LRC Athlete Stories - "Running is My Sanctuary"
Jeff B. sat on the ground almost 40 miles into a race, withered and ready to quit, feeling unable to continue. He made use of the only shade available…
Underneath a literal coffee tree… Yes, really. Can’t make this stuff up.
Any ultrarunner knows what this moment feels like:
He was 5,100 miles from home and had just finished his third of four laps at the Kauai 50, a 50-mile ultramarathon that takes runners through the dirt roads and craggy trails of a coffee plantation in Hawaii. It was noon, the sun was at its highest, and the cloudless skies gave the sun permission to roast the runners below.
Jeff's support crew [Amy] begged him to get back on his feet, and push forward. Jeff listened as his friends crossed the finish, while he sat still.
“The last thing I wanted to do at that moment was go back out and run 12.5 miles in that heat. But after everything I’d been through, I knew there was only one option.”
To understand Jeff’s story, we need to back up a bit. How does someone begin running such a long distance? Why would you want to?
Like many athletes, Jeff found (or more so, cultivated) his passion for running during a time of great distress. Jeff was going through a significant life event that unrouted the future he had planned.
“Divorce is never easy. And, of course, things got worse before they got better. When your life is very routined, for years, and dramatically changes overnight… The brain is at a loss. The brain is confused. Routine keeps us secure, and when your routine is removed, it’s a recipe for extreme sadness and pain.”
Jeff’s story is unique. In fact, we all have a unique story. Our experiences are our own… and yet, there seems to be a common thread among most runners.
It seems there must be true hardship for true passion to be developed. Not all pain is the same, but we can all be empathetic in the running community, knowing we’ve experienced pain of our own.
“I had many emotions to process, and running was my sanctuary for that. The longer I ran, the more I was able to process. Before long, I was running for hours without noticing the time.”
This is something we all understand. Running gives us the time, space, and tools to find clarity in our lives. When asked where Jeff’s source of motivation came from, he shared his favorite psychological concept.
“Region B Paradox. The theory describes a metaphorical tipping point. Where a situation eventually becomes so bad, we are forced ‘over the edge’ and motivated to make a change. It gives me gratitude in the toughest of times, knowing that they’re necessary to get to the good times ahead.”
This concept gives Jeff hope. It gives him motivation. And it serves as a guiding light through difficult times in his life. To bring Jeff’s story full circle, as he sat still, ready to quit the Kauai 50 miler he knew that this was his tipping point. For his race, this was the lowest of the low, which meant things could only get better.
“I got up, and started walking. The walking turned to a jog, turned to a run. It’s funny, I actually felt better immediately. Once you’ve made the decision to begin moving yourself towards your goal, the brain has a way of rewarding you.”
Like most, Jeff is always looking for the next adventure or race that will push his limits. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for Jeff’s running.
When asked if he believes himself to be a lifelong runner, the answer is a simple, yet loud, “yes.”