facebook, already boasting about my run along Bloody Lane – but here I was, alone: no vans, no lights… Huffing, puffing in rhythm with the phantom runner.  I’d never have believed my mind would give in and start haunting me.
 
I saw the cop car lights as I neared a street crossing.  As I crossed, I shouted, “Is it almost done?” The cop laughed, “more than halfway!”

That’s it!?! Just more than halfway?! I must be almost there… But I could see vans in the distance climbing another hill… and disappearing over the crest.  Ugggg. I pressed the headlamp again… still dead! Some part of me was panicking. The five miles felt more like ten.  Finally I could hear another van approaching…. I nearly jumped into the road - flailing like a crazy person. They slowed, “you okay?”

“No, I’m scared… Really scared.”

I realized that I was crying. I could barely breath, my feet just felt heavy… I was angry at my van for being so far away and for the broken headlamp.  It was one of my Ragnar teammates vans! Thankfully one of them, hopped out of the van to run with me! The last .5 was rough, but with someone else the night wasn’t as dark. The phantom runner disappeared and a real runner took his place.
 
As we approached the switch, I thanked her in hugs! The tears flowed freely… My van was perplexed. Sarah? Crying?

“Stupid headlamp! Next time we need more than just mine,” I barked… immediately regretting my shortness after it came out, but my nerves and lack of sleep had taken over.

It was done, Antietam complete. I melted into the seat of the van, reflecting on the darkness… laughing at the chaos that we put ourselves in for fun.  Realizing that in the panic, I’d kept the bracelet… Eating a banana, listening to my co-pilots banter about driving through the darkness, letting the hairs on my arms settle into the warm Walmart sweatshirt we’d purchased earlier in the evening, I was exhausted, overwhelmed.  


 
The next morning, at Exchange 30, I returned the dead flashlight to the other van. The runner I’d met in the night smiled.

 “So, you think you had someone running with you? I didn’t tell you at the time, but I could hear drums in the distance,” he smirked. “Ahhh Antietam… don’t you want to run it again? Next time, bring two flashlights!”

 I did want to run it again. If only I could go back through the battlefield.  But it all seemed like a dream, less scary in the daylight with the phantom runner no longer at my heels.  Maybe he had been protecting me, maybe he had been running with me to get me through… I’m not exactly sure what I believe, but something indescribable happened to me on that run through the single bloodiest battlefield in American war history. Something that is unexplainable.

 200 miles, 12 most interesting teammates, 2 vans, 1 night run through a bloody battlefield with a ghost = 29 hours and 42 minutes of adventure. 

Gettysburg to Washington. Truly an Odyssey like non-other. All I can say is… Keep Running, My friends.

Filed under American Odyssey Relay running night running ghosts antietam