Eagle Up Ultra

We are capable of so much more than we ever imagine. Yesterday, 650 runners and their crews descended on the quaint town of Canal Fulton, Ohio, to push beyond once perceived limits.

In only its fourth year, the Eagle Up Ultra has become so popular that by 12:30pm on Friday afternoon the parking lot was full. A tent city was created and the nervous energy of anticipation was palpable. Old friends embraced and new friendships were made as community gathered.

At 4:30am the next morning the hive stirred as people dressed, stretched, and fueled. Soon we gathered around the start, honored the service of veterans, and we were off.

The Eagle Up course is a five mile loop that paralleled a canal, crossed an overpass, and came back up next to the Tuscarawas River. The first 3-4 laps were perfect. My body felt great and the crowds of people at the start meant that I got to meet and run with all kinds of cool people. I felt so good that I began to think that if things continued at this pace I could maybe run 100 miles.

And then the heat hit.

The forecast called for overcast skies, and while that happened in Columbus, the clouds never came to Canal Fulton. With a relentless sun bearing down, the crowds thinned, goals adjusted, and the medical tent filled. I joined the ranks of the broken after 35 miles. Tightness in my quad caused pain in my knee that took the on-site physical therapist (thanks, Amy) about a half hour to work out.

After the long delay, I headed back out and the next lap was good, but the following lap defeated me. I came in after 45 miles feeling spent. My friend Jon showed up right as i was finishing the lap with a full Wendy’s dinner and large frosty, but it was all too heavy to eat.

After an extended dinner break and change of socks I went back out again knowing I had to at least get to 50 miles. Accompanied by my patient friend Cynthia, I felt like I had my legs back under me and dedicated myself to 100 kilometers. Jon got me to 55 miles and I ran the last full lap by myself, embracing the darkness of night. I loved running in the night and look forward to doing that again.

I came back by our “Secret Running Peeps” headquarters tent (thanks, Stan and Amy) and got Jon and Mike to do the last 2.1 with me. The out-and-back segment was marked by congratulating other people on the way out and receiving congratulations on the final mile in.

Eagle Up Ultra did not go as planned. The heat and humidity took many casualties and I had to temper my own expectations. But I set a personal record for longest distance run and time on feet. I faced dark moments with strength and proved the maxim that “it doesn’t always get worse.” Most importantly, I received the gift of being part of the running community where strangers pop each other’s blisters, joys and struggles are shared, and master race directors like Eric offer never-ending support.

We are capable of so much more than we think, not only because of the untapped potential within ourselves, but because of the generosity of people that surround us.

I ran this race supported by almost 50 people who donated to the leukemia and lymphoma society, raising over $3,000. As I ran, I thought about what I was grateful for each person and prayed for them. If you would like to make a donation, go to: https://pages.teamintraining.org/coh/yourway19/curecml

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