The call came in via Facebook.
Someone I had never met, asking for pacers at the 2017 Rio Del Lago 100 mile event.
She was confident of a finish, but wanted the push of a pacer, and the safety of someone else should something go wrong.
I signed on the dotted line and that was that.
The event also happens to fall on the weekend of my Air National Guard commitment, which is why I have not yet run it. I told Karey that I could make it after work, and stay till the later evening, but would eventually have to head back to Beale to sleep for Sunday’s formation.
Saturday came and I monitored the race throughout the day. She was moving well and just ahead of pace. Everything seemed like it would line up and so I rolled out of work, and made a mad dash to Auburn to sign in, pick up my pacer bib, and meet her for the 20 mile loop out of No Hands Bridge.
I arrived at NHB at the same time she did. She was flying. I grabbed my vest, threw on my Earth Runners, and took off down the trail. In the time it took me to park, she was ready to go. A quick high five to my friends at the aid station and we were gone. On the way out of NHB we were treated to one of the greatest sunsets I have ever seen. The sky was on fire.
What followed was one of the most amazing evenings I could ever hope to have at a trail race. The conversations we shared belonged to only us and the night. The kind of conversations you share with strange, kindred souls at mile 60 of 100, at 9 pm, and in the middle of mountain lion country.
The ‘life in a day’ microcosm of an ultra tends to form intimate bonds between people – it’s the experience that triggers it.
The do or die miles under a blistering sun, or in the middle of a freezing cold night – the moments that melt us in the crucible of mud and rock, and forge us in the fires of our will to persevere against all odds and obstacles.
Both external, and internal.
We fight side by side – the demons of the trails and the demons of our hearts and minds.
We came back into No Hands Bridge aid station after midnight. I made it back to my hotel to get a 3 hour nap after 20 hard miles before work the next day, but it was worth it.
I made a true friend that night – an allay, a compatriot, a comrade in arms. A fellow runner who started as a stranger, and ended up as someone much more.
When you take a look at your calendar for the year – this year or any year – pick out your races, and chase your goals and dreams – but take a day, or night, to help someone else chase theirs.
– The Winged Ling