To distract myself from the inevitable loneliness of the holidays, I eyed a three-day race in Phoenix, Arizona; nevertheless, I do not participate in a race of this magnitude without God’s clear green light, and after praying about the matter with my faith mentor and mother for a week, we all concluded no, especially with the lingering injury in my right foot. I also came across a 24-hour race, requiring the runner to go around a 1.06-mile loop in either direction however many times he/she can (or wants to) within the time limit, in San Francisco, California, and after praying about this as well, I registered to take on this poetic challenge of finishing the last day of the previous decade and starting the first day of the new decade running at New Year’s One Day. Leading up to the race, I faced a multitude of obstacles—a major snowstorm that made driving out of central Nebraska hazardous, my first flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, being delayed 40 minutes with the layover time already being tight to begin with, and running across the Charlotte Douglas International Airport to barely catch my connecting flight—that I felt simply toeing the line would be a victory in itself.
I cannot remember in recent times being this nervous before a running event, dwelling on this insane last-minute decision to run what should be the second-longest race of my life and not entirely understanding the state of my right foot. I atypically thankfully managed sufficient sleep and thus did not question my ability to stay awake all 24 hours. With the foot less than 100%, I could only keep the faith my Father would shield the injury; after the initial minor stinging and my praying over it, the foot no longer posed a risk and lost my attention. I planned to take my first break around what became my second-fastest 50K, of 6:19:15, when I felt the initial sign of fatigue. Whatever prompted this, I began singing worship songs I was listening to out loud, and all of a sudden my strength was renewed, allowing me to carry on thinking I would be a fool to snap this flow now. I took my first sitting break after 40 miles, just over 8:46:00, solely to conserve energy to last the entire race. I continued to converse with God and recite the many biblical verses I do every morning and felt such a physical presence of His being with me and providing for me that I said to myself I would stop complaining about the uncertainly of my future with this God, Who is interested in every minute detail of my life, for me and by my side.
Slightly past 50 miles, personal record of 12:07:35 in the distance, by an hour, I lied down for less than 30 minutes to give my feet well-deserved rest as my external battery charged my Garmin and iPhone. My body temperature predictably rapidly dropped and as I arose my legs started to feel heavier. The biggest struggle revealed itself between here and 100K, another personal best of under 17:30:00, by over 2.5 hours, likely psychological with this being my bare minimum goal. Once I secured that 100K+ buckle, I released pressure and thought more casually, “Now it is just about how much farther I can go than 100K before the end.” My feet and legs continued to lose power and gain pain, thanks majorly to the numerous blisters, and with several hours to go, I could not help but halt after only two loops. When I miscalculated in my head how fast I would have to move to reach 70 loops prior to 24 hours, I desperately sped up without a pause, not knowing I had more time than I thought. Crossing the timing mats for the 69th time, I, already hallucinating, acknowledged most likely this next one would be my last. Towards the end of this final loop, I drastically slowed down to the point of almost dragging myself; although I had roughly 35 minutes to complete another loop, I had no confidence I could sufficiently do this before running out of time; a top female in the 12-hour race missed her final loop completion by eight seconds and consequently the entire loop did not count. I had already exceeded my expectations by a small margin, and I decided to conclude my race and wait for the official closure of the event.
70 laps, 74.2 miles, enough for bronze in my age group of 30-39, I converted this into kilometers for my family and close ones, most of whom more familiar with the metric system, which came to 119.413 kilometers. These wise people commented on the significance of both the numbers 119, Korea’s equivalent of 911 and that God rescued me, and 413, Philippians 4:13 to which I dearly hung on, that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” God not only rescued me here but rather even more so in my drive back following the awards ceremony from San Francisco to San Jose, with there never being a vehicle around each of the countless times I was struck by microsleeps, and past midnight from Omaha back to Kearney, where many lights turned into balloons and cars continued to dance and switch lanes in front of me. God will forever be my 119 and 413, and I thank Him for this entertaining reminder and the wise individuals who helped me interpret this. Thank You, Jesus!
This wraps up my most-active race year, which included a 74.2-miler, a 50K, a marathon, eight half marathons, and four 10K’s. Happy New Year, everyone!