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Highlands Sky

I probably wouldn't admit how stressed I was the whole week leading up to Highlands Sky 40. Now that it's over, I realized I was partly in denial and partly rationalizing it as healthy nervousness. A 40-mile race is long for me. It's technical. And I pulled my lat muscle carrying a handheld bottle a week before the race. I am out of my comfort zone.

At the start
As everything in this world that is governed by time, the race is bound to happen like an unstoppable incoming train. A line from Bridges of Spies came to mind the evening before the race. When his lawyer James Donovan observes the alleged Russian Spy Rudolf Abel doesn't seem a bit nervous about his pending trial, he asks him about it and to which Abel responds: "Is it going to help?"

Of the many things that I am concerned about the race, weather isn't one of them. We start the race in cool mountain temperature and I find myself nestle in the crowd, just going with the flow. There are distinct moments that I remember, punctured with a lot of blurs in between. I remember the knee-high stinging nettles during the first climb, wondering when it is going to end. I remember the ankle - and sometimes shin- deep puddles that are impossible to tell how deep they are until you step in them. I remember the technical descents during which I am frustrated with my in capability of running efficiently, or running at all. There are also delightful moments like running through lush hardwood forests that brings me back to a few years ago running the WV Trilogy. The sweeping vistas and plateaus with blooming plant lives that resemble northern Canada. And of course, the field of sculptured boulders.

One moment perhaps contributed the most in my finishing the race: the moment I pray for joy. I turn to prayers as a diversion from calculating how much further I still have to go and joy comes to mind. I ask for joy to enjoy the journey, to take in the stunning scenery, and to savor even the moments of enduring pain and battling tiredness. For the rest of the race, I revisited the thought many times and it ultimately brought me across the finish line.

In addition to my now treasured finisher's shirt and vest, the biggest take-away is the reminder that whatever journey we are on, we can have joy in the midst of endurance.


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