72. Listen to Yourself

72. Listen to Yourself

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Listen to Yourself

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
 ~Edmund Hillary

In April 2003, we adopted our daughter, Annabella. This occurred in the same year I set my most challenging athletic goal — completing the Grand Slam of ultrarunning and the Badwater 135 in the same year.

The Grand Slam consists of four of the hardest 100-mile trail races in the USA: Western States 100 in Squaw Valley, California (June), the Vermont 100 in Woodstock (July), the Leadville 100 in Colorado (August), and the Wasatch 100 in Utah (September).

The Badwater 135 is the hardest, hottest foot race on Earth (it is not uncommon for the soles of one’s shoes to melt). It’s a 135-mile run from the lowest point in the continental U.S., (282 feet below sea level) to the portals of Mt. Whitney, at an elevation of 8,300 feet.

The first thing people said to me when Annabella arrived was, “I guess you won’t be able to compete in the races you wanted to this season.” I heard this repeatedly and even once from my husband Jay. He thought I might have to “narrow it down.” I thought about this for about one second and said, “I must try; I have set this goal, I’ll raise thousands of dollars for needy children, and I will be the only male or female to ever accomplish this.” I did not want to turn back.

Parents know all about sleep deprivation and the loss of time for yourself. I didn’t want to sleep because all I wanted to do was look at Annabella. Thus, my training was cut by more than fifty percent. So I made a new goal: “Do the best you can with the time you have and don’t worry about it. One race at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time.” I felt certain of myself despite the fact that people continued to say, “She won’t be able to do it.”

At the Western States 100, Annabella did not sleep well the night before the race so I was beat going into it. I don’t remember much of those last 30 miles because I was sleep-walking and running. As I crossed the finish line, there was Annabella asleep in her stroller. I looked up and gave thanks.

For the Vermont 100 Annabella and Jay stayed home. It was very difficult to spend time away from my family but I finished the race in style, slept for three hours, boarded a plane and set out to run the Badwater 135.

I had run the Badwater 135 five times, but this time was the hardest. At 100 miles I felt I could not go on any longer. I was in excruciating pain. I was going to throw in the towel. Then I got word from one of my crew members that Jay and Annabella were driving all the way to the finish line (a 20-hour drive) to meet me. So I slept for a few hours, they arrived and I got my butt up and finished the race. I was more determined than ever before in my life. I was running strong and I was on fire!

The entire Leadville 100 race takes place at over 10,500 feet. I was doing great until the last 15 miles. I was so tired from running all night that I couldn’t envision finishing. One of my good friends and my husband were on my crew and knew that the one thing that sets me on fire is getting me mad. So they did. I took off — passing about 75 other people.

The Wasatch 100 is hard. The last 10 miles will eat you up if you have run the first 90 miles too hard. It thundered and stormed through part of the night but I continued to race. This was the last race — all I had to do was get to the finish line. One step at a time, one mile at a time. With seven miles left Jay told me I was in second place for the women. This was shocking to me. I hadn’t worried about how I would place — I only focused on getting to the finish line. Normally I would have tried to keep second place but God told me over and over again, “It does not matter what place you are in; what matters is that you’re about to accomplish your goal and raise thousands of dollars for children.”

I ran the last mile hard and cried and lifted my hands up giving thanks — I did it! We did it! You see, this was never just about me running all those miles. It was about my family and the love, support and belief that they instilled in me. It was about trusting what God was telling me, not what everyone else had to say. At the awards ceremony I was given the first place award for all the women who had set out to run the Grand Slam. I looked at my husband, my daughter and the friends who had helped me get this award and said, “We did it!”

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. If you fail, you still win by trying. Surround yourself with people who will support you and believe in you. Most of all believe in yourself and give thanks. Always give thanks. I went to sleep that night after the last race with Annabella sleeping on my stomach and Jay next to me. That was my greatest reward. If I can do it, you can do it. One step at a time.

~Lisa Smith-Batchen

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